Impartiality and Non-partisanship (GS Paper 4)

Impartiality and Non-partisanship

What is difference between impartiality and nonpartisanship?

  • Impartiality is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.
  • Impartiality means that civil servants in carrying out their official work, including functions like procurement, recruitment, delivery of services etc, should take decisions based on merit alone.
  • Non-partisanship is  not being specifically owned or affiliated with any group, party or cause. Non-partisanship can be called political neutrality
  • Impartiality connotes that the behaviour of, and treatment by an administrator to any individual or entity has to be solely on the basis of merit. An administrator has to take several key decisions such as recruitment, procurement and allotment. For these decisions to be effective and efficient, there has to be absolute impartiality.
  • However, non partisanship implies that the administrator is to do his task without any fear of, or favour to any political party. The values of the administrator will flow from the constitution not from the ideology of any political party.
  • Impartiality is the quality of an individual where one is unbiased while distributing any goods or services among several people or selecting a person from a set of people based on certain set of qualities and skills.
  • Non-partisanship is the practice of no involvement with any political party even if the person has strong belief in any political ideology.

Why these two values (Impartiality and Non-partisanship) are important for an administrator?

  • In democracy, an efficient civil service must have set of values that distinguishes it from other professions. Integrity, dedication to pubic service, impartiality , political neutrality, anonymity and non-partisanship are said to be hallmarks of an effective civil service. The community has a right to expect the civil service functions fairly, impartially and efficiently.
  • Impartiality enables the administrator in filling up the gaps of trust deficit between the subjects and the Government.
  • Impartiality provides legitimacy to the conduct of administrator and makes it more effective.
  • The role of administrators should be to adopt an partial (non-neutral in true sense) approach towards serving the poor and disadvantaged, over and above personal gain and vested interests. Eg The recent move of the Government not to ban websites having porns but at the same time ensuring that child pornographic sites are blocked specifies an impartiality towards general content and partiality towards child pornographic content for greater good.
  • Non-partisanship strengthens the democratic procedures and institutions along with maintaining the integrity of the service.The administrators are always at a constant interface with the politicians, hence it is necessary to aloof themselves from any political ideology and do his duty no matter the party in power.
  • Significance of non partisanship can be appreciated by considering a situation in which this virtue is absent. If the administrator is inclined to any political party, there would always be a group that would remain alienated from the government services as they would have voted for losing party.
  • It strongly attracts other pre requisites of noble administration like transparency and honesty.

What is difference between neutrality and impartiality?

  • Although the principles of neutrality and impartiality have been interlinked and regarded as synonymous, or even as inseparable, they need to be clearly distinguished.
  • The principle of impartiality is about relieving the suffering of individuals based solely on need, and without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. After the principle of humanity it is the most fundamental aspect of the very concept of humanitarianism. Impartiality does not mean inaction.
  • Neutrality, on the other hand, is about not taking sides in a conflict or engaging in controversies of a political, racial, religious, or ideological nature.
  • Neutrality usually means not taking sides with warring parties and impartiality refers to nondiscrimination and proportionality.
  • Theoretically, one can abandon strict neutrality but remain impartial: I can abhor your politics and blame you for starting a war, but still provide medical relief to your wounded as well as to those of your enemy.
  • A civil servant need not to be neutral always. For example in helping weaker section of society, he has to take side of weak and vulnerable and help them.

What is difference between objectivity and impartiality?

  • “Impartial” has the connotation of being “not partial” and “not prejudiced”. “Objective” has the connotation of being based on facts without feelings or opinions.
  • Objectivity is sticking to the facts, being guided by the evidence and considering an event will be closer to the truth the more supporting evidence it has.

