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1. Code Of Conduct For Mps And Mlas

According to the 2nd ARC, a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct for Ministers should include the following:

  • Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments and agencies.

  • Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests.

  • They must keep separate their roles as Minister and constituency member.

  • They must not use government resources for party or political purposes; they must accept responsibility for decisions taken by them and not merely blame it on wrong advice.

  • Ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and not ask civil servants to act in any way, which would conflict with the duties and responsibilities of civil servants.

  • Ministers must recognize that misuse of official position or information is violation of the trust reposed in them as public functionaries.

  • Ministers must ensure that public moneys are used with utmost economy and care.


What is legislative code of conduct?

  • A legislative code of conduct is a formal document which regulates the behavior of legislators by establishing what is to be considered to be an acceptable behavior and what is not. In other words, it is intended to promote a political culture which places considerable emphasis on the propriety, correctness, transparency, honesty of parliamentarians’ behavior.

  • A formal code of conduct has been adopted by Germany, Israel, Japan, UK and USA, while India has a customary code of conduct.


The purpose of a Code of Conduct:

  • Set public standards by which the behaviour of parliamentarians can be assessed

  • Provide a basis for assessing proposed actions and so guide behaviour

  • Provide an agreed foundation for resonding to behaviour that is considered unacceptable

  • Assure and reassure the community that the trust placed in parliamentarians is well placed.


How Code of Conduct is maintained across the world:

  • First Approach: Enshrining the code in legislative framework through establishing an independent, autonomous body, outside the legislature. Here breach of the code amounts to breach of law.

  • Second Approach: Establishing a body within the legislature that oversees the conduct of members e.g. a parliamentary committee or an independent parliamentary commissioner. Such a body reports to the legislature itself. This approach has been adopted in the United Kingdom.

  • Third Approach: A detailed set of rules and guidelines is maintained. Each House has its own Code of Official Conduct for Members and staff. Each House has an ethics committee, which operates independently of the other. Each committee provides interpretative and advisory rulings, has jurisdiction over the members and officers of each House, and can investigate allegations of improper conduct and can impose sanctions. Such an approach is followed by US congress.


Present Scenario in India

  • A code for Union ministers was adopted in 1964, and state governments were advised to adopt it as well.

  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ethics was constituted in both the Houses in 1997.

  • A Code of Conduct for members of Rajya Sabha has been in force since 2005. There is no such code for Lok Sabha.


Code in Rajya Sabha

  • Rajya Sabha follows a 14-point Code of Conduct for members of the House since 2005. These include: o In case of Conflict of interest, Private interests of the members should always be subordinated to the duty of their public office.

  • Members should never accept any benefit for a vote given or not given by them on the floor of the House, for introducing a Bill, for moving a resolution or desisting from moving a resolution, putting a question or abstaining from asking a question or participating in the deliberations of the House or a Parliamentary Committee.


Code in Lok Sabha

  • The first Ethics Committee in Lok Sabha was constituted in 2000.

  • The report of Ethics committee (headed by L K Advani) which was laid on the table of the Lok Sabha in 2014 recommends that: o The Ethics Committee shall formulate a Code of Conduct for Members and suggest amendments to the Code of Conduct from time to time.

  • However, the Rules Committee (headed by Speaker) wants to adopt the style of US Congress i.e. o Information offered as a complaint by an individual not a Member of the House may be transmitted to the Ethical Committee only if a Member of the House certifies (countersigns) that the information is submitted in good faith and warrants the consideration of the Committee.

  • The recommendations have yet not been adopted, and therefore there is no Code of Conduct for members of Lok Sabha.


Why there should be a strict Code of Conduct in India?

  • The rules of conduct of Parliament are not adequate. They are limited to throwing paper balls in protest, tearing up documents and rushing to the well of the House or against laughing in the lobby.

  • After engaging in disruptive activities, MPs and MLAs seek shelter behind parliamentary privileges.

  • The obstructive conduct of some MPs and MLAs is disrespectful to the House, those who elected them, and also a waste of public money.

  • Many members are experts in their fields and their contributions could greatly enrich the discourse in the House but they remain absent. A code ensuring attendance of the legislatives is also required.

  • Genuine debate and discussion can only take place if political representatives are well trained and well behaved.


Way forward

  • Codes of conduct are one of the key elements in the establishment of an ethical regime, which is essential to reconstruct the public confidence in public officials and institutions. Elected representatives hold the key to good, people-centred governance. Codifying the rules of the game can only help to fulfil this goal.

  • The Code of Conduct is a starting point for ensuring good conduct by Ministers. However, it is not comprehensive in its coverage and is more in the nature of a list of prohibitions; it does not amount to a Code of Ethics. It is therefore necessary that in addition to the Code of Conduct, there should be a Code of Ethics to provide guidance on how Ministers should uphold the highest standards of constitutional and ethical conduct in the performance of their duties. The Code of Ethics should also reflect the seven principles of public life -Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.

September Ethical Issues

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