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Report No. 161

Chapter II

Maintenance of Standards in Public Life and The Adverse Impact of Lack of Probity

2.1. Maintenance of Standards in Public Life.-

The hallmark of maintenance of standards in public life has been stressed even in other countries for survival of rule of law and democracy. The Supreme Court quoted in Vineet Narayan's case, (supra) the general recommendations of the Committee headed by Lord Nolan on "Standards in Public Life" as follows:-

"57. It is a similar perception in England which has led to the constitution of a Committee headed by Lord Nolan on 'Standards in Public Life'. In Volume 1 of Lord Nolan's Report (1995), the general recommendations made are:

4. General recommendations.-Some of our conclusions have general application across the entire service.

5. Principles of public life.-The general principles of conduct which underpin public life need to be restated. We have done this. The seven principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are set out in full on page 14.

6. Codes of conduct.-All public bodies should draw up codes of conduct incorporating these principles.

7. Independent scrutiny.-Internal systems for maintaining standards should be supported by independent scrutiny.

8. Education.-More needs to be done to promote and reinforce standards of conduct in public bodies, in particular through guidance and training, including induction training."

58. The Seven Principles of Public Life are stated in the report by Lord Nolan, thus:

The Seven Principles of Public Life:

Selflessness.-Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity.-Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity.-In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability.-Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness.-Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty.-Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership.-Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example."

The Supreme Court has also relied upon these principles of public life (evolved by the Nolan Committee) in the aforesaid Vineet Narayan's case:

"59. These principles of public life are of general application in every democracy and one is expected to bear them in mind while scrutinising the conduct of every holder of a public office. It is trite that the holders of public offices are entrusted with certain powers to be exercised in public alone and, therefore, the office is held by them in trust for the people. Any deviation from the path of rectitude by any of them amounts to a breach of trust and must be severely dealt with instead of being pushed under the carpet. If the conduct amounts to an offence, it must be promptly investigated and the offender against whom a prima facie- case is made out should be prosecuted expeditiously so that the majesty of law is upheld and the rule of law vindicated. It is the duty of the judiciary to enforce the rule of law and, therefore, to guard against erosion of the rule of law."

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