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[Ethics] Sample Questions, Case studies for UPSC General

studies paper 4 based on Donald Menzels book

1. Prologue

2. Essay-ish / Abstract Questions

3. Ethics Case Studies / Role playing Questions
1. Disobeying an informal order
2. Returning unspent money
3. Misleading for good purpose
4. Private matter of Public employee?
5. Political neutrality

Political neutrality Part.2

Salary hike vs Team spirit
Holding Charity Auctions in the Office
Spouse in the same office
Private endorsement by Public Official
Man of Word or Man of Money?
Courage with a price tag

So far in the [Ethics] mock-question series
1. UPSCs sample paper for GS4
2. Samples questions based on ethics courses of San Diego and Texas
Now this this articles contains case-studies/questions are based on Donald C.
Menzels book Ethics Moments in Government:Cases and Controversies.
For the Essay-ish questions Ive merely lifted statements from the book.
Because UPSC seems to be doing similar thing for Public Administration
(lift sentences from some book and ask the candidate to comment on it).
for the case-studies questions, Ive given Indian flavor to those American
cases and included a few answer key points but by no means theyre
sacred/official/final/marksworthy- theyre only meant to serve as
lighthouse for the utterly confused.


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Essay-ish / Abstract Questions

Answer following questions 12 marks/120 words each:
1. What do you understand by ethics audit? How is it different from financial
2. Are ethics practices and behaviors in the business world different than
those found in public service? If so, why?
3. Describe an ethical issue you have had to address in your school or college
life and the way you handled it. If confronted with the same issue today,
would you handle it in the same way?
4. Are ethical standards in business organizations higher or lower than those
in public service organizations?
5. Is there more unethical behavior in government than in business?
6. Do you believe the ethical performance of an employee can be evaluated
fairly and accurately? Yes/No/Why?
7. Is a professional code of ethics that is not enforceable a satisfactory code?
8. How does corrupt behavior resemble or differ from unethical behavior?
9. Should we hold appointed officials, such as collectors and tehsildaars, to a
higher standard of behavior than elected officials such as municipal
councilors? Yes/No/Why?
10. Gandhi always advocated the purity of means- with respect to that, do you
think it is unethical for a military officer to mislead the enemy?
Comment on following statements (12 marks/120 words each)
1. Ethics are less a goal than a pathway, less a destination than a trip, less an
inoculation than a process.
2. Righteous disobedience is better than Moral muteness.
3. Exemplary leadership is critical to encouraging ethical behavior in
government organizations.
4. Openness and transparency are critical safeguards that keep our
democracy alive and well.
5. Ethical codes are merely veneers. Shiny on the outside but hollow on the
6. Living up to the public trust is much more than just an act of compliance.


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7. Ethics is the cornerstone of effective, efficient, democratic governance.

8. Ethics may be only instrumental, it may be only a means to an end, but it is
a necessary means to an end.
9. The relationships between ethics, service, and trust are mutually
10. Ignorance is not an excuse for misconduct.
11. Those who commit misconduct out of ignorance should be treated less
12. If men were angels, no government would be necessary
13. Humans roam the earth, not the heavens, so ethics are indispensable.
14. Honesty and truthfulness have to be practiced and balanced with delicate
diplomacy on some occasions.
15. List the reforms necessary to encourage ethical behavior and prevent
misconduct in public organizations of India.

Ethics Case Studies / Role playing Questions

Disobeying an informal order
DevAnand is working as a clerk in Collectors office. Due to staff shortage, Dev
also performs the task of raising flag over the office building every morning and
taking it down every evening, although it is not part of his official job description.
One day a criminal turned politician Madan Puri dies. Years ago, Devanands best
friend was murdered during a riot allegedly orchestrated by Madan Puri.
Nonetheless, State secretariat passes an order to all District collectors, to keep
National flag at half-mast over their offices, to mourn the death of the
Mr.Madan Puri.
DevAnand sees this news on TV, gets angry with such mockery of our national
flag. He decides not to goto office next morning and keeps the door key of
rooftop with himself. He is confident, no formal punishment can be given to me,
because this was not part of my official duty. At most Collector sahib will
reprimand me informally but I dont care because Madan Puri killed my best
Do you think DevAnand has made the right decision? Yes/No/Why?


