Question: A mere compliance with law is not enough, the public servant also have to have a well developed sensibility to ethical issues for effective discharge of duties” Do you agree? Explain with the help of two examples where (i) an act is ethically right, but not legally and (ii) an act is legally right, but not ethically.
Answer: Laws and ethics do not always resonate with each other. Laws are definite, meaning they do not vary according to the situation. Ethics is circumstantial and the definition of correct and wrong in ethics vary according to the situation. So what may be ethically right may not be lawfully correct and vice versa.
- Situation when act is ethically right but legally not
The definition of ethics vary from person to person interpreting it. Thus it varies according to the situation. Ethics cannot justify all its actions as legally correct and sometimes has to be content with inner satisfaction.
- Ex: An individual charged with rape and murder of a minor is about to be released due to lack of concrete evidence by a court but as a police officer in charge of the case, you know that he is guilty of the offence.
- As soon as the accused tries to exit the court, a group of people attack him and kill him by lynching. The incident attracts media attention and various sections demand action against the mob for attacking an ‘innocent’ citizen.
- You are made in charge of the case and have already identified most of the mob and find them to be honourable citizens who took the matter in their own hands after finding out that natural justice has failed. In this regard you have to decide whether ethical action over-powers legal rules or not while further pursuing the case.
- Situation when act is legally right but not ethically
There may come a situation when you have to choose between duty under the law or duty under your conscience. This will be a major dilemma that you may encounter.
- Ex: As a civil official you are ordered by the court to raze an illegally constructed colony inhabited by poor and destitute people. The time is during winter and many among the people cannot afford another housing.
- As a honest official, you are bound by duty towards the institution but you also believe in ethics and morality. You think that it is not appropriate to vacate the colony during such a difficult weather and your mind doesn’t allow you to take such a step seeing all the chaos unfolding. But you are bound by legality of the action.
Thus, ethics and laws may create dilemma in certain situations and it needs strong belief and actions for an individual to chose their step during such a time.