Errors in judgement should be taken into account before initiating a vigilance inquiry into allegations of misconduct against its staffers, a railways directive has said. In a set of instructions issued on November 16, the railways has said these relaxations in the vigilance norms are necessary for improving the performance of its staff. “The field officials have to be empowered and confidence has to be instilled in them, so that they take decisions in the best interest of their work, within the broad framework of rules. “During interactions with the officials working in the field, it has emerged that the performance of the organisation sometimes gets compromised because of the over-emphasis on procedures and undue fear of vigilance,” the instructions said. According to the railways’ Vigilance Manual 2017, the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the ministry, along with the disciplinary authority–the general manager (GM) in this case–are the arbitrators in a vigilance matter. According to the new policy, in case of a vigilance inquiry by the CVO, the opinion of the head of the department (HoD) concerned has to be taken into account before a case is registered against an official.
“The charge of misconduct against an executive must be distinguished from a purely erroneous decision, whether on law, policy or fact,” the instructions stated. They also said the “law or ordinary prudence” must be kept in mind while evaluating a case and that petty cases, like a small difference found in the cash available with a cash-handling official, or other minor procedural errors need not lead to the conclusion that a corruption angle existed in the matter. “What happens currently is that on a complaint, an inquiry is initiated. This means that the officer is branded as someone against whom an inquiry is underway, which leads to not only emotional stress, but also professional distress. The amended process will ensure that an inquiry begins only after some wrongdoing is exposed,” said a senior railways official.
However, the instructions also mentioned that the officials conducting an inquiry must see if there was a pattern of such misconduct in the record of the officer concerned. The railways has said these instructions have been issued to “mitigate the fear perception of vigilance investigations”.