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Answer keypoints
DevAnand made a wrong decision because:
1. It prevents other staff members from carrying out the official order from
2. It puts his boss in an embarrassing position in front of the StateHQ.
3. If Devs conscience doesnt permit him carrying out a task, he should
inform his boss. But running away with keys, without informing anyone =
4. Such behavior is not expected from a good team player / a public servant.

Returning unspent money

DevAnand is running an NGO to help street children. He receives government
grant of Rs.2 lakh rupees for a project to teach the out of school children, who
work at tea-stalls, do boot-polishing etc. A year passes, but Dev managed to
utilize only 50,000 rupees from the grant. Despite his best efforts, he couldnt
convince many poor children or their families to join his NGOs program.
As per the grant rules, Dev has to return all the unspent money back to

government by the end of March 31st. But his colleague Pran suggests following:
1. If we honestly return Rs.1.5 lakh back, then government officials will think
we are amateur, ineffective NGOs and theyll substantially reduce our grant
for next year or even worse- theyll not give us any project next time!
2. We should take help of CA Prem Chopra to manipulate our account books
and show majority of the grant was utilized for education.
3. Many other NGOs do the same thing- there is no problem nobody will
raise any objection, as long as we give 20% of the grant to SDM in charge
of this project.
4. Although it sounds unethical but we wont use this money for personal
needs, well use it on street children only. Hence our act is fully ethical and
What should DevAnand do with the money?
Answer keypoints:


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1. Because others are also doing it is never the valid justification to

commit an unethical or criminal act.
2. Two wrongs dont make a right:
1. Manipulating account books to keep the grant money.
2. Bribing SDM to keep the grant money.
3. The shelf life of lie and deception is very low- especially when manipulating
the account books ask Ramalinga Raju, ex-chief of Satyam.
4. DevAnand was unable to use 75% of the grant money, it implies
1. Dev didnt try hard enough OR
2. Government had exaggerated the amount of money required to educate
the out of school children OR
3. both
In anycase, If Dev keeps the unspent grant, government will continue pumping
more money- other NGOs and the SDM will keep amassing wealth. Therefore,
DevAnand should return the unspent grant back to the government.

Misleading for good purpose

DevAnand is the inspector in charge of Rampur Police station. The police station
building is in dire need of repairs, but hasnt received any grants for years. One
day, a cyclone hits a nearby area, damaging most of the houses and shops.
Although Devs police station gets partially damaged, but most of the building
remain intact . Government sends a disaster assessment team to ascertain the
level of damage and pay relief money. The DSP Mr. Pran, orders DevAnand to do
1. Hire some laborers and destroy the remaining parts of your police station
2. When disaster assessment team comes, you tell them building collapsed
by the cyclone, and ask them to give priority in funding after all police
station is one the most important public offices in a town.
Should DevAnand obey his bosss order?
Answer keypoints
The shelf life of lie and deception is very low. Especially when many people are
involved. In this case: laborers and any bystanders.


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Both Dev and Pran are risking themselves to an unnecessary negative publicity
and possible departmental inquiry and punishment for professional misconduct.
Indeed police building needed repairs and should have been given a grant
months ago, but three wrongs dont make a right:
1. Wanton destruction of a public building.
2. Misleading the disaster assessment team.
3. Police officer DevAnand spending his time and energy in such activity
rather than doing rescue-relief-patrolling duty after the disaster.

Private matter of Public employee?

