POLITICAL NEUTRALITY  (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     14th March 2024        
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Context: Recently a Calcutta High Court judge and a senior IPS officer in West Bengal resigned from their posts and joined political parties. This raised a question of political neutrality of the various posts in India.

Constitutional Restrictions

  • About: The Constitution operates on the principle of checks and balances, ensuring accountability between various branches of the government.
  • Executive Accountability to Legislature: The executive branch is accountable to the legislature, ensuring transparency and oversight in governance.
  • Role of Independent Judiciary: An independent judiciary acts as a check on both the executive and legislative branches, ensuring adherence to constitutional principles and protecting citizens' rights.
  • Independent Bodies: Independent bodies like the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) are tasked with specific constitutional duties without interference from the government.
  • Independence of these institutions is guaranteed through measures such as fixed tenure, financial autonomy, stringent removal procedures, and post-office restrictions.
  • Post-Office Restrictions: After demitting office, judges of Supreme Court and High Court, as well as members of the CAG and Public Service Commission, are subject to restrictions such as limitations on appearing as lawyers or taking up employment with the government.

Political Posts: No Restrictions

  • Joining Political Parties: There are no restrictions on joining political parties.
  • Contesting Elections: Individuals can contest elections without limitations.
  • Nomination to Posts: Certain individuals have held independent constitutional posts before joining politics or being nominated to various political posts.

Recommendations Regarding Political Posts

  • Election Commission's Recommendation (2012): The Election Commission suggested a cooling-off period for top bureaucrats after retirement before joining political parties or contesting elections.
  • Government Response: The government rejected this recommendation, citing concerns about its alignment with constitutional provisions and democratic values.
  • Supreme Court's Dismissal (May 2022): A writ petition seeking a legislative direction for a cooling-off period was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The court emphasized that it's up to the legislature to decide on such matters.