“Good Governance Can Be Provided by Public Servants Only If They Follow ‘Raj Dharma’,” says Justice Santosh Hedge
“Governance cannot be all process and values. It must ensure that the citizens, especially the poorest, have the basic needs and have a life with dignity. A dictatorship that delivers basic needs to the citizens is no doubt better than a dictatorship that does not, but it is not good governance.  Similarly, regular elections alone do not translate into 'good governance'. Rule of law that is transparent, but unjust is certainly not 'good governance'. It is only when all these three conditions are fulfilled that governance becomes 'good governance',” says Justice (retd) N Santosh Hegde. He was speaking at the 2nd Annual RTI Lecture organised by Moneylife Foundation’s RTI Centre at Mumbai.
 
According to Justice Hegde, good governance can be provided by public servants only if they realise that “they are not masters of the people, but they are only servants of the people and that they owe a duty to the people”. For this, he says, they will have to follow certain principles of 'Raj Dharma'. The ingredients of 'Raj Dharma' is enumerated in a report prepared by Lord Nolan from UK, which is known as 'standards in public life", and include selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
 
 
The talk was attended by several prominent personalities from all fields and included concerned citizens, leading RTI activists from Mumbai and Pune and college students. It was held at the Bombay Stock Exchange convention centre on Saturday. 
 
Governance, Bureaucracy and Political Masters
Over the years, Justice Hegde says, political dominance in the guise of representing people's will has overshadowed the importance of bureaucracy. This dominance is not resisted by many in the bureaucracy and on the contrary many willingly or meekly submitted to this dominance because of which good governance has suffered, he says.
 
 
In their own areas political executives and bureaucrats have to work independently, the former Lokayukta of Karnataka says. “But political executive by their presumed popularity has acquired excessive dominance by misusing the transaction of business rules. If these rules were to be used only for the object for which they were incorporated in the Constitution, then the bureaucrats would have been the true administrators and would have been instrumental in providing good administration which is in my opinion equal to any fundamental rights of the citizens of India in the Constitution of India. The idea that constitutional framers did not intend Articles 77 and 166 to be used for political dominance in governance, is clear from the fact that no qualification was fixed for Members of the Legislature and Cabinet,” he added.
 
Has Democracy Lost Its True Meaning?
“When democracy defines governance is of the people, one has to see the effect of corruption on governance, one has to go to public offices and try to seek an interview with a public servant and experience whether it is possible to get even an interview with a public servant at any hierarchy without pocketful of money to bribe or political backing to get the work done.  If one makes an audit of the time spent by the bureaucrats of every level of their work, I am sure that the said report will show that most of the time the bureaucrats are not in their designated places, but are in so-called meetings with the political bosses.  India, which boasts of largest democracy in the world which is supposed to be ruled by the Government of the people, seems to have lost the true meaning of the word 'democracy',” says Justice Hegde, who also served as Solicitor General of India during 1998 to 1999. 
 
 
He says, “Over the years, for the reasons well-known the legislature and bureaucracy seems to have merged into one group like the conjoined twins, one supported by the other. If our Constitutional organ, like the executive, is independent and honest, there could be no political corruption and vice-versa. If there is corruption, then it is because of the collective greed of the elected representatives and bureaucracy.”
 
Corruption in Administration
According to Justice Hegde, when we speak about corruption and maladministration, there is no question of degree or percentage of corruption in administration. Instead, he says, it is about the lack of probity, which is the foundation of good governance. 
 
“One of the commonest method by which the bureaucrat could be made subservient or even corrupt is by way of 'transfer'. Today, Government servants are used to 'cushy' postings which one gifts of political bosses. Transferring officials is not and should not be the prerogative of political bosses. It is the most potent weapon by which you can control the honest bureaucrat or reward dishonest one.  I strongly believe that the power of transfer should be vested with the bureaucracy itself and politicians should not have any role to play in it.”  
 
In 2007, Justice Hegde had written to the II Administrative Reforms Commission about the evils of transfer in the hands of political bosses. “But nothing seems to have happened except reproducing my letter in one of its report,” he added.
 
 
Good Governance is Our Fundamental Right
Justice Hegde says he does not believe when cynics say in a democracy people get the government they deserve. May be in life many events happen over which we may not have any control, he says, adding, “In a democracy many changes can be achieved if people fight for it collectively. According to me, good governance is our fundamental right. Collective voice for this will have its own effect. Everyone should raise their voice about it.  If that happens, one day in future I am sure good governance will be the rule of the day. No doubt, an eternal vigilance is the price one has to pay in democracy and that eternal vigilance should be collective one.”
 
Justice Hedge's Lecture was be followed by a panel discussion with Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner and Prof Reetika Khera, one of India’s leading Development Economists and Social Scientists from IIM-Ahmedabad.
 
 
Mr Gandhi raised the issue of long delays and high cost of litigation, which he feels will help common people to get much needed help from the judiciary when both the legislature and the executive fails. 
 
Responding to this, Justice Hegde says, "Justice is a subjective matter. Also almost as much as 50% cases are speculative litigations in our country. Don't give opportunity to affordable litigants to use the speculative justice system. We need to stop litigations at second level to deliver better & efficient justice."
 
