Stand up when you meet MPs, MLAs: Haryana order to officials sparks controversy

Turns out it's standard procedure expected of government officials while dealing with those elected by the people.

Stand up when you meet MPs, MLAs: Haryana order to officials sparks controversy
Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar (right) and Chief Secretary DS Dhesi (left) greet each other. (File picture)

NEW DELHI: The Haryana government has issued a circular reminding all its officials that they are required to stand up while meeting MPs and MLAs and that they should respond to any communication from them promptly. The circular is merely a repetition of one sent to the state government by the Union government. However, it has attracted attention considering the ongoing face-off between IAS officers and the Delhi government.

The circular was issued by the office of Haryana Chief Secretary Depinder Singh Dhesi. It is dated May 28 and has been signed by Under Secretary Political Devinder Kapil. The circular sparked a wave of criticism on social media, accusing the BJP of using different standards for the behaviour of officers in Haryana and Delhi.

However, the Haryana circular is essentially a forward of a memorandum sent by the Department of Personnel and Training of the Centre on February 7. The memorandum, addressed among others to the Chief Secretaries of all the states, requests that they circulate the information to all officers and periodically review the implementation.

The issue pertains to some complaints received by the Parliamentary Committee on Violation of Protocol Norms and Contemptuous Behaviour of Government Officers with Members of Lok Sabha, that officials were not treating the elected members in accordance with the prescribed rules.

The Haryana circular also attached the rules for reference. The parts that have attracted attention in the context of the Delhi government stand-off pertain especially to the protocols for how officials should receive, send-off and communicate with MPs and MLAs.

"An officer should be meticulously correct and courteous to rise to receive and see off a Member of Parliament/State Legislature visiting him. Arrangements may be made to receive the Members of Parliament when, after taking prior appointment, they visit the officer of the Government of India, State Government or local government," read one guideline that has become the focus on online anger.

"Any deviation from an appointment made with a Member of Parliament/State Legislature must be promptly explained to him to avoid any possible inconvenience. Fresh appointment should be fixed in consultation with him," said another.

Online discussions and arguments also raised questions on what officials would have to do if the request of an MP or MLA was found to be at odds with the law. "While the Government servants should consider carefully or listen patiently to what the Members of Parliament and of the State Legislatures may have to say, the Government servant should always act according to his own best judgment and as per the rules," read the guideline on this matter.

The guidelines in question have been in place for years. The Centre or state governments from time to time, whenever controversy erupts, keep issuing circulars reminding officials to behave in accordance with the guidelines.