AMENDMENT TO CENTRAL CIVIL SERVICES PENSION RULES CURTAILS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF RETIRED OFFICIALS: Constitutional Conduct Group

Open letter to Prime Minister by Constitutional Conduct Group

Dear Prime Minister,

We are former officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. We have no political affiliation but have come together as the Constitutional Conduct Group because we believe in impartiality and neutrality and in safeguarding the values of the Indian Constitution.

We were surprised, and deeply disturbed, by the recent amendment to the Central Pension Rules notified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions on 31 May 2021. By this amendment, retired government servants who have worked in any intelligence or security related organisation included in the Second Schedule of the Right to Information Act 2005 have to take the clearance of the head of the organisation if they wish to make any publication after retirement, if such publication relates to and includes:

(i) domain of the organisation, including any reference or information about any personnel and his designation, and expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organisation;

(ii) sensitive information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, or relation with a foreign State or which would lead to incitement of an offence (publication here would, presumably, be an inclusive term encompassing verbal communication, though that is not very clear).

We are unable to understand why there is a need for such an amendment to the Central Pension Rules, when there already exists an Official Secrets Act 1923 and the State can, under it, prosecute officials and former officials who reveal information prejudicial to the State.

Pension is a right that accrues to every government servant for the service put in while in the government. It is subject only to future good conduct and cannot be taken away except for conviction for serious crime or grave misconduct. If writing about certain matters amounts to grave misconduct, the government can certainly take action, as per law, to deprive the former official of his or her pension.

The practice of retired bureaucrats writing their memoirs or articles on different aspects of the work done by them during their working years or commenting on current affairs using their ‘domain’ knowledge is universal and is appreciated the world over. Only those who have been involved in security related matters, internal or external, can speak with authority and credibility. Other domain experts, scholars and even interested members of the public look forward to such words of wisdom based on personal experience. It helps current practitioners to perform better.

It is true of India, as of any other country, that the government version of events, either current or past, is seen as the point of view of the party in power and is not, necessarily, reflective of the whole truth. It is because of this that the views and memoirs of past practitioners, unencumbered by the constraints of office, have value.

The recent amendment to the Pension Rules attempts to impose a silence that will seriously affect scholarship and be a permanent impediment to an understanding of the imperatives of our security concerns. Officers who have spent a lifetime in security related matters are unlikely to be irresponsible and reveal sensitive secrets. The laudable objective of ensuring that retirees do not divulge any sensitive material to the detriment of the nation’s security is best achieved by reiteration of the Official Secrets Act and stern action thereunder in case of infraction. And if the government is anxious to protect national security in keeping with the times and the Constitution of India, they should also carry out wide ranging consultations with political and civil society as well as the legal fraternity to find a replacement for the Official Secrets Act, which is itself in conflict with Article 19 of the Constitution.

We believe the framers of the new rules have not thought through the consequences of the order. It would mean that before publishing any article or speaking at any seminar or interview, the retired officers concerned would have to obtain prior permission. The reported assurance from the establishment that the order, in fact, makes it easier for the officers to contact their former employer to seek clarifications before they speak, is too fatuous to even merit comment. If strictly enforced, it could also mean, in effect, that no retiree from the specified services can participate in seminars or discussions, let alone engage in Track II dialogues, even if this is, possibly, not the intention.

In 2008, the UPA government tried to introduce such an order for officers who had served in the IB and RAW. The order was widely criticized and eventually withdrawn. The well-known lawyer AG Noorani had pointed out at that time that ‘the fundamental right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to know, is not absolute. But the state can impose only “reasonable restrictions” on the right, on grounds specified in Article 19 and only by ‘law’ and not by an executive fiat’.

With the current order, the government has gone beyond the 2008 order of the UPA government. With this order, India also acquires the dubious distinction of being, possibly, the only major democratic country in the world today which effectively bars its employees from expressing their views after retirement.  Curiously, this is being made to apply to all officers who have retired, even those who have retired decades ago This is not merely a restraint on free speech, which it is, but an effort to entomb all relevant information and knowledge in the coffin of untrammelled state power

In 2008, the UPA government, perhaps persuaded of the wrongness of the order, did not finally bring the amendment into being. We hope that the present government would display similar sagacity.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours sincerely,

Constitutional Conduct Group

(109 signatories, details below)

 

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
3. Anand Arni RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
4. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
5. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
8. Sushant Baliga Engineering Services (Retd.) Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI
9. Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
10. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
11. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
12. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
13. K.V. Bhagirath IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mauritius
14. Pradip Bhattacharya IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal
15. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
16. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
17. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
18. R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
19. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
20. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of  Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
21. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
22. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
23. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
24. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
25. Nitin Desai   Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
26. Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
27. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
28. A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
29. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
30. Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
31. Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
32. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
33. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
34. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
35. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
36. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
37. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
38. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
39. Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
40. Arun Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
41. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
42. Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
43. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
44. P.K. Lahiri IAS (Retd.) Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI
45. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
46. B.B. Mahajan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI
47. P.M.S. Malik IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI
48. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
49. Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
50. L.L. Mehrotra IFS (Retd.) Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
51. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
52. Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
53. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
54. Malay Mishra IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Hungary
55. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
56. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
57. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
58. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
59. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar
60. T.K.A. Nair IAS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Prime Minister of India
61. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
62. P.A. Nazareth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
63. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
64. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
65. Niranjan Pant IA&AS (Retd.) Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
66. P. R. Parthasarathy IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Govt. of Maharashtra
67. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
68. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
69. G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.) Former Home Secretary, GoI
70. R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
71. Rajesh Prasad IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
72. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
73. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
74. C. Babu Rajeev IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI
75. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)  
76. Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
77. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
78. Manabendra N. Roy IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
79. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
80. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
81. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
82. Shyam Saran IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
83. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
84. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
85. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
86. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
87. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
88. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
89. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
90. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
91. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
92. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
93. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
94. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
95. K.S. Sidhu IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
96. Ajai Vikram Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Defence Secretary, GoI
97. Padamvir Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, GoI
98. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
99. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
100. Jawhar Sircar

 

IAS (Retd.)

 

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
101. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
102. A.K. Srivastava IAS (Retd.) Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
103. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
104. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
105. Thanksy Thekkekera IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
106. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
107. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
108. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
109. Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 

 

 

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s