Ethics Case Studies (31 to 40)

Ethics Case Studies (31 to 40)

Case Study 31:

You are working as Home Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. During your tenure, you have acted toughly against anti-national elements including many banned terrorist organisations. While on a private trip, you have been abducted by terrorists belonging to a banned terrorist group. They have demanded the release of all the terrorists jailed in different parts of the country in exchange for your safe release, failing which you will be killed. They are asking you to record a video message for the government appealing them to release all the prisoners for your own safe release.  They have given an ultimatum of one week for the government to respond, failing which your video message would be sent as last resort for the government to act.

1) Examine the ethical issues involved in the above case study. (50 Words)

2) Will you record a video statement as demanded by them to influence the government? Explain why. (200 Words)


I would record video message.

Firstly, I think one of the basic criterion for action to be judged as ethical or unethical is that it has to be voluntary. Action forced or performed under duress is neither ethical nor unethical. So, even if I record a video, it would not be unethical.

That being said, it would be misleading to equate my video appeal to possible release of the terrorists. The government is able to take its own decision for which again, I am not responsible. There are may other factors involved in the situation besides my own life like creating a new or already existing precedent to such incidents of abduction, government’s policy of negotiation with terrorists and my self-worth to the nation. I am not the sole judge of all of these.

Thirdly and more importantly, everyone is allowed to go for self-preservation. Threat of death is imminent for which action has to be taken immediately. I must preserve my own life.

Case Study 32:

Your husband is watching a news report on rape along with your 8 year old daughter. The report is airing graphic pictures of rape and murder scenes. Your father-in-law who is also watching the report comments that your daughter is not safe on the streets and she should be taught how to dress from now itself so that she would be safe when she grows up. Your husband concurs. In the same hall you are helping your son with his home work while listening to all the conversations happening in the hall. In between your son, who is 12 year old, keeps asking you about what’s rape, who commits it and why every news channel is talking about only this issue etc. You are focusing only on his home work and not reacting to anything.

Identify the various issues in the case study and give your opinion on them.


The first issue at play here is media coverage of heinous crimes. While coverage is essential and creates awareness, inciting graphics with vivid coverage of brutal acts needs to be censored. Airing pictures of rape victims’ bodies, even with blurred faces should be out rightly censored. At the same time, adults need to ensure that children don’t get to view the channels that air provocative graphical content. Awareness is important, traumatizing isn’t.
The second factor at play here is society’s perception of rape. It is naïve and misleading to assume that rape is primarily because of the clothing pattern or character of the victim. People who are justifying curtailing the freedom of victims are in a way justifying the actions of the perpetuators of sexual crimes. Awareness should be created to erase the further social victimization of the victims and they should not be deemed responsible, partially or fully, for an act of which they are victims.
Thirdly, the question comes up as to spreading awareness about social crimes among children, especially teenagers. While it is beneficial to educate them, it must be ensured that the medium of communication is proper. We should not try to paint a helpless picture; at the same time we have to make them aware of this evil and teach them as to how important it is to curb the menace. They have to be taught that they are strong enough to raise their voice and counter this grave offence, so as to create a better society and nation.

Case Study 33:

You are serving as Superintendent of Police (SP)  in a district notorious for kidnapping cases. In one such kidnapping case, ten school girls have been kidnapped and hidden in an unknown place. In previous cases, where one or two girls were kidnapped, they were sold to prostitution racquet in a foreign country. Your team, under your guidance tracks the kingpin of these kidnappings and arrests him. During routine interrogation, the arrested kingpin do not reveal any location names nor he talks about anything related to kidnappings. Your sources clearly tell you that he is the one behind all kidnappings. Even after using all legal methods to get information from him, your efforts have not yielded any result. Your friend, who is an SP in another district suggests you to torture the kingpin to get information. You are aware of the situation that the girls might be sold and trafficked to a foreign country if you further delay investigation.

What will you do in such a situation? Is it ethical to torture a person to save other innocent lives? Critically comment.


Teleological theory suggests the action be judged upon the consequences of the action. Here ,in this case i will be forced to torture the person as there is likelihood that he knows something according to my sources.

Deontological theory, suggests the actions be judged upon the duties being performed or not.And being the superintendent of police, law and order in the district is my supreme duty in conformity with respect to the liberty and human rights of other persons.

