The Centre has warned employees of disciplinary action if they indulge in criticism of the government or its policies.
The move comes after officers of Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) and All India Association of Central Excise Gazetted Executive Officers among others suggested changes in Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN)– a private company tasked with creating Information Technology infrastructure for Gods and Services Tax, and composition of Revenue Secretary-led GST council secretariat.
“Of late, it has been noticed that some associations or federations have commented adversely on the government and its policies. It may be brought to the notice of all associations or federations that if anyone indulges in criticism of the government and its policies, appropriate action (including disciplinary action) shall be taken,” an order issued recently by Finance Ministry said.
It cited service rules that bar any government servant from making any adverse criticism of any policy or action of the government.
“No government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central government or state government,” the service rules say.
Citing existing norms, the Finance Ministry said the primary objective of the service associations is to promote common service interest of its members.
The Ministry asked chief commissioners and directors general concerned to ensure that only recognised employees associations get the benefits mentioned in the rules.
All recognised service associations or federations are entitled for certain benefits such as correspondence and meetings with the head of the administrative departments, provision of accommodation for the association subject to availability, facility of special casual leave up to 20 days in a year to the office bearers of the associations and payment of Travelling Allowance and Dearness Allowance for attending officially sponsored meetings.
“In the case of service associations or federations which are not recognised or whose recognition has expired, office bearers of such associations or federations shall not be entitled for these benefits,” the Finance Ministry said.
The central government holds 24.5 per cent stake in GSTN while state governments together hold another 24.5 per cent. The balance 51 per cent equity is with non-government financial institutions, like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and LIC Housing Finance.
“Management of GSTN be entrusted to Directorate General, Systems of Central Board of Excise and Customs, as GSTN is a newly created Special Purpose Vehicle, which does not have any experience in implementing any IT project or domain knowledge in Indirect Tax laws,” the IRS association had said in a statement.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister, had recently approved ‘Project Saksham’ — a new indirect tax network (systems integration) of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC).
The total project cost involved is Rs 2,256 crore which will be incurred over a period of seven years.