Ethics Case Studies (11 to 20)

Ethics Case Studies (11 to 20)

Case Study 11:

As a Block Development Officer, you were invited to preside over a Gram Sabha meeting in one of Gram Panchayats falling under your jurisdiction. The Gram Sabha was called to take a decision on two crucial things: to identify and confiscate fake job cards used under MGNREGA scheme and to choose the beneficiaries to allot houses under Indira Awas Yojana. You had ordered a month ago to all Gram Panchayat secretaries to conduct programs to create awareness and advertise about coming Gram Sabha so that people would participate in large numbers.

Unfortunately, on the day of Gram Sabha to which you were invited, very few villagers turned up. It is mandatory that at least one tenth of members of Gram Sabha (those whose names are in electoral rolls) attend the Gram Sabha. But on that day less than one tenth were in attendance. At the same time, all the Panchayat members were present. They all insisted that the Gram Sabha should continue as people would slowly come and attend as the meeting progressed. Somehow you were convinced and the meeting started. Those few who attended were chosen by vote to get homes allotted after verification that they met the criteria under the Indira Awas Scheme. Job card verification was not possible as there were no people at the meeting.

Next day you received a complaint by a villager accusing Panchayat members of coercing Panchayat Secretary to conduct Gram Sabha on a date when villagers had gone out to neighbouring village to attend a festival. According to the complaint this was done to stop the identification of fake job cards, which some elected Panchayat members had themselves created to siphon off money. The complaint also alleged that you and Panchayat ecretary had taken bribe from Panchayat members to conduct a fake Gram Sabha meeting. There was also allegation that beneficiaries who got allotted IAY houses were actually all relatives of Panchayat members present on the day of Gram Sabha.

1) Identify the major issues and your options in the case study. (150 Words)

2) As a responsible officer what were your duties prior to conducting Gram Sabha and what course of action you should follow after receiving the complaint. (200 Words)



a. Major issues:
• Dishonesty shown by gram panchayat members as they deliberately timed the gram sabha on a day when the attendance of people would be less
• Corruption: Prima facie it appears that as alleged in the complaint, the panchayat members did indulge in corrupt practices by create fake job card holders to siphon of money
• Nepotim: The gram panchayat members kept the interests of their relatives above the general public which elected them
• Accusation: The villages accusing me of collusion with panchayat memebers by taking bribe is a serious allegation. I need to prove my honesty so that people do not lose confidence in my conduct, which will effect my administrative duties in the future
b. My options:
• Cancel the whole gram sabha and all the allocations done on that day, and reconvene another one taking in to consideration when the maximum attendance would be there
• Ignore the complaint and blame the people for not attending it

a. My duties prior to conducting Gram Sabha
• Should have made sure that the panchayat chose a right day for the sabha
• The rules clearly stated that a sabha should not be conducted when the quorum of 1/10th members are not present. So I should not have started without it. As the secretary said that the people would come after it gets started, I would insist on waiting till people came
• I should have smelt that some thing is fishy because, there is no reason why people would not attend the sabha if they are being allotted a house. I would enquire other people the reason for the absence
• I would then cancel the sabha then and there and complain the conduct of secretary to higher ups

b. course of action I should follow after receiving the complaint
• I would call the panchayat secretary and ask for an explanation and take it in writing
• The secretary is clearly guilty as he should have known about the festival in the neighbouring village
• I would then join the complaint and the secretary’s explanation and my recommendation which is cancellation of the sabha and allocations on that day and send it to the higher ups
• I would apologise for my mistake to the people in the next sabha for not following the quorum rules
• I would also ask an enquiry in the alleged corruption and nepotism shown by panchayat and order cancellation of fake job cards

Case Study 12:

A former employee who was fired due to poor quality work, absences, and lateness related to her drinking problem, informs you that she has applied for a position at another company and has already given your name as a reference. She desperately needs a job (she is a single parent with three children), and she asks you to give her a good recommendation and not mention her drinking, which she assures you is now under control.

She also asks you to say that she voluntarily left the company to address a family medical crisis, and that the company was pleased with her work. You like this person and believe she is a good worker when she is not drinking. You doubt that she really has overcome her drinking problem, however, and you would not recommend your own company hire her back.

