Secretaries to the Government of India will now have to take approval from the Government before accepting awards from public or private institutions, an office memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said.

The practice so far has been that the Cabinet Secretary was the competent authority for giving approval to the Secretary. The circular also mentioned that in case of officers in Pay level 17, i.e., Secretary Equivalent in the Centre or Secretary rank other officers serving in Centre will need to take approval from concerned Ministry/Department.

Rule 14 of the CCS(Conduct) rules, 1964 provides that “No Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, receive any complimentary or valedictory address or accept any testimonial or attend any meeting or entertainment held in his honour; or in the honour of any other Government servant.

This rule will not apply in case of (i) a farewell entertainment of a substantially private and informal character held in honour of a Government servant or any other Government servant on the occasion of his retirement or transfer or any person who has recently quit the service of any Government; or (ii) the acceptance of simple and inexpensive entertainments arranged by public bodies or institutions.

1999 circular

A February 1999 circular says, in general, awards sought to be given by private bodies and institutes to Government servants do not need to be encouraged because of the fact that if a Government servant has done any outstanding work, there are various methods open to Government itself to recognize his merits and service and it would not be appropriate for him to accept such an award from a private body.

In exceptional circumstances like rewarding the merit of an officer for work done outside the purview of his functions in Government or where Government otherwise thinks that an individual deserves a particular award, it was left to the discretion of the competent authority to decide such issues in a reasonable and judicious manner based on the main criterion that such an award should not have a monetary component.

However, the Department, in a circular issued in December 2023, observed that these instructions are not being adhered to in their true spirit. Accordingly, it clarified that awards given by Private Bodies / Institutions / Organizations may be accepted only with prior approval of Competent Authority. It was also said that the award should not have any monetary component in the form of cash and/or facilities. Also, Credentials of the Private Bodies / Institutions / Organizations should be unimpeachable.

The said circular defined the Competent Authority for acceptance of Awards by a Government servant would be Secretary of the concerned Ministry/Department. Also, The Competent Authority for acceptance of Awards by Secretaries to Govt. of India and Secretary rank Officers would be Cabinet Secretary.  Now with the issuance of latest circular, there is no change in the Competent Authority for all officials except Secretary and Pay 17 level officials.