Seven Principles of Public Life

Posted Saturday November 14, 2015 by CSLRA India

“The Seven Principles of Public Life

Selflessness

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties. Heading

Objectivity

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.”

The principles are extracted from Volume 1 of the Lord Nolan’s Report. These principles of public life are of general application in every democracy and one is expected to bear them in mind while scrutinising the conduct of every holder of a public office. It is trite that the holders of public offices are entrusted with certain powers to be exercised in public interest alone and, therefore, the office is held by them in trust for the people. Any deviation from the path of rectitude by any of them amounts to a breach of trust and must be severely dealt with instead of being pushed under the carpet. If the conduct amounts to an offence, it must be promptly investigated and the offender against whom a prima facie case is made out should be prosecuted expeditiously so that the majesty of law is upheld and the rule of law vindicated. It is the duty of the judiciary to enforce the rule of law and, therefore, to guard against erosion of the rule of law.

The adverse impact of lack of probity in public life leading to a high degree of corruption is manifold. It also has adverse effect on foreign investment and funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank who have warned that future aid to under-developed countries may be subject to the requisite steps being taken to eradicate corruption, which prevents international aid from reaching those for whom it is meant. Increasing corruption has led to investigative journalism which is of value to a free society. The need to highlight corruption in public life through the medium of public interest litigation invoking judicial review may be frequent in India but is not unknown in other countries : R. v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, (1995) 1 WLR 386.

Of course, the necessity of desirable procedures evolved by court rules to ensure that such a litigation is properly conducted and confined only to matters of public interest is obvious. This is the effort made in these proceedings for the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution in exercise of powers conferred on this Court for doing complete justice in a cause. It cannot be doubted that there is a serious human rights aspect involved in such a proceeding because the prevailing corruption in public life, if permitted to continue unchecked, has ultimately the deleterious effect of eroding the Indian Polity.

Extracted from Vineet Narain versus Union of India

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