Cooling-off period for retired bureaucrats won’t stand judicial scrutiny: AG to govt

The poll panel had also expressed concern over a large number of 'senior civil servants' jumping into electoral fray.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Updated: August 9, 2014 8:11 am
Rohtagi has also disagreed with the EC recommendation that while retired government servants could contest elections independently. Rohtagi has also disagreed with the EC recommendation that while retired government servants could contest elections independently.

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi has told the government that the Election Commission of India’s recommendation that the law be amended to make it mandatory for retired bureaucrats to have a “cooling-off” period before entering elective politics will not stand judicial scrutiny.

Sources said Rohtagi has also disagreed with the EC recommendation that while retired government servants could contest elections independently, there should be a bar on their joining a political party during the cooling-off period.

Last year, the then AG, Goolam E Vahanvati, had also told the government that any restriction on government servants joining politics or contesting polls immediately after retirement would not stand legal scrutiny.

Some time back, the EC again wrote to the government, quoting a court judgment, to seek bar on retired government servants from joining political parties during the cooling-off period. The EC has been repeatedly urging the government to ensure a “suitable” cooling-off period for government officials before they enter politics, so that they remain impartial during their tenure in the government. It has suggested amendments in service conduct rules to do so.

Incidentally, service conduct rules bar civil servants from joining a private company for at least one year after he retires or resigns from government service but there are no rules to prevent him from joining political parties or contesting elections.

Last year, the EC had written to the government emphasising that a bar on retiring bureaucrats joining political parties would ensure a level-playing field ahead of the general elections. The poll panel had also expressed concern over a large number of “senior civil servants” jumping into electoral fray.

However, the Law Ministry had written back to the EC, saying such a provision would not be appropriate and that it would also go against provisions in the Constitution.

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, former union home secretary R K Singh, a 1975-batch retired IAS officer of Bihar cadre, won on a BJP ticket from Ara constituency in Bihar. Also, former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh, who resigned from his job just before the elections and joined the BJP, won from Baghpat.

Former Army chief general V K Singh, now a minister of state (independent charge) in the Narendra Modi government, also joined the BJP and won from Ghaziabad constituency. The Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Thiruvananthapuram, former IPS officer Ajit Joy, who took voluntary retirement to enter politics, however, had lost to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.

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  1. R
    Rail Sangh India
    Mar 29, 2016 at 8:13 am
    The Law Ministry had written back to the EC correctly that, the provision to bar the retiring bureaucrats/ Govt. Servant from joining political parties would not be appropriate and that it would also go against provisions in the Consution.lt;br/gt;From:-S.N.Srivastava, General Secretary, Rail Swak Sanghlt;br/gt;Mobile No.:8765531599
    Reply
    1. R
      Rail Sangh India
      Mar 29, 2016 at 8:16 am
      The Law Ministry had written back to the EC correctly that, the provision to bar the retiring bureaucrats/ Govt. Servant from joining political parties would not be appropriate and that it would also go against provisions in the Consution.lt;br/gt;From:-S.N.Srivastava, General Secretary, Rail Swak Sanghlt;br/gt;Mobile No.:8765531599
      Reply
      1. A
        Anant
        Aug 9, 2014 at 5:17 am
        Disagree that any such rule would be set aside by the SC. The EC enjoys plenary power under the Consution, and such a recommendation by it will carry weight in the eyes of the SC. Further this only extends the cause of political neutrality, why then would the SC oppose this?Such a ruling would not hinder anyone's rights under the consution. Since his political aspirations may inspire motivated actions if this is not made compulsory.
        Reply
        1. D
          deevee Pariyarath
          Aug 8, 2014 at 11:18 pm
          Ec has a point while saying that some restriction is mecessary for beurocrats in joining politics just after retirement to sageguard autonomy of cpnsutional insutions and for integrity of persons holding important positions of authority.For this laws and rules should be amended if necessary.
          Reply
          1. S
            Sreenivasa R
            Aug 10, 2014 at 6:28 am
            I idea behind the EC rule itself is not agreeable. There are many politically biased bureaucrats in government who do not join or contest or join party after retirement.Most are silent member of parties. This rule even implimented will have least impact on gorment functioning.
            Reply
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