Taking Example in Journalism:

  • It is common to require journalists to be objective and impartial.
  • Objectivity is a method, not an element of style. In other words:
  1. Do not write stories that give equal weight to each ‘side’ of an argument if the evidence behind each side of the argument is not equal. Doing so misrepresents the balance of opinions or facts. Your obligation is to those facts, not to the different camps whose claims may be false.
  2. Do not simply report the assertions of different camps. As a journalist your responsibility is to check those assertions.
  • Impartiality is dependent on objectivity. It is not giving equal coverage to all sides, but rather promising to tell the story based on objective evidence rather than based on your own bias or prejudice. All journalists will have opinions and preconceived ideas of what a story might be, but an impartial journalist is prepared to change those opinions, and change the angle of the story. In the process they might challenge strongly-held biases of the society they report on.
  • Impartiality is about not taking sides, to give up making value judgments and treat as equivalent different versions of an event, believing the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Q. What is nepotism?

  • Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to cardinal positions by Catholic popes and bishops. Nepotism can occur in various fields including: politics, entertainment, business, and religion.
  • Nepotism is a common accusation in politics when the relative of a powerful figure ascends to similar power seemingly without appropriate qualifications.
  • Nepotism can also occur within organizations, when a person is employed due to their familial ties. It is generally seen as unethical, both on the part of the employer and employee.
  • Nepotism at work can mean increased opportunity at a job, attaining the job or being paid more than other similarly situated people. Arguments are made both for and against employment granted due to a family connection, which is most common in small, family run businesses. On one hand, nepotism can provide stability and continuity. Critics cite studies that demonstrate decreased morale and commitment from non-related employees, and a generally negative attitude towards superior positions filled through nepotism.

Q. What is the difference between ‘cronyism’ and ‘nepotism’?

  • Both words are used to show disapproval. If you are accused of nepotism, then you use your position to promote or help the members of your family; it is favouritism based on kinship. The word comes from the Latin ‘nepos’ meaning ‘nephew’.
  • Nepotism at work refers to favouring relatives in employment or economic terms as opposed to them being judged on ability and/or merit in a specific organisation.
  • However, nepotism can be viewed in terms of people giving somebody a boost up to allow them to get into an organisation but will be treated in the same manner as everybody else.
  • Although nepotism is in the sense of the word, refers to relatives, it can also mean to allow friends to be incorporated into an organisation or to be granted simply favour in general.
  • The word ‘crony’ is used to refer to a friend with whom you spend a lot of time. When you accuse someone of cronyism, what you mean is that the person is using his official position to help his friends.
  • Cronyism is a more specific form of favouritism that refers partial towards friends and partial towards associates. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know”.
  • Cronyism occurs within a network of insiders who provide favours to one another due to association.
  • Nepotism is an even narrower form of favouritism. (compared to cronyism)

Q. What do you understand by non-partisanship in public administration? How will you ensure non-partisanship in administration when you become an IAS officer?

  • Non partisanship in public administration means not to side with any group or party. For a public servant, rule of law should guide his conduct irrespective of his personal preferences. Use of discretionary powers should be guided by ethical guidelines implicit in the constitution like fundamental duty and directive principles of state policy.
  • In a diverse country like India where religion, caste, community, class, region etc play an important role in society being non-partisanship for an administrator assumes greater significance.
  • As an IAS officer I will take the following steps: –
  1. Maintaining contact with industrialist, builders, NGOs, politicians etc. only at the professional level via meetings, conferences etc. and not at the personal level.
  2. Ensuring transparency via a website for my department where all decisions and reasons for taking the decision will be uploaded real time.
  3. Ensuring accountability by assigning time bound tasks to officers and monitoring the progress.
  4. Citizens participation via 24×7 helpline and regular meetings with civil society.
  5. Creating a citizen’s charter which will be derived from the ethics implicit in the constitution and which will serve as guideline in cases where the law is ambiguous. This will help my department in successfully navigating the ‘grey areas’.
  • Thus by leading by example, laying guidelines for the exercise of discretionary powers and by promoting transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation I will ensure non-partisanship in administration.

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