  • What do you say to this woman?
  • What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?
  • What if the prospective employer was a friend?
  • Suppose the problem was a theft?
  • Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?
  • What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?


1)What do you say to this woman?

At first i would tell her that it was not fair and ethical on her part to mention my name as a reference without my prior permission, this shows that her desperation may drive her to adopt such unfair means in future also to achieve any other intentions. As she was not honest to her prospective employer initially she may continue this behavior and i might put that employer and his organisation at risk along with my own honesty and integrity. I would say to her that despite her saying she overcame her drinking habit which i am not myself sure of she still lacks integrity and honesty as she lied to get her hands on the job and mere stopping drinking did not certify that her other Grey areas like late coming and poor work quality will show improvement. We in life may face such dilemma’s more often but we should not act emotionally always as unfair means are never going to benefit, it will be unethical on my part to concur on her claims to her prospective employer. I would recommend her to tell truth to her prospective employer and then i might talk to him if he calls and tell the employer about her positives and her present conditions.

2)What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?

Ans- I would tell him regarding her problems and her efforts to get rid of those bad habits, i would highlight her positive facets also and will also inform him about her present family conditions. I would tell him that she has tried to overcome her weakness and is now willing to work with proper work culture as required by any reputed company or organisation. I would not give surety of her conduct but i may ask him to give her chance if he is willing to give her a chance to change for good as she is in need of a job desperately because she is a single mother catering to three children.

3)What if the prospective employer was a friend?

Ans- It will be easier for me to explain the situation to him, although i would not recommend her to my company i may ask my friend to give her chance and give permanent employment only after he is sure that she is now changed and is well suited to work as habitual drinkers show behavioral changes after they suffer from withdrawl of the alcohol.

3)Suppose the problem was a theft?

Ans- Theft is an offense and it should be judged by the magnitude of theft, but legally theft is theft either of small or big magnitude. If an employee commits thievery in organisation it will be cheating to the organisation and to his employers and to his/her conscience also. It is also an criminal offense which attracts punitive actions. I may not be in position to recommend her if it was proved that she indeed committed thievery. Despite her being a single mother of three i may not overshadow her conduct of theft because she has to cater to three children alone. But i will tell employer that she was a good worker at large, and he should try to visualize her overall performance and situation before arriving at any decision.

4)Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?

Ans- If she had asked me to be reference prior to giving my name as one, then i would have heard to her, regarding her situation. If i get assured that she indeed has stopped drinking and is she is willing to work and start again with proper conduct and honesty i might recommend her to the employer but i will not keep him in dark regarding her past, i will explain him situation in which my company removed her and situation now, i would explain as i can not recommend her in my company due to her past deeds as it might not get accepted by my company, he can give her chance to rectify her past mistakes for a good future of her kids of whom she is a single parent.

5)What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?

Ans- Here along with ethical values like Honesty, Integrity and work values which makes me marketable as a person whose recommendation matters in organizations other than his own and My values like selflessness and altruism conflict with each other. I may lie and help her gain employment by unfair means and me being a partner in this misdeed or i can tell the truth to retain my honesty and integrity, i may by being honest
tell employer about her, but i may being selfless and sensitive towards the employee’s problems try to convince the prospective employer to consider her and give her one chance as she is desperate for the job and she is willing to overcome her drawbacks and may in future prove to be an asset to the prospective employer.

Case Study 13:

Your friend who is travelling with you in a train gives ten rupees to an eight year old girl who is begging for money. An elderly co-passenger comments that it is unethical to give money like that and it would make these children lazy forever. Another co-passenger, a middle aged lady sympathises with the girl and tells the elderly man that the girl must be an orphan thus needs money for sustenance and she goes on to appreciate your friend for giving the girl money.

Whom will you support in this situation? Explain why. (200 Words)


It is highly unlikely that the eight year old has started begging on her own.
1. She maybe driven into it by her family who is in dire economical condition or
2. by the greed of crime cartels(or even her family itself).
3. or She may be an orphan as told by the lady

Here the dilemma is to either support the friend in this philanthropic work and the admire the appreciation of women or to commend it and agree with the elder co-passenger.

