New Delhi: In an official order, the Centre modified a 50-year-old law that had let IAS, IPS and IFoS officers keep gifts they received from foreign dignitaries under the Indian delegation.
Earlier, officers were allowed to accept gifts as gifts from their relatives and friends without having any official dealings with them, such as weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and religious functions, as long as the gifts were in keeping with prevailing religious and social custom. However, they must report such gifts to the government if their value exceeds Rs 25,000.
Gifts may include free transportation, free boarding, free lodging or any other service or pecuniary advantage provided by a person other than a close relative or close friend without official ties to the officer, but do not include a casual meal, lift, or social gesture. ‘No member of the service shall accept any gift without the sanction of the government if the value of a gift exceeds Rs 5,000,’ states the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, applicable to Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS).
Members of the military should refrain from accepting gratuitous hospitality or frequent hospitality from those dealing with them on an official basis or from industrial or commercial companies or other organisations, the rules state.
The Personnel Ministry has amended these rules and added a new sub-rule to Section 11 of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968. ‘A member of the service, being a member of the Indian delegation or otherwise, may receive and retain gifts from foreign dignitaries in accordance with the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Acceptance or Retention of Gifts or Presentations) Rules, 2012, as amended from time-to-time,’ read the recently amended rule.
In March last year, the Personnel Ministry requested comments from state governments on the proposed rules. ‘Presently there are no provisions under the AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968, with regard to receipt/retention of gifts from foreign dignitaries by members of the AIS being a member of Indian delegation or otherwise. Therefore, it has been decided with the approval of a competent authority to insert a new sub-rule,’ it had said in a communique dated March 3 last year. They were asked to respond by March 31, 2020, failing which it would be ‘presumed that the state government has no objection to the proposed amendments’.
Usually, gifts received from foreign dignitaries, whether known or unknown sources are deposited in a repository called the toshakhana – a place where such articles come under storage.