Also the utilitarian principle “greatest good for greatest number”conforms with the situation as the innocent lives are at stake against the life of the accused(kingpin)

In all the three cases i m justified for taking the action (torture) against the kingpin for getting more information from him.There is possibility that the kingpin shares either the information about the address of abducted girls or he knows about the conspirator who have done or can do such thing.While the torture can be mental ,emotional and finally physical, there is a possibility that the investigation is taken forward (as legal avenues are not helping).In the course of action (torture) i am required to shackle the hedonistic principle or equilibrium position of the kingpin to gather the information.So it is ethical to torture a person for the greater good of the society.

The future course of the action can only be determined after shackling the equilibrium position as there is very little time for investigation of the abduction.

Case Study 34:

As a senior officer in the Ministry of Public Works Department you have access to important policy decisions and upcoming big announcements such as road construction projects before they are notified in the public.  Your son is a land dealer and realtor.The Ministry is about to announce a mega road project. Once its is announced, the land price in the vicinity would see a steep hike. You have access to maps and know the dimensions of land to be acquired. Your  son wants to know the complete details and he is insisting you about this. He wants to buy the land at present rates which is very cheap in and around the soon to be announced project. He is trying to convince you by saying that he would purchase land confidentially and there would be no problem in future for you. You are aware that the Minister has already shared this information with his children who are also into the land business. In fact, the minister has asked you to do the same so that your son also makes huge profits. He has tried to convince you by saying that his and your children are buying land legally and there is no harm in it.

In this situation, what will you do? Critically examine various conflicts of interests at play in this case study and explain what are your responsibilities as a public servant.


I will not share the information with my son. Moreover I would strongly advise my minister to do the same and would enlighten him with the moral and legal ramifications. With the 24*7 electronic media and the public outrage on corruption, I would advise minister that any such moves would irreparably damage his public image.

This is a clear case of conflict of interest and nepotism.
Various conflicts of interests:
1. Personal relationship gains vs. Professional behaviour
2. Relation between minister and me Vs. Professional conduct
3. Windfall monetary gains vs. Integrity

This is a classic conflict of interest. However this is neither an ethical dilemma, nor a legal one.
Legal aspect: The code of conduct for the public servants clearly proscribe me from sharing secret information except in the public interest. So I cannot share the information with my son.
Moral aspect: By sharing the information, I would rob the rights of the original landowners of the windfall gain that they might accrue. Honesty, integrity are the prerequisites for honour of public servant. So I should have extra precautions than general public to save my public image to justify public faith in the government.
Rational aspect: Even rationally helping my son in an illegal way would lead to moral degradation of my son as well. Gandhiji has called “Wealth without Work” as a deadly sin. Moreover immoral money only leads to moral and ethical fall.

In this case study the responsibilities of a public servant can be mentioned as:

1. He is a trustee of public money and should never utilize his position for his personal benefits at the cost of society.
2. Never indulge in corrupt practices
3. Being professional – means transparent and accountable in conduct, and not leaking organisation’s secrets.
4. He should always choose a moral high ground and set an example of conduct and integrity.

Case Study 35:

Recently you were appointed as Panchayat Secretary. Block Development Officer has called you and other Panchayat Secretaries for a meeting. The meeting is headed by local MLA. In the meeting while taking note of different development activities, he tells everyone to contribute Rs 20,000/- towards building a community hall in nearby town for the benefit of community to which he belongs to. He says that as everyone is taking bribe there is no harm in donating few thousand rupees towards welfare activities.

After the meeting you meet the Block Development Officer and tell him that as you are new to the job you do not have money and moreover it’s wrong to give money which will be unaccounted. BDO angrily shouts at you and asks you to not only give Rs 20,ooo/- by whatever means, you should also give him Rs 5000/- every month as part of ‘tradition’ that’s in practice in his office since past many years. He says that once you learn the skills in your new job, you will start earning more.

How will you react immediately? What course of action you will take later and why? Explain.


My immediate response will be to say no to his illegitimate demand. I will try to remind him of the service manual rules that strictly prohibit graft. Since BDO and MLA are asking for unaccounted money, it amounts to graft. By acquiescing, i will be colluding in a corrupt act that amounts to crime and is punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act. Coercive contributions specifically directed towards promotion of any perticular community is a violation of Fundamental right (Art 27). I will remind them of the legal remedy in the form of writ petetion, that i can use if they force me to contribute for MLA’s community hall.

My service rule demands that on witnessing any graft i should immediately blow whistle by approaching suitable hierarchy. I will report the matter to Sub Divisional Magistrate and District Magistrate of the illegal tax of Rs.5000 imposed by BDO. But before reporting i will talk to other Panchayat secretaries and make them aware of their rights and duties. I will ask them to stop paying unaccounted tax to BDO. I will also seek their support in reporting the matter.

