The Haryana government, on Monday, October 12, lifted a 54-year-old ban that prohibited government servants to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Jamaat-e-Islami.
The ban was out into effect by then chief secretary in 1967 and stated that the administration has held that the activities of the two organisations to be of such nature that any participation in them would invite disciplinary action under service rules, The Indian Express reported.
The state's Chief Secretary Vijai Vardhan issued the instructions through a letter to all department heads and directed to lift the ban.
"With the coming into effect of the Haryana Civil Services (Government Employees' Conduct) Rules, 2016, government instructions' dated 2.4.1980 and 'dated 11.1.1967 are hereby withdrawn with immediate effect as they are no longer relevant," the general administration department letter stated.
It, however, added that "no government official shall join or continue to be a member of an association, the objects or activities of which are prejudicial to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality".
On January 11, 1967, the office of then chief secretary issued a letter to all heads of the departments on the subject of "Association of Government employees with the activities of RSS/Jamaat-e-Islami". The political and services branch of the chief secretary's office in the state had issued an order saying that those participating in RSS activities would invite action under the service rules.
"I am directed to invite attention to Sub Rule (1) or Rule (5) of the Punjab Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1966, under which no Government employees shall be a member of or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or any activity. It is clarified that the Government have always held the activities of the Rashtrya Swayam Sevak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami to be of such a nature that participation in them by Government employees would attract the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Punjab Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1966," the letter read.
"Any Government Employee who is a member of or is otherwise associated with the aforesaid organisations or with their activities is thus liable to disciplinary action. It is requested that the above position may be brought to the notice of all Government employees under your control," it added.
On March 4, 1970, the Haryana government stayed the previous instructions as activists of 'Anand Marg' had challenged service rules in the Supreme Court that barred employees from taking part in its activities, The Times of India reported.
On April 2, 1980, the state chief secretary's office issued new instructions, stating that action would be initiated against government servants linked with RSS or Jamaat-e-Islami. The ban was briefly lifted in 1975, only to be later reimposed in 1980.
"It was in 1975 that Ministry of Home Affairs had lifted the ban from all government employees across all the Indian states from joining organisations like RSS, Jamaat-e-Islami and Anand Marg. Several states had lifted the ban earlier. However, apparently it was not read by anybody in Haryana and now it has been implemented there as well," a senior Haryana government official said.
"Also, the new Conduct Rules had come into effect in 2016 that superseded all previous executive instructions. As such RSS or Jamaat-e-Islami are not political organisations listed with the Election Commission of India. RSS is rather a cultural organisation. Thus, the Haryana government has now just reiterated the MHA's instructions. No government employee is prevented from being associated with such organisations," he added.
Meanwhile, the order has prompted strong reaction from the Congress party, who criticise the BJP's decision to lift a ban on its employees joining RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami.
"Now, Haryana employees are free to take part in activities of the Sangh (RSS)," Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted.
"Is (Manohar Lal Khattar) running the government or a BJP-RSS school"? he wrote in another tweet