Aptitude and Foundational values for Civil Services

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : October 14th, 2020

Aptitude means capability; ability; innate or acquired capacity for something; talent. Aptitude can be mental or physical or both. Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya has a special aptitude in civil engineering etc. Dhyan Chand has the aptitude for Hockey etc. Aptitude is readiness or quickness in learning or acquiring a certain skill and the ability in the future through appropriate training.

Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service

Aptitude means capability; ability; innate or acquired capacity for something; talent. Aptitude can be mental or physical or both. Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya has a special aptitude in civil engineering etc. Dhyan Chand has the aptitude for Hockey etc. Aptitude is readiness or quickness in learning or acquiring a certain skill and the ability in the future through appropriate training.

For example, Civil service aptitude: Aptitude for Civil services, i.e. ability to learn the skills required for being a civil servant. It is checked through the Civil services exam. Once the exam is passed or secured a rank, you have an aptitude for civil services- IAS or IPS etc.

Aptitude that the Civil Services require:

  • Intellectual aptitude: Knowledge about the subjects including rules and laws etc. (noetic power) to do your duty efficiently.
  • Moral aptitude: An act or behaviour that upholds morality or is socially acceptable. A civil servant must have a high moral compass to lead as an example to the officers below him. Moral aptitude includes honesty and integrity etc.
  • Emotional aptitude: Ability to learn and acquire emotional intelligence. Civil Servant shall have an aptitude for empathy and compassion so as to ensure social equality and poverty alleviation.

The relevance of Foundational Values in Public Life

The concept of public services is fast changing. The New Public Management calls for accountability and ethos for serving citizens as customers. The role of public administration in government has been moving away from a concentration on government as such toward more concern with governance. Public organisations have now become directly accountable to the citizens.

Hence prescription of public service values/guiding principles is crucial to prevent misuse of discretionary powers exercised by the bureaucrats and ensure achieve ethical and citizen-centric governance. Values are guiding principles that help the public officials to make the right decision that enhances maximum happiness of the maximum number of people.

The following committees have recommended key foundational values for civil services:

  • Nolan committee: 7 Principles of Public Life
  • Second ARC Report on “Ethics in Governance”

Civil servants should have a minimum set of standards on which they evaluate things. Value can be used to judge things. Values can be goal-oriented i.e. social, political and economic justice and means oriented i.e. empathy, integrity, discipline, impartiality etc. Since civil servants have discretionary powers the values are important to give them certain guidance to prevent abuse of power.

As per the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the foundational values of the service are:

  • Integrity: Consistency between our beliefs and actions. For example, you ate a piece of cake and forgot to pay money and went home. If you are a man of integrity, you will go back to the bakery and pay the money. Honesty is different from integrity. You can be honest without paying money. Because no one observed you went home not paying money for the cake and you did not lie to anyone as well.

Integrity is essential in Civil Services. Civil servants are trustees of people and public money. Civil services have huge discretionary powers and often function opaquely and resort to corruption. Hence they must have the integrity to spend public money for its right cause and to the right person even when none is observing you.

The integrity of officers must be ingrained through training and monitored regularly so as to alert when deviated.

  • Objectivity: It means the ability to judge without partiality and external influence. It means the officer must make decisionsbased on evidence”, “according to the law” and “not based on emotions or feelings”. It means the absence of bias, feelings, prejudice, nepotism, conflict of interest Civil servants also come from a specific social background- caste, religion and region etc. His decisions as an officer affect many people. Hence officer must act according to rules and procedures while awarding contracts, selecting and transferring employees and even advising the Minister etc.

However, the officer must also factor in empathy while reasoning objectively so that justice can be done.

  • Impartiality: Implementation of schemes, programmes and delivering services without showing any discrimination towards people. He should not have a favourable attitude or show privileged towards certain groups of people or entity. Impartiality is not a hindrance to showing special concern towards weaker sections.
  • Dedication to public service: Dedication means a state of being committed to someone or something. Dedication to public service means commitment or perseverance to public service at any cost. Civil servants must show dedication to the cause of social justice. It calls for patience and the ability to balance pulls and pressures.
  • Compassion towards weaker sections: Compassion is an essential foundational value in a multi-religious, multi-cultural country like India. Compassion means developing a favourable attitude towards weaker sections. Civil Servants should have compassion towards vulnerable sections like peasants, illiterate and innocent people and minorities etc. while delivering services and benefits.
  • Neutrality: Max weber, in his Theory of Bureaucracy, proposed that civil servants shall be politically neutral. It means the civil servant should:
    • Observe Rule of law
    • Function according to law and constitutional provisions
    • Advise the Party in power impartially
    • Impartially implement those policies that are made against his advise

Also, the Minister should encourage civil servants to provide impartial advice, otherwise, neutrality cannot be established.

Neutrality is essential to ensure:

  • People confidence in civil services
  • Political executive confidence in civil services, especially after the new political party assumed office.

But civil servants often show passive neutrality-political commitment (affinity or concern to a party in power), which leads to lack of mutual trust between civil services and political executives. By showing passive neutrality, the civil services act according to the whims and fancies of the ruling class ignoring the rule of law thereby invite the wrath of the public. The first ARC observed the Civil Services has lost its enthusiasm and vigour. And they are ready to do anything and everything for reward or fear of transfer.

That’s why mass-transfer of the officers would be done by the new elected party to the power. Hence Neutrality has become the thing of the past.


A committed bureaucracy maintains active neutrality, where officers maintain a balance between advising and following orders and upholding constitution and law.

As mentioned in the T.S.R. Subramanian Case, 2013:

  • There should be a fixed tenure of 2 years
  • The decision of transferring a civil servant should be taken by the Civil Services Board
  • Minister cannot transfer Civil Servants unilaterally

By implementing the above reforms, neutrality in civil services can be established.

  • Anonymity: Civil servants must do their duties without expecting any praise or acknowledgement. He should be anonymous while discharging his duties.

Civil service is a permanent body. They work under or for different political parties who may have different attitudes and ideologies. They shall tender their advice to the Minister without any fear. It is the responsibility of the Minister to be answerable to the consequences of such a decision.

Civil servants must uphold these foundational values to ensure ethical governance, which is the need of the hour.


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