Officers of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in Andhra Pradesh have virtually raised a banner of revolt. After the arrest of two senior IAS officers and two more were named in chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the state's top bureaucracy is protesting that they are being made answerable whereas the ministers and the cabinet is let off and not held responsible.
Senior IAS officer BP Acharya, who was ironically the home secretary of Andhra Pradesh, arrested by the CBI for alleged criminal conspiracy in the 4500 crore-rupees Emaar properties case on January 30 this year. Last year on November 28, another senior officer Y Srilakshmi was arrested for allegedly favouring Gali Janardhan Reddy's Obulapuram Mining Company in granting mining leases as Andhra Pradesh's industries secretary. (Read: Five big facts of the Emaar case)
With two more IAS officers, LV Subramanyam and KV Rao, named in the chargesheet filed by the CBI, the IAS officers Association in the state has come out in the open to protest against the manner in which the CBI is investigating.
"We are deeply disappointed over the manner in which the investigation is being carried out by the CBI without following established procedure. Conclusions are being arrived at without any basis and the investigation being used to tarnish the image of the IAS," said S Bhale Rao, President, IAS officers association.
The IAS officers say it is unfair that the ministers are being let off while the secretaries are being made answerable.
"The business rules say the minister is primarily responsible for the working of the department. It does not say the secretary is responsible. Whatever the scams in the mining or industries department, the entire cabinet is responsible. We are asking why only the officers are being made answerable," said Madhav Rao, former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh.
The virtual banner of revolt raised by the IAS officers in the state is unprecedented. But how should IAS officers protest? Should they refuse to cooperate with the ministers, go on protest leave or represent to the Prime Minister? These were some of the options being discussed.
Senior minister Ravindra Reddy to who IAS officer Srilakshmi was last reporting as family welfare commissioner says the then mines minister will also have to take responsibility and be made accountable.
"We have inherited the British system where the secretary advises the minister. But if the minister disagress, the file goes to the chief minister. The bureaucrat and the minister are both accountable and responsible," said Mr Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's Health minister.
The IAS officers point out that though the government orders are necessarily signed by the secretary, the file notings do reflect the role played by the minister and the civil servant in the decision-making process.
"There are certain business rules in administration. as per rules, the officer has to implement decisions of govt. when it is not correct, it is upto the officer not to implement it as simple as that," said Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.
With the IAS taking on the ministers and the political establishment, the high-profile CBI probes have virtually opened a pandora's box in the state.
The Indian Administrative Service has been given constitutional guarantees in appointment and service to ensure that officers act independent of political and other influence. Sardar Vallabhai Patel called it the iron frame of India, but with more and more officers in the dock for acts of omission and commission, there is apprehension that the iron frame is either rusting or bending backwards to please.