The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said that amending service rules to stop or delay bureaucrats from contesting elections is neither feasible nor appropriate. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which is examining the feasibility of the issue has now sought the advice of Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati.
In January,the then chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi had forwarded the suggestion of some concerned citizens that there must be some cooling-off period post retirement for the officers to contest elections. This follows a large number of bureaucrats joining the electoral fray in the last few years.
With the government supposed to clarify its stand on the issue before Parliament by September 30,it is now learnt to be sending reminders to the MEA and the Ministry of Law for their views. An assurance was given in Parliament during the Budget Session by Law Minister Salman Khurshid that the proposal of the Election Commission to provide for a cooling off period is under active consideration.
In its advice to the DoPT,the MHA said amendment in election rules may be required if the government wanted to set some cooling off period for retired bureaucrats to contest elections after retirement.
On the other hand,sources in the Ministry of Environment and Forests said they have conveyed to the DoPT that the ministry has no comments on the subject,since DoPT is competent to amend the All India Service (Death-Cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules,1958. Under these rules,bureaucrats cannot join any commercial employment within a year of their retirement without the governments permission,but there is no existing rule to stop them from joining political parties or contesting elections,even immediately after retirement.
According to sources,the Law Ministry is now awaiting the views of the AG on the constitutionality of the issue. The ministry conveyed this fact to the DoPT last month.
Views of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances,MHA,MoEF,Law Ministry and MEA were sought on the recommendation of the EC a few months ago. DARPG is the cadre controlling authority for IAS,MHA is for Indian Police Service while MoEF for Indian Forest Service.
The law ministry was supposed to give the legal position while the MEA a status report on the system followed by other democracies.