DevAnand is working as an under Secretary in the pension department. One day,
his friend GuruDutt, an SBI PO, narrates following incident:
1. For last two years, a retired Government employee Mr.Ashok Kumar is
giving away 30% of his monthly pension to Mrs.Bindu Chopra every month
through cheque.
2. I found Mrs.Bindu Chopra happens to be the wife of Mr.Prem Chopra, a
section officer in the pension office under you (DevAnand.)
3. I feel something is fishy- may be this is part of a large bribe scam where
senior citizens are forced to pay money to clear their pension files from
Prem Chopra, and have to submit bribes in his wifes account.
DevAnand visits Mr.Ashok Kumars house but he is suffering from Alzheimers
disease, unable to give coherent answers. Frustrated DevAnand directly
confronts Prem Chopra. But Prem says Mr.Ashok Kumar was a friend of my
father. He has no relatives or children and my wife Bindu has been taking care of
him like daughter since a long time. Therefore, Mr.Ashok Kumar gives us money
out of good will, so we can send our son to an expensive IIT coaching class
@Kota, Rajasthan. Besides this is a personal family matter and none of your
damn business.
Do you think DevAnand made a blunder or was he merely performing an ethical
Answer keypoints
Here, both GuruDutt and DevAnand has failed to act in responsible manner.


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1. A banker must keep his clients data confidential, unless required by the
law to disclose it.
2. GuruDutt didnt even wait to cross verify who else is giving money to
Mrs.Bindu Chopras account. Because if there was a large scale bribe
scam then lot other senior citizens would be making payment to Bindus
account, and not just Mr.Ashok Kumar alone.
3. Even in that situation, Gurudutt had to consult his boss within his own bank
first. He cannot go around giving informal tips to outsiders. This is an
unethical act for a banker.
4. DevAnand too acted in hasty manner. First, he starts investigation based
on an informal tip from a banker who is not supposed to tip him in the first
place. He should have consulted the vigilance department before moving
5. Second, Dev Anand confronts Prem Chopra, without any hardcore
evidence. When youre holding a public office, you cant go around
accusing people in such haste. It breaks the office discipline, destroys the
staff morale and allows the guilty person to cover his tracks.

Political neutrality
Prem Chopra, a civil society activist, has launched a mass-movement to change
Prime-ministerial form of government to presidential form of government. Dev
Anand is an undersecretary in the PMO. Before joining civil service, he had done
Ph.D on the demerits of presidential form of government. He is invited by a news
channel for prime-time debate. The newschannel anchor, Mr.Arnab Goswami
assures DevAnand following:
1. Itll be only an educational-intellectual debate among scholars.
2. No politicians from ruling or opposition party are invited in our show.
3. Youre invited in your capacity as a scholar in political science and not as a
Should DevAnand accept Arnab Goswamis invitation for news-debate?
Answerkey point:
No. Because bureaucrats should not voice their opinion about political matters


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on public platform. Even if no politician is invited, some other

scholar/participant/anchor might raise points in favour or against the ruling party
during the debate, and Dev will find himself in a political minefield.

Political neutrality Part.2

To curtail the mounting fiscal deficit, Finance Minister Pran Chindu decides to
merge agriculture ministry with forest ministry; coal ministry with oil ministry and
reduce personnel in the central services by 30%. But opposition party is hardly
raising any objection they are occupied with onion price rise issue. Media is too
busy covering MS Dhonis new hairstyle.
DevAnand, an employee in the Cabinet secretariat feels both Opposition party
and media have failed to perform their ethical duty to inform citizens about
matters of public interest. Therefore, he starts writing anonymous blogs and
tweets to inform public about the negative consequences of Chindus austerity
measures. Is DevAnand doing the right thing?
Answer key points:
No. DevAnand is not doing the right thing.
Role of public servant is to obey the will of the community- articulated
through the elected members including the said Finance Minister.
Public servant has to remain politically neutral. Dev is crossing that
Laxman-Rekha by his anonymous blogs.

Salary hike vs Team spirit

DevAnand has been serving as the Chief fire officer in city for over 3 years.
Because of his efficient management, there were very few fire incidents, no lives
were lost and property damage was minimum. He enjoys almost a celebrity like
status in local media and city dwellers. As the election year comes, Mayor Pran,
with an aim to garner goodwill among voters, frames a budget with 10% pay raise
to fire bridge staff and 25% pay raise for the Chief fire Officer. Should DevAnand
accept it or not/Why?
Answer key points:
1. Firefighting is a team work. Team leader must display fairness and equity.


