The central government has made significant amendments to the rules governing retirement benefits for officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Forest Service (IFoS).
The amendments empower the central government to take action against pensioners, including withholding or withdrawing their pension, even without a reference from the state government. Such actions can be taken if the pensioner is found guilty of grave misconduct or convicted of a serious crime, particularly one involving an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
Definition of ‘Grave Misconduct’ and ‘Serious Crime’
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued a notification on July 6, 2023, specifying that ‘grave misconduct’ includes the communication or disclosure of any document or information mentioned in the Official Secrets Act. Additionally, a ‘serious crime’ encompasses any offence under the Official Secrets Act.
Eliminating Dependency on State Government References
- The amended All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958, have removed the dependency on state government references for action against retired officials.
- Previously, the central government required a reference from the respective state government if a pensioner was convicted.
- However, the amended rules now include the phrase “or otherwise” after “…the State Government concerned,” allowing the central government to act on its own if a pensioner is found guilty of grave misconduct or convicted of a serious crime.
Addressing Challenges in Taking Action Against Officers
- The rationale behind this amendment was to address instances where state governments did not send references for action against retired officials, even after their conviction by courts of law.
- This lack of cooperation from state governments made it challenging for the central government to take appropriate action against the concerned officers, especially when dealing with All India Services officials.
Final Decision on Withholding or Withdrawing Pension
The amended rules now state that the decision of the central government regarding withholding or withdrawing pension shall be considered final.
Restrictions on Publication of Sensitive Information
- The amended rules also introduce new provisions regarding the publication of sensitive information by officers who served in intelligence or security-related organizations.
- Such officers must seek prior clearance from the Head of the Organization before making any publication related to the domain of the organization, including any reference or information about personnel and their designations, as well as expertise or knowledge gained while working in that organization.
- Failure to adhere to this undertaking may result in severe action, including treating it as grave misconduct.
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