The situation demands proper combination of compassion and long term view of children’s development. From the situation it appears that my friend gave the money on impulsive instinct. It is evident from the immediate step he took without any effort on his part of inquiring why the girl is begging when she should devote her time for study. On prima facie I will oppose the act of my friend.

I will not favor the statement of my fellow co-passenger who is giving hint that the child should be employed or he should be earning some wage. On the other hand I will say that the proper statement should be that she should be attending school.

The middle age lady is making statement on the compassionate ground and her observation does not seem to originate from the proper inquiry. I will question on her assumption and I will give example of the availability of orphanage which will promote her overall development.
If possible I will try to approach the girl and will ask her if she is attending the school. On the other hand if she is orphan or she is under pressure I will try to contact nearest orphanage will get her enrolled. Else I will try to enroll her in any adoption center.

Case Study 14:

You are working as Sub Inspector and the place where you work is also the constituency of powerful politician who is now a very influential minister in the state government. Recently a woman social activist was tied to tree and was badly beaten and molested by few political activists belonging to the ruling party. After registering the  case and preliminary investigation you come to know that the men
who molested were staunch followers of the minister. The minister frequently calls you and pressurises you to either go slow with investigation or close the case citing lack of evidence. In your
investigation you have found strong evidence to give justice to the woman and punish minister‟s followers. However, the minister has threatened to transfer you to a distant place if you do not heed to his requests. Despite threats and pressures you continue with your investigation and file a strong case against the perpetrators. Later you come to know that the minister had used his influence and bribed the judges to get bail to his followers.
a) How do you deal with political pressure when performing your duty? (100 Words)
b) In the above case, your wife advises you to record your conversations with the minister in your cellphone and make them public via media. Will you do so? Justify. (150 Words)
c) Some of your friends  suggest you to get transfer and move to new place so that you are saved from the wrath of the minister whose requests you neglected. (100 Words)


a) How do you deal with political pressure when performing your duty as a public servant? (100 Words).

For a public servant political interference is inevitable.Best way to deal with it is by confusing the politician and presenting the rules.Explain the rules and ask for a written order if any deviation is to be made.One must also be ready for transfers and threats.Usually the weakest are threatened the most.Once you set an example by not complying with politicians whims and fancies,you will set a good example for other politicians.So the mantra is to stay strong,follow the rules, avoid direct confrontation, but be ready for the same in case things go haywire.

Mass mobilisation through woman social activist who has been molested an also put pressure on minister. I would encourage her to do so as being a social activist, she can leverage her support base.

b) In the above case, your wife advises you to record your conversations with the minister in your cellphone and make them public via media. Will you do so? Justify. (150 Words).

The idea sounds tempting.But this is illegal and against the law.A civil servant is not a spy,at least in views of law.I would avoid taking that route.But at the same time,I can use this means to manipulate the minister.In case the politician poses too much problem,this audio recording will be used as a leverage to bring his sanity back.This will be a civil servant blackmailing the politician for the noble cause.

c) Some of your friends suggest you to get transfer and move to new place so that you are saved from the wrath of the minister whose requests you neglected. (100 Words)

This is a very tempting suggestion,yet its morally reprehensible and against the spirit of honest work to get transfers to avoid the confrontation.No matter what jobs you were earlier in,Once you join civil services,this is your life.Things like this are part of the job and running from the difficult situation will only worsen the situation.This is like treating the symptoms and avoiding the root cause.So better,stay put and fight back.

Case Study 15:

Rajanna had borrowed money from a private bank to buy a tractor. He was a farmer who grew sugar-cane on his two acres irrigated land. He bought the tractor from the money he had received from bank loan. He also used part of the money to pay dowry and expenses for his daughter’s wedding. Owing to price drop in sugar cane in the market, he consistently defaulted on his bank loan. Fortunately he owned irrigated land and he was confident of repaying the debt within two years if the price of sugar cane improved. The bank authorities had sent him few notices. However, recently the bank decided to publish the photographs of defaulters in the public places and in local newspaper to put pressure on them. Rajanna, who was a respected individual in his village was shocked to know this and committed suicide.

After few days, the bank auctioned his tractor off too. Rajanna’s wife and children have complained against the bank to the police accusing it of killing Rajanna.

