Practise,don’t preach

It is unseemly for an IPS officer to wear his faith on his sleeve

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 4, 2012 3:22 am

It is unseemly for an IPS officer to wear his faith on his sleeve

A Kerala cadre IPS officer,Alexander Jacob,is skimming the edge of permissible conduct,with his nightly gospel preaching on the Catholic channel Shalom TV. Jacob’s day job is being the additional director-general of police (prisons). Apart from his show,Njanavachassukal (words of wisdom),he has also spoken at gospel conventions. Shalom TV,in fact,was set up by a group of Catholic priests and believers to spread their beliefs,and is advertised as “God’s own Channel”.

This is clearly unusual behaviour — while many civil servants have consuming hobbies,from writing novels to composing music and painting — televangelism has never been explicitly addressed by the rule-book. The All India Services (Conduct Rules),1968,allow officers to participate in work of a literary,artistic or scientific character — and Jacob interprets his own action as furthering a cultural pursuit.

However,it’s not as easy as that. As a citizen,Jacob is entitled to freely profess his religion in

any way he desires,but as a senior police officer,who may be called upon to enforce order and intervene in disputes between religious communities,he risks appearing less than perfectly neutral. In India,there’s comparatively greater accommodation of religious expression,we acknowledge its presence with our public holidays,we are comfortable with religious markers in schools. But the state should be a separate,secular sphere,and representatives of the state should stay publicly aloof from contending religious missions. Alexander Jacob may only be voicing his faith,on his own time — but he should know better than to force a confrontation between religious belief and the ideal of scrupulous impartiality expected of a public servant.

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