- Mr Singh, ombudsman is fine but must protect civil servants as well!

Mr Singh, ombudsman is fine but must protect civil servants as well!

By Shiva Kant Jha

IS good that you have thought of an Ombudsman. But let us not do it in a way which brings discredit to it. It is quite unnerving to think that the institutions which we structured for the proper working of our democracy have all cracked and crumbled on the testing track. A tax ombudsman should be created by a legislative Act. He should be “ legislative commissioner for investigating citizens' complaints of bureaucratic abuse.” We can draw light from working models in the U.K., Germany, the U.S.A, and Australia.

We may have in the law a provision on the analogy of Art. 19 of the New Zealand Ombudsman Act which directs the ombudsman to call attention to laws producing “unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory results”. If we want to set up an institution we should do in good faith so that it is efficacious. But an ombudsman for the I.T Department is justified only when other government agencies with public interactions and interface are also put under a scanner of similar type. As a citizen my worry is not from the petty corruptions where the proceeds of derelictions remains in the country but from such massive loot where resources vanish to tax havens, and other places of darkness you might not have even heard of (thanks to this new breed of global fund managers managing IT-enabled corruption). You have to be fair to public servants also. Why not think of adopting droit administratif as the Shah Commission had suggested ( para 24.19 of the Report.). Why not consider the suggestion of H.M. Seervai who at p. 3065 of the Constitutional Law of India writes:

“However, a full time Union and State Administrative Service Commission set up by Parliament and State Legislatures might help to protect the rights and interests of civil servants.”

This body, if set up well, may help lessening even intra-administrative arbitrariness and corruption. It would counter the pathogenic factors emanating not only from what the Shah Commission Report calls the ‘Root of All Evil' (which is the nexus between the politicians and senior bureaucrats) but also the more sinister pathogenic factors emerging from the overt or covert nexus between the economic gladiators, marauders and the manipulators of economic power and the politicians most of them not capable of seeing beyond their nose. I had occasions to see how the lobbyists and persuaders succeeded in taking government for the ride.


Analogies are seldom apt; and they hardly help in solving problems. You know Argentina's steadfast and creative interpretation of maritime law because certain fishes were being trawlered from Argentine patrimonial sea on which the birds fed and accumulated droppings on the mainland for agriculture to flourish. It was their bold steps to protect national resources which contributed to the development of the concept of the modern maritime economic zone. If you compare the vital statistics relating to socio-economy of Argentina you would appreciate that our realities are different; to say with utmost candour we are facing morbid realities. The same folly is committed by comparing India with China.

In India we evolved essentially as an agricultural society; in China it was essential urban, dependent more on trade and commerce. Besides, what China is now is the product of how it managed its affairs over the preceding years ( see Jean Dreze & Amartya Sen, India Economic Development and Social Opportunity. Pages ). India is India. For vast masses even now government is optional. I wish the WTO. and the I.M.F. understand the psyche of the common people of this Republic. We have believed in “vasudheva kutumbakam”, and we have said “aa no bhadrah kratavoh yantu vishwataha” but the nation cannot be taken for a ride.


I have written to you this longish letter as a citizen. I beg to be pardoned for touching certain areas not relevant to the context which led me write this letter which many may consider worth dismissing with these words from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: “Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.”

Keynes who had written 'The Economic Consequences of Peace' also wrote an essay “The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill”. Someday someone would write on the Economic Consequences of the wielders of political power in India. I have taken this liberty of writing to you because I trust your basic goodness: otherwise writing to most politicians is both ridiculous and futile. It is a labour of my love in the cause of our nation. Didn't Lord Krishna say in the Bhagvadgita:

atmai 'va hy atmano bandhur
atmai'va ripur atmanah.

The voice of even a lone citizen should matter in a democracy otherwise the enveloping gloom of cynicism would become asphyxiating. Lord Bryce said in Modern Democracies: “Hope, often disappointed but always renewed, is the anchor by which the ship that carries democracy and its fortunes will have to ride out this latest storm as it has ridden out many storms before.” I would end this letter, as I had done while concluding my arguments before Delhi High Court, with that single sentence which was Lord Nelson's famous call to the fleet at the battle of Trafalgar: England expects that every man will do his duty. We all hear, I hope, in the flutter of the tricolour a quiver, perhaps, saying: India expects that every man will do his duty.

If I can ever be of any use to the cause of the nation, God willing, this citizen, if weighed, would not be found wanting.

As I write this letter to you as a citizen of this Republic, I think it prudent to put its content in the public domain also. - Links on Shivakantjha - Links on Shivakantjha

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