General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics): Ethical Dilemmas in Civil Service

ethical concerns and dilemmas


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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics)


Dedication to public service can sometimes adversely affect your personal relations. One such scenario is presented here. 

You are a senior police officer . Your wife is a Commissioner in the Higher Education Department. Through RTI application from your friend you get to know misuse of funds in her department. If it becomes public, your wife will be at risk of getting suspended. The RTI activist is targeting the minister in charge of the department and has nothing against your wife. He also tells you that he is ready to withdraw application as a gesture of friendship.

What is Dedication in public service? Why do you think such sacrifices are worth? 

In the above given scenario, what will you do? Explain. (15 Marks)


Dedication is the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose, thought or action. Dedication is an important personality characteristic of an individual. In organizational context, dedicated employees work towards achieving the organizational goals.

There are some professions in which personnel dedicate their lives to public service even at the cost of their personal life, fun and comfort. Where someone risks his life and comfort for anything other than physiological, safety, love ,esteem and self actualization needs, it goes outside the explanation of Maslow’s hierarchy of need.


  • Institutionalisation:-
    • This happens especially in case of police and army forces.
  • Altruism+Self actualization:-
    • This can be found in statesman, noble doctors and honest civil servant. In this case many person actually have altruism as their trait .They devote their time ,effort and even work life balance using their management skill, team working and knowledge to strive for better and better results in public sphere.


  • The value of public service does not require that we act heroically and put our lives in danger, but that we respect and admire those that do. 
  • This challenge of work overload reflects a tension at the heart of public sector work. While policy makers and managers are interested in the quantity of cases dealt with, for the public servant who administers the service, the quality and impact of the work are more important.
  • Lack of control
    • A lack of discretion over their work can leave the public servant frustrated when they can see what needs to be done but are prevented from doing it.
  • In carrying out activities  administrators may be faced with several obstructions like social opposition against any programme which is against their deep rooted belief, lack of support from political executive. 

Such sacrifices are worth because :

  • The value of public service calls on all of us to respond to the better parts of our humanity and is self-reinforcing. By doing good we become good.
  • There will always be a need to help those who need help. The issue for humankind is to nurture the value of service. To see people as fundamentally the same and worthy of assistance.
  • Dedication would make sense of duty an end in itself, which will be independent of assignment.

My reaction to the given situation:

Being a police officer, i have undertaken solemn oath to abide by the law. The case study deals with the issue of corruption. Its my constitutional duty to unearth the corrupt practices.
RTI is a potent weapon to bring the transparency. Considering this civil service virtue ,i would never ask my friend to withdraw his application even if it have bearing on my spouse’s career.
Minister in connivance with corrupt officials misappropriated public money. This should be investigated thoroughly. I will discuss the matter with my wife to know about her role in the case as a commissioner in the department. If she failed to uphold the integrity and honesty, she is liable for legal action whether it may be suspension or incarceration.
It is an imperishable fact that if she found guilty my personal life would suffer. But in the larger interest of public all corrupts will face justice for their misdeeds. If she hasn’t had ill intentions, natural justice takes it own course.
Public servants are custodian of people’s resources. It’s their constitutional and moral duty to protect and optimize them. Exemplary punishment awaits them in case of failure.


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