1) Was it ethical for the bank to take a decision to publish photographs of loan defaulters? Explain. (150 Words)

2) Critically comment  on ethical aspects of Rajanna’s deeds. (250 Words)


1) The ethics behind publishing photos of the defaulters are questionable. A loan is a time-bound contract between the borrower and the lender. The private bank is a profit-driven entity but lending to Rajanna was a decision on the part of the bank and a bad loan is a risk that comes with it. It is for this purpose that financial instruments such as collaterals exist to reduce the losses to the bank in case of a loan default. However, using psycho-social measures such as humiliation by publishing photos cannot be justified, especially when Rajanna wasn’t a wilful defaulter. The bank before using such extreme measure should investigate the reasons behind the default. The loan could either be re-negotiated or the bank could sell the tractor to reclaim some losses. Using societal pressure to coax back money when Rajanna clearly did not have it is thus plain cruel and unethical.

2) Rajanna’s deeds:
• Borrowed money to buy tractor, spent some on other things: Rajanna’s actions are both unethical and illegal. It is a violation of the contract with the bank, as banks determine the loan conditions such as interest rate after taking into consideration the reason it is taken for. So we can notice that interest rates on personal loans are usually higher than home loans or educational loans.
• Used money for dowry: Dowry is also illegal and unethical. It degrades the position of woman, portray daughters as a liability on the parents and reflects a patriarchal mindset of the society. Ranjanna failed to question and protest against such a denigrating institution. He was a respected individual in his village and could have refused to give dowry and convince others to not give or accept dowry too.
• Committing suicide: Suicides are a sad reality plaguing our country. It is against the law but firstly, it is against humanity. According to Kant, right to life is an inalienable right and a human being has no right to take away even his own life as it is granted to him by God and that human life is precious in itself. Ranjanna was crushed under humiliation but committing suicide was a selfish and cowardly act as he did not take into consideration the his family’s welfare after he dies.

Case Study 16:

You are working as DM of a district where illegal mining of sand is rampant. Recently there was an accident between a truck illegally carrying sand and a government passenger bus. Many passengers died on the spot because of the accident. Ever since you assumed power, you are trying to curb this illegal mining of sand. Because of negligence and involvement of police officers at local level, illegal mining is going on in many parts of the district despite your efforts to curb it. These trucks which travel on narrow village roads, have not only damaged roads, they have also caused traffic problem for passenger vehicles frequently causing accidents.

The media and some people from a political party are protesting against you after the bus accident. They are saying that you are working hands in glove with the sand Mafia. There is also an accusation that you have some personal rivalry with the Superintendent of Police. Moreover, even local media is portraying you as someone intentionally allowing illegal sand mining in the district.

In this situation, what are your options? How will you deal with accusations? And how will you manage the situation? (250 Words)


There are many issues highlighted by the case
1. Illegal mining of riverbed sands – harming ecology of floodplains effecting drainage patterns hence may lead to problems like falling water table and severe flooding in monsoons
2. Gossip on my character and conflict with other power figures undermine my authority
3. Traffic problems exacerbated by illegal mining
Since as DM I am head of district administration and blame lies on me if I have not been able to stop Sand Mafia.

My solution would be

– Hold press conference reiterating my resolve to fight the menace, announce ex-Gratia payment to victim of accidents and try to nab the perpetrators as soon as I can
This will build confidence in my authority to pursue further actions.
-Ban movement of heavy vehicles on narrow roads in day time to prevent accidents to pedestrians and commuters
– Erect check posts around all approach roads commonly used by illegal miners

Medium term
-Transfer all police personnel to from areas where rampant sand mining takes place, initiate inquiry against low level police officers of concerned police stations by taking SP in confidence
– Educate people of area about need of conservation and cultivate informants for providing information on local illegal extraction

Long Term
-Initiate information campaign for usage of alternative material for building like powdered concrete etc

Case Study 17:

You are working as Superintendent of Police. In a village which comes under your jurisdiction a gang rapes has taken place. A school teacher has been raped by four youths. The parents of the lady directly complain you that the local Sub-Inspector has not registered case against those youths and moreover, when their daughter went to register a complain, he insulted and then threatened her with consequences if she went before media or made the case public. They also tell you that the lady teacher was not sent for medical check-up. Now the media doesn’t know about the case, nor does the public. The parents allege that the local Sub-Inspector has taken bribe from those youth and has let them off without registering a case against them. Now the parents are saying that as a last resort they would go before the media, but they are scared about revelation of their daughter’s identity and losing her job too.