In case the SDM and DM are also a party to graft, I will first file an FIR at police station. This is a necessary measure to ensure security of my life. I will approach service tribunal to expose BDO and file a writ petetion against MLA. The situation is testing my integrity, honesty and ability to resist illegitimate pressure. I will not budge and uphold these values.

Case Study 36:

You are posted as Superintendent of Police (SP) to a district which has history of communal clashes. You are married to a lady belonging to a particular minority community which has a significant presence in the district. You are cordial with everyone irrespective of their religion and caste.  Unfairly you have been accused of having a very close relationship with businessmen and religious heads belonging to a minority community to which your wife belongs. In the past this community was part of communal clashes in the district. As per the stats available, more people from this minority community have died in the past compared to the majority community in the clashes between them.

The media in the district, electronic and print,  which is owned by a person affiliated to a large organisation representing the majority religious community, is writing series of articles accusing you of favouritism, nepotism and indifference to crimes committed by criminals belonging to the minority community. Some articles have also criticised you saying that your wife is influencing your decisions in some sensitive investigations. Some splinter organisations representing the majority community have held protests against you too.

1) In this situation, how will you react? Explain in detail why you will react in a particular way.  (200 Words)

2) Examine which qualities of SP would be put into test in the above case study. (100 Words)


These are serious allegations against an SP, who is responsible for law and order situation in the district. As a public functionary of higher civil services an SP not only do the right thing but also seen to be doing right thing in the perception of the public. This increases the informal power of an SP while maintaining law and order also simultaneously increases confidence in the people about their safety. Perceptions do matter a lot in public life though he is unfairly targeted.

Here the objective of the SP is to prove that he is neutral professional civil servant of impeccable integrity. This has to be done at various levels. SP may react as follows :

1. For all serious allegations that are coming on him in electronic and print media he may clarify the smoke around him in public. He may warn them to file a defamation suit for the news that is unsubstantiated by the evidence.
2. He must leave the trail for all his actions and maintain transparency in his functioning so that his neutrality can be verified in case of an enquiry.
3. From the protesting people he may take a written note about their objections and attach his response to their allegation, and send the same to his higher authorities. With the consent of the higher authorities he may publish same in the local media.
4. Also he should make necessary steps to clear the propaganda that he is having a close relationship with businessmen and religious heads belonging to a minority community. He should not maintain any personal contacts with the people which can strengthen this view. Allegations of nepotism can be scrapped as long as he can keep objective facts of his actions regards dealing with a particular community.

2) Qualities of SP would be put into test in the above case study:

1. Secularism
2. Professionalism
3. Transperancy
4. Perception management
5. Emotional intelligence
6. Integrity
7. Neutrality
8. Religious tolerance
9. Problem solving
10. Leadership abilities

Case Study 37:

Shraddha  recently landed a well paying software job in a reputed company in Bangalore. She has an ambition to become a civil servant. She is working hard towards it. Recently she wrote the entrance for Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship (PMRDF) and got selected as its Fellow.  Though she received better salary in the present job, she wanted to accept the PMRD Fellowship and work for it. She will be posted in a far away state from her present location. The district where she will be posted is a sensitive region severely affected by Naxal problem. Few days ago, few civil servants and policemen were killed by Naxals in an ambush.

Shraddha’s parents do not want her to leave the present job. Her boyfriend with whom her marriage is fixed is also not supporting her. She thinks that this fellowship would equip her with skills needed to work as an IAS officer in case she gets selected in future.

  1. If you are in Shraddha’s place, what decision will you take? Give reasons. (150 Words)
  2. Do you think it’s right on her boyfriend’s and parents’ part to say no to her decision? Critically comment. (100 Words)


  1. Personal ambition, family needs and wishes may not be aligned in similar manner for ever. There are at times when we need to partly sacrifice either of side to take a balanced decision looking at the gravity of issue or matter. More over in case like this, it is, firstly, important for me to be convinced about working in such area. I believe I will do my due diligence of current position of location and check for suitability from security perspectives. Once I am convinced, I will put the case in front of my parents and fiancée. I will explain how this assignment would add credence to my work profile and would be crucial for my future. In addition, I would like to emphasize my intention of taking this as platform of duty and service towards my motherland.
  2. As my wellwisher, my parents and my boyfriend are right on their part to prevent me from accepting the offer, but its my responsibility to make them realize what my aspirations are and how the present course of action can help me to fulfill it.They should understand the day to day problems that confront a civil servant.At this point of time their encouragrment would be of great help to me Naxalism will no longer remain a threat to our social fabric when we consider dealing with it as a shared responsibility and not just the duty of State authorities.Escapism cannot be a solution to any problem.