 
Participating in the discussion, Prof Khera explained how technology is actually not helping in bringing transparency and eradicating leakage and corruption but simply invading our privacy and leaving us dangerously vulnerable to the state. She shared several examples of corruption shifting to other mode. She said with Aadhar, the public distribution system (PDS) shopkeeper tells the ration holder that her thumb authentication failed when it may be shown as complete transaction and the food grains would be siphoned.
 
 
Senior journalist Sucheta Dalal, who is also founder-trustee of Moneylife Foundation, wanted to know about roles played by legislature and bureaucracy as well as public anger in bringing good governance. She says, “Over the years, for the reasons well-known the Legislature and Bureaucracy seems to have merged into one group like the conjoined twins, one supported by the other. In the run up to 2014, we saw burning public anger against this. But now, we seem to have subsided into subservience. What is the way forward?”
 
Responding to this, Justice Hegde says, "The civil society need to come together and make citizens aware their responsibility while voting to elect right candidates. None of the above (NOTA) is one of the most powerful tool but people have not understood it's importance. NOTA should be used to give stern message to political parties about their choice of candidates."
 
 
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    COMMENTS

    P M Ravindran

    1 year ago

    Has the former judge, Santhosh Hegde, of the apex court sad anything new?

    As a grass roots activist in the fileds of judicial reforms and right to information, I had once been forced to evaluate the performance of the various constituents of our Constitution, from first principles. And here are the conclusion:

    Law makers without any prescribed qualities, qualifications or experience, their men Fridays (popularly known as bureaucrats, who are required to help them in decision making by collecting and collating data and maintaining records) without any accountability and a judiciary which has the scope for the most whimsical decision making being held not only without accountability and beyond criticism but also protected by a totally illogical and weird armour called contempt of court, are the essential features of this Constitution in a nut shell.

    Also, amoung the three organs of our Constitution the law-makers are controlled by the people, bureaucracy (yes, bureaucracy, because without the active support of the bureaucracy no politician can do any wrong!) and finally the judiciary; the law-enforcers are also controlled by the law-makers and the judiciary. And then there are the ears and eyes of the people- the media waiting to sensationalise every news involving the misdemeanour of these authorities. Inspite of such strict supervision and control all that we can hear are about politician-bureaucrat-underworld nexus even though the fact remains that none, worth the name, from this unholy nexus have ever been punished by the holier-than-thou judiciary.
    So now think how bad a system can be which is not only NOT subject to supervision but also kept beyond critical observation. Well isn’t our judiciary is just that? And do I need to recapitulate that quip: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?

    REPLY

    gcmbinty

    In Reply to P M Ravindran 1 year ago

    It is not the case of, "Has the former judge, Santhosh Hegde, of the apex court said anything new?", but just confirming that wise men think alike - adding strength to your wisdom of being on the same wave length. Please, take it forwarding adding my strength to your arguments.

    gcmbinty

    1 year ago

    I am a consumer activist with a backing of about 39 years, and find the lecture of Justice (Retd) Santosh Hegde and discussion that followed speaking remarkably in the same tone and language: “Over the years, for the reasons well-known the legislature and bureaucracy seems to have merged into one group like the conjoined twins, one supported by the other." Find it very true. And, that there is corruption (not, "if" there it is) because of the collective greed of the elected representatives and bureaucracy in league with the business community (I add).

    Recalling the words of Mr. Adani one of the leading industrialists of India in an interview told the journalist that 'I support Mr. Narendra Modi, because he supports us in the business'. What type of support? It is questionable. And, it is not Narendra Modi alone, but the entire lineage of the politicians that have been in power since.
    Today, corruption is the only truth in the system of governance of our political democracy, the democracy which it is not any longer. I very strongly feel and put forth for consideration of men of letters in the light of the facts of life, there should be no investigation in the name of eliminating corruption. India has gone back to the days where almost 80% money floating in the market is unaccounted (60% unaccounted was recently announced in the media). In the environment and circumstances, whether it is a bureaucrat of a businessman or an employee of a private sector has got to pay out in crores the unaccounted cash for the admission of the ward in any of the professional education institution of any stream. In so called ‘public’ school the fees is beyond the means of the parents to pay, yet they pay. If one has to go to a private hospital because the government ones are over crowded and unreliable, the expenses are again beyond means (honest means). People who have been put to pressure to declare the extent of unaccounted money is hoarded in the house, have committed suicide en block in the family. Therefore, I would strongly urge the men with letters in law to take away the farce of investigation by closing down the investigative agencies, like ED.

    The time has come when the people of India has to totally wipeout the system of political democracy the purpose of which is to rule over the masses and distribute among themselves the resources, which is seen in the rising number of people in the election fray and spending more and more on it every time the elections are around. Therefore, my suggestion to the men of words is to work for “democracy of the people, for the people and by the people” where there would be no politics, politician and political parties and the Houses (Parlilament and Legislature and Municipal Corporations) will be elected without any banner but a Tricolour of India. The so elected Members will elect a Speaker who in turn divide the House into two – one For and the other Against – to debate the issue and a panel of experts from within the House will articulate the outcome of the debate for vote by Members from both sides. This proposal could be got worked up and worked out if we get a membership of some 50,00 honest, sincere, and willing people from across the country.
    THE TIME HAS COME WHEN WE MUST GET RID OFF THE POLITICAL DEMOCRACY FROM INDIA.

    TIHARwale

    1 year ago

    law is such that voting NOTA is not allowed to keep a seat vacant at least for a year for want of a right candidate thus showing mirror to contestant and political parties

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