Many physicists today postulate the existence of multiple universes, even when sober. We used to live in a world of infinite possibilities. Now we live in an infinite number of worlds. India shines. Democracy thrives. The economy booms. A hundred flyovers bloom. This is not that India. If you see your picture here one day, don’t worry. That’s not you.
Twenty-six years after Independence, it was noticed that public servants in India were getting very demoralised. “How can we work like this,” they said, “With the constant threat of prosecution hanging over our heads? Anybody can accuse us of anything.”
Due to this apprehension, the work of development was suffering, and the upliftment of the poor was getting delayed. Accordingly, in 1973, a fresh, new law was written. The new law bore a close resemblance to an old colonial law, Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898, except that this was called Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973. Its purpose was to protect public servants from unnecessary demoralisation, by removing the threat of prosecution.
On the whole, this law has been a success, as most public servants seem to be enjoying happiness, in addition to health and wealth.
As per this law, no court in the country can accept a case against a public servant, unless written permission is received from his superiors, for anything he does as part of his official duties, such as giving away coal mines, or irrigating slowly, or shooting people.
Interpretation of the phrase ‘official duties’ is key. For the police and the army, the definition of what constitutes official duties has surprised many. For unarmed public servants, the issue is trickier. In a revolutionary ruling, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that ‘forgery, criminal conspiracy, cheating and taking gratification cannot form part of official discharge of duty by a public servant.’
In response, many public servants had threatened action against the government, citing ‘lack of prior intimation’, but were subjugated by a marathon poetry reading session from Union Minister Kapil Sibal. Mr Sibal was elevated to the position of Law Minister shortly afterwards.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that if the actions of the accused have reasonable connection with his duty, then he is protected by Section 197. Whether the activity is criminal or not is left to his boss to decide. In some cases, the boss may order a departmental inquiry, but this is usually not required, as they know each other quite well.
In sum, you as a citizen have a duty to prevent demoralisation of the government. So kindly do maintain a pleasant demeanour, try not to prosecute anybody, and in cases where prosecution seems unavoidable, please do check with his boss first.