Case Study 38:

You are a Probationary Officer in a Public Sector Bank and you have been transferred to a branch located in Naxal affected area. On the very first day, while returning from work, you were stopped by a Naxal group. They sought 25% of your salary as ‘protection money’ which should be paid every month, and if you fail, you will be killed by the group without offering you any second chance. You are an IAS aspirant managing your preparation along with the work pressure. You are from a very poor family and this job has brought a ray of hope to you and your parents. You are unmarried though.

The local police is aware of this Naxal problem, which is common in the region,  yet they are not taking any action for fear of their own lives and corruption.

What will be your course of action in this circumstance ?


The situation offers three course of action:
(a) Outrightly opposing their demand.
(b) Acquiesing to thier demand.
(c) Putting up maximum permissible detterence to their demend.

Option (a) is unpracticable as neither i have the capacity fight with them nor such permission is granted by law.

Option (b) is a reflection of timidness. It will reflect my spineless character which is detrimental to my future prospects as well as undesirable to the job of IAS i am aspiring to qualify.

Option(c) ie putting up maximum permissible deterrance involves a pragmatic approach. Its requires the application of knowledge acquired during IAS preparation. I will approach the police hierarchy to get my complaint registered. I case of denial i have legal remedy in the form of writ petetion to force police personnels to act upon. I will pay the amount asked by naxals. It might appear as submitting to their diktat as a reflection of a meek personality, but actually its not. You have to put maximum permissible resistance to crime as permitted by law. Becoming martyr is not a solution neither is acquiesing without complaining to the authorities concerned. Right to defend ones life is recognised in Article 21 of our constitution. Futher, i will have avenues to solve naxal problem if i become IAS. I will utilise this subjugation may not state actors to motivate myself to qualify IAS and solve this naxal problem.

Case Study 39:

You are walking on a footpath in a crowded market. You notice that a person is lying unconscious on the footpath. He appears to be injured on his head. Every person is ignoring him and they passing by without even looking at him. As you approach nearer to the laying person, you notice that he’s actually murmuring something in pain and strong smell of alcohol is emanating from him.

What will you do in this situation? Explain why.


One needs to see the scenario as a case of a suffering man who seeks help for life. It is immaterial whether he is drunk or not because as per Doctrine of Nishkama Karma, one needs to perform his duty with detachment. It is immaterial at the moment who and what has caused this, it is our duty as fellow citizens to save his life. This is one of the fundamental tenet of a cooperative society and as MK Gandhi said , “Hate the Sin, not the sinner”.
So, call the local ambulance service and make him conscious and provide first aid. Find out the details of his kin and contact them. See that he is admitted to the hospital and inform the police of the incident. Long term measures would involve finding out the reason for this injury. If it has to do with road safety compliance in that area, one should raise concern at appropriate forum

Case Study 40:

You are working as an employee in a private company. One afternoon in the office you get a frantic call from your wife that your two year old daughter is very ill and her condition is critical. Unfortunately nobody is there around to help your wife in any way. Your car is the only option to take your daughter to the hospital, you have to rush to help your daughter as soon as possible.

You soon leave the office. On your way back home you hit an old woman and she is critically injured and before you notice she dies. Nobody has noticed the accident as it has taken place on a stretch of road that’s always free of traffic and people. Your wife is calling you frantically for the help. Any delay would cost  your daughter’s life.

  1. In this scenario what will you do? And why? (150 Words)
  2. Examine the rules, laws and values which come into the picture in the above scenario.  (200 Words)


Driving in an emotionally charged state has caused death of an ailing old lady. Since the lady is already dead and my daughter is struggling for life my immediate step would be to ensure that my daughter’s life is not lost because of my emotionally charged reaction towards the dead lady.
I will call the police and tell them about the accident and give them my personal details. Law demands that the dead body should not be displaced to determine the exact cause of death. So without disturbing the dead body i will drive to my home and take my daughter to the nearest hospital. My next step after ensuring her treatment would be to submit myself to the nearest police station. This is a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for which bail is an available remedy if the culprit submits to law. My submission and cooperation with police will earn me a bail immediately. So i can take care of my daughter. I will also inquire about the family of the dead lady to explain them the cause of accident and seek pardon for my own self satisfaction. I will also offer them some monetary help if they are poor. Rest i will leave to the court to decide.

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