What is conscience? How does it act as a source of ethical guidance for the public servants. Discuss with examples. (15 marks)

Conscience is the intrinsic intuitive capacity to discriminate between right and wrong. “Inner Voice” is important especially in democracy as it has various participants such as citizens, NGOs, corporates to be administered by the politicians who are elected by them only. But at an indel, every person has a conscience which assists them in taking important decisions. Thus it can act as a strong tool to evade away the individual self-centered thinking.

Civil servants deal with many public needs, information, problems, etc and work for their welfare. But Sometimes they come across public dilemmas and conflict of interests in which they have to choose the right one for integrity , honesty and impartiality to public office from public interest vs personal interest, Majority interest vs minority interest , corruption vs Honesty /integrity, rules and regulation vs customs /traditions, etc. On these occasions, He has to use his own consciousness or awareness that is called his conscience for the welfare of larger public interest or for the welfare of society without compromising national interest. Thus they use conscience to show their compassion, empathy and love towards weaker, poor and vulnerable sections of society especially SC/ST/Women/Children/Elderly/Disabled persons, etc 

How conscience can act as a source of ethical decision making?

  • Conscience helps them taking emotionally intelligent decisions by not letting them sway with emotionally dominating cases. Eg. Taking judgment in lines with Rule of law in cases involving rich-poor tussle.
  • Enable a civil servant to better organize and give precedence to cases/projects seeking more attention for greater good to people. Eg. Allowing hospital renovation projects preceding a Stadium renovation project.
  • It helps to deal with problems when civil servants are in dilemma in a more scientific and objective manner to achieve a utilitarian based outcome. Eg. Taking decisions after applying cost-benefit analysis. 
  • Upholding values of honesty, impartiality, accountability and not letting his integrity & institutions credibility questioned, by using transparent working methodologies.
  • Suppose the situation where your superiors are also indulged in corrupt practice so it is your conscience which can raise voice against this even having so much pressure from all. 
  • For example, Ashok Khemka and Sanjeev Chaturvedi’s conscience forced them to expose corruption in politics and administration.
  • Durga Shakti Nagpal UP IAS officer was motivated by her conscience to take action against the politically supported sand mafia
  • Being a civil servant you may have a situation when a poor person approaches you for some benefits but he does not have proper documents, so you can deny him but out of compassion, your conscience may prompt you to do some arrangements for him.
  • Sometimes even after following all the rules and regulations, you may face a dilemma of conscience so in this case, it is the larger interest that should guide your behavior.
  • Ex- Situation when you are in an interview panel of your own relatives.

In a country like ours, where poverty, unemployment, illiteracy are our state’s concern, where laws are not full proof, there comes circumstances without any precedence. So in order to become an effective civil servant, one should listen to his inner soul force to act effectively. Also, our conscience would provide inner conflict, if one goes against it. So, conscience acts both negatively and positively; negatively, it makes us uneasy when we go against it, Positively, it helps a civil servant to navigate in turbulent times. As honest people stand alone, our conscience gives us moral force which is far superior to the force of brute.

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