Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Five sacred duties of an Administrator

On-line dictionary defines a "King" as "a male sovereign or monarch, a man who holds by tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and its people". There were ages in the past when many parts of the world were ruled by such Kings, whose position and status was derived by their birth in the royal lineage.  Their authority was widely accepted and the subjects treated them as an incarnation of the God and showed all deference such a thought deserved. There were indeed Kings who behaved as feudal lords and cared little for the feelings of the masses.  But history has recorded the governance by many Kings as even better than modern democracies.  The corner stone of their rule was respect and response to the voice of the ruled. In course of time, Kings were replaced by democratically elected leaders in most parts of the world.  Even where Kings or Queens still exist, they are mere figureheads and the real authority rests with the elected representatives.

There have been many ancient and recent texts and manuals in different languages and regions that provide insight into the various duties of such Kings. Written or unwritten constitutions form the basis of such guiding principles in today's world. When the Kings were replaced by elected representatives, it naturally followed that such representatives were required to perform the duties of erstwhile Kings. Democratic setups have also provided for various functional levels that are manned by either elected or designated persons or employees.  Advent of private enterprises employing large number of men and women have also created similar positions in various organizations that require administration for achieving their respective goals.  Though persons in these positions are not required to follow all the tenets of administration by the Kings or their equals in a democratic set up, those relating to their restricted sphere of actions and initiatives are to be meticulously followed. This is required to ensure order and equity in their dealings and to maintain the confidence of subordinates in their functioning within their set up.

One of the ancient texts that codify such guiding principles is Kautilya's "Arthashastra". Vishnu Gupta, also known as Kautilya (the one born in Kutila Gotra) or Chanakya (the son of Chanaka) lived in 4th century BC, two thousand four hundred years ago. He was a teacher, philosopher and strategist. He was originally a professor of economics and political science in the ancient university at Takshashila.  He was instrumental in founding of the Maurya dynasty in the Magadha area in present Bihar.  His Artha Shastra contains many of his own ideas as well as a compilation of various ideas that existed at that time.  One of the verses, originally credited to Atri Samhita, defines the five sacred duties of a King:

दुष्टस्य दण्डः सुजनस्य पूजा न्यायेन कोशेन च संप्रवृद्धिः |
अपक्षपतोर्थिषु राष्ट्ररक्षा पञ्चैव यज्ञाः कथिता नृपाणां ||

"duShTasya daNDah sujanasya pUjA nyAyEna koshEna cha saMpravrddhih
apakshapAtOrthiShu rAShTrarakshA panchaiva yajnAh kathitA nrpANAm "

What are these five sacred duties?  What is their importance in administration? Why are they called sacred duties?   Why they should be followed meticulously?  What are the repercussions of their non-following?  What is their relevance in today's world?  These questions deserve some consideration by administrators as well as those administered by them. 

The five duties defined and prescribed for a king or administrator are:
  • Punishing the "Guilty".
  • Protection of the law abiding and righteous persons.
  • Increasing the royal treasures by fair means. (Not by hook or crook!)
  • Non-discrimination between subjects seeking justice.
  • Protection of the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
A cursory look at these five duties itself gives a clue to their importance in administration. The duties enumerated reveal that they form the foundations of a good administration. Protection of the territorial integrity of the area ruled provides political stability. Sound finances gives economic stability for growth and well-being of the subjects. Proper dispensation of justice without fear or favor ensures social harmony. These are fundamental requirements and features of an effective and popular administration. It is to be noted that three of the five duties are directly related to the administration of justice. While punishing the guilty and protecting the law-abiding are inter-related, the third one of non-discrimination between subjects in the process of administering justice forms the core of the internal stability of the area ruled.  Many texts and manuals have repeatedly pronounced that the failure of the rulers in these duties result in collapse of the administration itself. 

What is sacred about these duties?  It is to be remembered that the word used for these duties is "Yagnas" and not "Karma".  These duties are to be performed with utmost diligence and sanctity; in the manner of performing a sacred ritual and not as a routine or mundane action.   They are called sacred duties because the purpose and direction of administration is determined by their being followed or neglected.  There cannot be any half-hearted measures or explanation of substantial compliance; it has to be absolute and total.  They are sacred since their non-performance is equivalent to abdication of the throne or position.

The repercussions of their non-following automatically answers the question of the need for their being met religiously.  The biggest threat for any state or organization is not from the external enemies.  A dissatisfied group of the subjects is the biggest threat for any state or organization. Ensuring dispensation of justice with equity and impartiality is the first requirement of avoiding dissatisfaction setting into the people's minds and those administered.  The two components of impartial dispensation of justice are punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent; they are inseparable and are two faces of the same coin.  Failure to do any of these two tends to flame the fangs of dissatisfaction.

These guiding principles are relevant even today.  They have their impact in private organizations as well as these organizations have tremendous impact on the society. Quasi-judicial authorities in organizations would do well to remember these tenets of sacred duties. Punishing the guilty is sometimes viewed in isolation and extreme leniency is shown to them, in the name of being a part of humanitarian approach. Extraneous considerations are given undue weight in deciding the punishment and often violate the written code based on which justice is expected to be administered. The matter of imposing prescribed punishment as per the written code or waiving it is not a matter between the quasi-judicial authority and the guilty.  It also has equal concerns with the other law-abiding multitude watching from a distance.  Failure to stick to the written code will embolden the others to venture into delinquency.  In due course of time, administration loses its moral authority, direction and control.  In case the written codes are felt to be unduly harsh, the solution lies in moderating them.  Not in diluting and violating them when they are still in black and white.              


  1. dinesh1948@rediffmail.comJanuary 16, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    very nice thought and good interpretation of actual functioning of aruler no matter elected or a bonofide king with merit ofhis dynasty ID

  2. Worthy article sir - gaurav gupta