Civil servants are required to be “politically neutral” and under the administrative control of ministers for implementing the day-to-day decisions of the elected government, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
The observation was made by a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud in its judgement holding that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over services except for public order, police and land.
“Civil servants are required to be politically neutral. The day-to-day decisions of the Council of Ministers are to be implemented by a neutral civil service, under the administrative control of the ministers.
“In order to ensure that the functioning of the government reflects the preferences of the elected ministers and through them the will of the people, it is essential to scrutinize the link of accountability between the civil service professionals and the elected ministers who oversee them,” the verdict said.
Penning the 105-page judgement, the CJI referred to the role of civil services in a Westminster style cabinet form of governance and said the policies of the government are implemented not by the people, Parliament, the Cabinet, or even individual ministers, but by the civil service officers who are hence the vital part of the “triple chain of accountability”.
Elaborating on the triple chain of command, the verdict said civil service officers are accountable to the ministers who in turn are accountable to Parliament or assemblies and these Houses are accountable to the electorate.
“Under the Westminster parliamentary democracy, civil services constitute an important component of a triple chain of command that ensures democratic accountability,” it said.
In a democracy, accountability lies with the people who are the ultimate sovereign, it said.
The Constitution confers on the legislature the power to enact laws and the government to implement laws and the conduct of the elected representatives is periodically assessed by the electorate every five years, it said.
“An unaccountable and a non-responsive civil service may pose a serious problem of governance in a democracy. It creates a possibility that the permanent executive, consisting of unelected civil service officers, who play a decisive role in the implementation of government policy, may act in ways that disregard the will of the electorate,” it said. (PTI)
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