New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has moved a proposal to plug a loophole in the existing service rules for IAS, IPS and Indian Foreign Service officers, by allowing them to accept gifts from foreign dignitaries while on official duty.
In its letter to the chief secretaries of all states, dated 3 March, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) pointed out that “…there are no provisions under AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968, with regard to receipt/retention of gifts from foreign dignitaries by members of AIS (All India Services) being a member of foreign delegation or otherwise”.
The letter, accessed by ThePrint, added that the DoPT has decided “with the approval of competent authority to insert a new sub-rule (4) under Rule 11 of AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968”.
The government has sent the draft proposal for feedback to all states, and said if they do not issue any reply by the end of this month, it would be assumed that they have no objection to the proposal.
What the existing rule states
Rule 11 of the All India Service (Conduct) Rules states that a member of the IAS, IPS or IFS cannot accept a gift with a monetary value of more than Rs 25,000 from friends or relatives on weddings, anniversaries, funerals or religious occasions without reporting this receipt to the government.
The rule also states that no officer would be allowed to receive a gift worth more than Rs 5,000 regardless of the occasion without informing the government.
“Member of the service shall avoid accepting lavish hospitality or frequent hospitality from persons having official dealings with them or from industrial or commercial firms or other organisations,” it further says.
The proposed amendment
According to the proposed amendment, notwithstanding anything already mentioned in the rule, “A member of service, being a member of the Indian delegation or otherwise, may receive and retain gifts from foreign dignitaries in accordance with the provisions of The Foreign Contribution (Acceptance or Retention of Gifts or Presentation) Rules, 2012, as amended from time to time.”
This will allow the same value limits to apply to gifts from foreign dignitaries.
An official in the government said gifts from foreign dignitaries were “an obvious loophole” that could be exploited by officers to receive gifts crossing the prescribed limits.
“By bringing in foreign dignitaries explicitly to the rules, the government is trying to ensure there is no scope for kickbacks or corruption in the form of gifts,” an official, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint. “The move is in line with the government’s commitment to curbing corruption.”
Last year, ThePrint reported that the government was planning to amend the rules to ensure that civil servants, like ministers, deposit the gifts received by them in their official capacity in an ‘uphaar sangrahalaya’ (gift museum).
Sources in the DoPT said while the guidelines to this effect have been framed already, the notification may be issued sometime this year.