In this scenario, what will you do? Explain. (200 Words)


My duty as a Superintendent of Police is to be the guardian of the law and the public. So it needs to be made sure that the teacher and her parents get justice by following the rules of law.
The first thing to be done is to make sure that an FIR gets registered both against the alleged rapists and the Sub-Inspector. After a quick investigation into the actions of the Sub-Inspector, if prima facie evidence exists that he didn’t register the complaint and took the bribe, then he will be suspended. The case will be transferred to an Inspector of integrity and the proceedings will be constantly monitored by me. It needs to be made sure that a medical checkup of the victim is done at the earliest to obtain any incriminating evidence.

Furthermore the parents need to be reassured that going to the media is not their last resort as the police and law is with them and I will do my best to ensure that justice is done. In the mean time they should not be afraid and I will provide police protection to the family if need be with complete respect for the victim’s identity.

I will also take long term measures so that such incidents do not occur again (Like awareness among people, gender sensitizing of police proper institutional mechanism for crime against women like rape crisis center etc)
As a public servant, I need to be courageous, ethical and a person of integrity and empathy.

Case Study 18:

You are the Principal of a famous government run residential school. Your son, who is studying in 12th standard in your school is extremely poor in Mathematics. Your wife is worried that if your son fails, he might slip into depression. You are also afraid that his failure would bring a bad reputation to you. You have never pressurised him to study though. Your son is good in other subjects and he is also a very good athlete in the school who has won lots of awards and medals in various competitions. Your wife is also worried that failing in 12th standard might encourage him to discontinue his studies forever. In this regard, during ongoing board exams, your wife requests you to allow him to cheat in the exam. She requests you to talk to Mathematics teacher who is a family friend of yours to help your son during the exam. As a Principal of the college, you can do this to help your son just pass the exam.

1) What are the  options available to you? (150 Words)

2) Evaluate each of these options and choose the option that you would adopt, giving reasons. (200 Words)


Options available-

I may discuss his mathematics difficulties, try to work on the areas which require focus so that at least he passes in the exam and clear the 12th std

I may talk to mathematics teacher to help him cheat in the examination to clear the 12th std as it is linked to his future and my reputation

I may decide not to do anything and let the time and situation decide what happens in the end

I may talk to my son about his career preferences, his strengths and weaknesses. I should explain to him that academics is not the only way to judge people and he should be fine with the strengths he has and build on it


Linking my reputation or prestige to my son’s achievement will be wrong and will in fact put unnecessary pressure on my son to perform in areas which are not of his interest. As a parent one should allow their child to choose his interests on his own and should assist in it.

1st option- As I can clearly see that my son is facing problem in mathematics, I should though not put pressure on him but should discuss what is the reason of his poor performance is and how he can improve on it. I should ask my friend who is a maths teacher to help him by giving personal attention after the classes.

2nd option- asking your son to cheat and seeking a friend’s help in a school where you are principal is highly unethical as well as illegal and will set a bad precedence not just for school and students but also will be a bad morale lesson for your son. I would lose all moral authority to accept morally and ethically right behaviour from him

3rd option- Not doing can jeopardise your relation with your wife can lead your son into depression and hamper his future

4th- Not necessarily one needs to do well in academics though one should try to create a balance. Asking about his preferences and explaining that there are options outside as well will relieve him from unnecessary pressure of failing.

Best option will be to simultaneously use option 1st and 4th. Explain it to son academics is not end of the world while at the same time help in pass the examination.

Case Study 19:

You are visiting a famous animal zoo with your husband and two children. Your family is near a lion’s enclosure enjoying the view of Asiatic lion pride. Your husband is explaining to your children some interesting facts about these lions. While doing so, an 18 year old boy, standing next to your husband, starts climbing the barricade to get a full view of the pride. Unfortunately, he slips and falls into lion enclosure. Around 2-3 lions approach him and start mauling him while the public is watching with shock. Around you there are no security guards or any authorities from zoo. Few minutes later, the body of the boy is torn apart by the lions.

