According to an official order, the Centre has altered a 50-year-old law to enable IAS, IPS and IFoS officers to keep gifts acquired from foreign dignitaries while being a part of the Indian delegation.
Current laws permitted these officers to receive gifts from their close relatives or friends, having no official relations with them on events such as weddings, anniversaries, funerals and religious events when the gift conforms with the common religious and social tradition.
But they should report to the government if the amount of such gifts exceed Rs 25,000, the rules say. Gifts consist of free transport, boarding, accommodation, or any other service or monetary advantage when given by a person other than a near relative or friend with no official relations with the officer. Still, they do not constitute a casual meal, casual lift or other social hospitality.
“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,” says the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, relevant to the officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS).
Member of the service shall avoid receiving generous hospitality or regular hospitality from persons having official dealings with them or from industrial or commercial companies or other organisations, these rules say.
The Personnel Ministry has amended these rules and inserted a new sub-rule under 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 newly amended rule.
In March last year, The Personnel Ministry had solicited comments from state governments on the proposed laws. They were requested to send their responses by March 31, 2020, absolutely failing, which would be “presumed that the state government has no objection to the proposed amendments”. Gifts acquired from foreign dignitaries from known or unknown origins are ordinarily entrusted with the ‘toshakhana’, a container of such articles, in the Ministry of External Affairs.