Essay on the The concept of neutrality as suggested by Sardar Patel


Sardar Patel had made the following observations in the Constituent Assembly to support the conĀ­tinuance of the pre-independence civil service structure:-

“It needs hardly to be emphasized that an efficient, disciplined and contended civil service assured of its prospects as a result of diligent and honest work, is a sine-qua non of sound administration under democratic regime even more than under an authoritarian rule.

The service must be above party and we should ensure that political considerations, either in its recruitment or in its discipline and control, are reduced to the minimum if not eliminated altogether.”


Unfortunately, this vision of civil service neutrality no longer holds good. Changes in governments particularly at the state level often lead to wholesale transfer of civil servants. Political neutrality is no longer the accepted norm with many civil servants getting identified, rightly or wrongly, with a particular political dispensation.

There is a perception that officers have to cultivate and seek patronage from politicians for obtaining suitable positions even in the Union Government. As a result, the civil services in public perception are often seen as increasingly politicized.

The Commission is of the view that the political neutrality and impartiality of the civil services needs to be preserved the onus for this lies equally on the political executive and civil servants. The Commission in its Report on “Ethics in Governance” while examining the ethical framework for Ministers has recommended that a code of ethics for Ministers should inter-alia include the following:

“Ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service and not ask the civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the civil servants.”


As observed by Paul Appleby civil servants should not confuse ‘political neutrality’ with ‘programme neutrality’. At the stage of policy formulation, the role of civil servants is to render free and frank advice which should not be coloured by any political considerations. Once a policy or programme has been approved by the elected government, it is the duty of the civil servant to faithfully and enthusiastically see to its implementation. Not carrying out this task in the right spirit would amount to misconduct inviting appropriate sanctions.

Under the concept of neutrality, bureaucracy serves as a permanent instrument of government under conditions of changing party control, by acknowledging and adopting neutrality.

The concept of neutrality has three implications: (i) public confidence in the non-political character of public service, (ii) confidence of ministers belonging to any political party in the loyalty of the permanent subordinates, and (iii) high morale of public servants based on the confidence that promoting would be made not on the basis of political considerations but on merit. This was developed in Britain Switzerland and other countries that follow British pattern of administration.

A neutral model of bureaucracy cannot be practiced arbitrarily. Moreover, neutrality is a state mind and there can be no effective law to ensure it. Neutrality of bureaucracy is a characteristic feature of Weberian ideal type.


This is not a universal phenomenon. The neutrality has been accepted to the because their ultimate principles of action have not been in conflict with the policies of the politic parties in power, nor the governments have sought to adopt from these principles in action. However this concept has been outdated.

The principle of anonymity flows from (i) the Civil Servants work as instrument of political master and (ii) in a parliamentary democracy they work under the cover of the ministerial responsibility.

Minister assumes responsibility for their good or bad conduct and defends them against public criticize they should act in the name of their person. For this reason they should not give any press or pub statements so that they do not violate the principle of anonymity. The only exception probably is giving some factual information to the press that too in the name of government.

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