1) In situation like this, what will you do? Explain. (100 Words)

2) On whom will you  put blame for the death of the boy in the above case study? Explain why. (150 Words)

3) At home, your husband is arguing that security guards (assuming they were around the enclosure)  should have shot dead lions to save the boy. But you are putting blame on the boy himself. To support his argument, your husband is asking you what would you have done if one of your children had fallen into the enclosure – shoot lions (assuming you had fully loaded gun) or stand there watching helplessly?

In the light of above arguments, critically comment if it is ethical to kill animals to save humans? (200 Words)


  1. In this situation, first action will be to stop the boy from climbing the barricade. If he is already fallen before me noticing, first priority will be to save the boy. I may use the clothes to make a long rope. One end of the rope will be given to the boy and from the other end he can be pulled. Distracting the lion is another possibility but common man is not expert in animal behaviour. So, it may have the opposite effect. Further, security guard must be called immediately because they know the standard operating procedures in such situations. Any other person/child climbing he barricade must be stopped at it may lead to further mishaps.
  2. In the above case study the blame for the death of the boy lies to many but immediate blame and most of the blame lies mostly on the boy himself (and his guardian if he is minor). This is because the barricades were put up there for some purpose and the purpose was to prevent people from accidentally falling into the confinement and injuring themselves.The boy intentionally climbed the barricade putting himself on risk. Nevertheless a part of the blame lies with the zoo authorities as no security guards were present at the spot and this shows that they were ill-prepared for any accident that might occur. The higher authority failed to imbibe the sense of duty in their subordinates. Poor supervision may be the reason for such lacklustre behaviour. The zoo authorities should have provided much more sophisticated fencing keeping in view such incidents. On the whole, it’s a collective failure.
  3. When the ethical question comes in real life situation, it becomes a real challenge to resolve the dilemma whether to look for a more practical solution or stick to the ethical standard which may make the situation worse.It is truly ethical and moral that we should not kill any animal for fun or otherwise. However, when the question of a human’s life come, it would not be unethical to choose the life of human over animal. However, there can not be proper arguments as to whose life is more important as both live in their own communities and for the community, life of its member is more important than that of other’s. As we belongs to the human community, life of a member of our community is more important than that of other if the question of choosing one life over other comes, as in the situation like in the question. Thus, the action to kill the lion to save the life of that person would be justified, though this action is can’t be generalized in nature.

Case Study 20:

A multi-storey building which was illegally constructed collapses and kills fifty innocent workers – including women and children. These workers were poor migrants from far away villages. The building was allowed to construct only three storeys, but the builder has violated the rules and raised four more storeys. The government immediately announces cash relief to aggrieved families. The builder is arrested and put under court trial.

  1. On whom does the ultimate blame for the death of fifty innocent lives rest – government or  builder? Explain why. (200 Words)
  2. Is it morally correct to give cash relief to the diseased families in this case? Substantiate why. (150 Words)



The ultimate blame for the death of fifty innoceny workers rest equally on government and builder.

The builder has violated the law by constructing beyond the permited storeys. Thus, he is liable for fraud and culpable homicide.

The government is liable because its executive have failed in their duty. Its the duty of PWD to not only pass the building design, but also to inspect, so as to ensure that the construction is done according to the permit. As the four storeys cant be constructed in a wink, it displays the total absence of inspection mechanism. Thus, the PWD official are equally liable in the mishap that lead to the death of 50 workers.

2)Yes providing cash relief is morally correct because of the following reasons:
(a) Workers have died for no fault of their.
(b) It was the duty of the government to ensure that the construction done is legal. Failure of government has caused this incident.
(c) Goverment duty is to protect and help poors and vulnerable. Death of workers is not only a misery for their families but it also increased the vulnerability of their already pity state.
(d) DPSP directs government to take care and provide social assistance in certain cases (Article 41). It also requires to provide just and humane condition of work( Article42). Government failed in both.

At the same time, it should be made sure that by giving such compensation authorities do not try to suppress the such issues of building collapses which prevent them from taking strong action to prevent such problems in future.

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