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2. If Dev accepts 25% raise, it could promote his image as an aloof,

insensitive, self-serving boss. Staff may not follow his lead with same
enthusiasm afterwards.
3. Exemplary leadership is critical to encouraging ethical behavior in
government organizations.
4. Therefore, Dev should not accept more than what is being offered to other
employees of Fire brigade. (10%).

Holding Charity Auctions in the Office

Pran, the bank employee, approaches Bank Manager DevAnand and says
1. My child is suffering from blood cancer. I dont have health insurance policy
and my salary is insufficient to meet these medical expenses.
2. But over the years, Ive been collecting autographed bats and balls of
various cricketers.
3. I seek your permission to hold a charity auction in the office. Ill also send
fliers to clients of our bank. Everyone is welcome to bid for these bats and
balls, so I can raise money for the medical treatment of my child.
Three other bank employees-Prem Chopra, Madan Puri and Ranjith overhear this
conversation. They also inform DevAnand indeed Prans financial situation is
very bad and his child will die if the treatment is not done on time, therefore
permission should be given to hold this charity auction.
Should Dev give permission or not?
Answer keypoints:
1. No. Because some members may informally feel pressured to give money Especially Prans juniors and subordinates.
2. It might create a feeling of alienation between employees who bid and
those who dont.
3. Next time another employee will try to do the same, may be with a trivial
reason e.g. Im willing to auction t-shirts autographed by filmstars to repay
the last EMI of my home loan, allow me to hold auction in the office. And if
Dev says no that time, it might create an impression Dev is biased towards
certain employees- staff morale goes down.


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4. Therefore, it is best to keep auctions and other money raising activities out
of the workplace irrespective of their noble aims.

Spouse in the same office

DCP DevAnand marries Sub inspector Rosie. In the office, Rosie doesnt directly
report to DevAnad but Dev has responsibility for signing off on her annual
evaluation. Although Dev doesnt give any preferential treatment to Rosie but
one of her colleague, Prem Chopra, complained several times to the DIG Pran:
Dev saab always gives highest ratings to his wife and Im always given average
ratings despite my best performance in criminal investigations.
DIG conducts inquiry, doesnt find anything against DevAnand. Later Dev
officially reprimands Prem Chopra for this unprofessional behavior.
Frustrated Prem Chopra narrates this incident to his wife Bindu. Bindu decides to
take matters in her own hands, writes an anonymous email to the local press,
informing how Rosie hasnt legally divorced her first husband Marco, yet she is
staying with DCP DevAnand and gives vivid details of their adulterous live-in
Rita reporter, an expert on such masala news, starts giving ball by ball
commentary in her newspaper about Rosies past by interviewing her college
friends, neighbors, relatives etc. Everybody in the town starts gossiping about
this. Dev asks his IT expert friend GuruDutt to investigate. GuruDutt digs out that
email originated from Prem Chopras home computer.What should DevAnand
do: Reprimand Prem Chopra once more? Suspend him for indiscipline? Sue him
for defamation? Is doing nothing an option?
Answer key points:
1. Doing nothing is not a viable option since situations like this only fester and
become more problematic.
2. It is never a good practice for a public official to have a relative in a
subordinate position. Despite efforts to avoid perceived acts of favoritism,
sooner or later the official will find himself being accused of an
inappropriate action. Therefore, Police and Military organizations often
have anti-fraternization policies. (e.g. As per the US Air Force rules, one of
the couple has to quit from the service.)


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3. This situation is all about the perception of favoritism. The perception may
or may not be true whether DevAnand is giving preferential treatment to
Rosie during annual performance evaluation.
4. To prevent this from happening, DevAnand needs to stop chasing Prem
Chopra and take steps to get his wife posted in another office, or seek his
own transfer to another office.
5. Last but not least, the DevAnand should put to rest the question of the
legality of his marriage to avoid future accusations.

Private endorsement by Public Official

Prem Chopra runs a company that offers private security guards, CCTV, burglary
alarm and other security devices.
DCP DevAnand learns that everytime after a theft or robbery takes place, Police
Inspector Pran advices the victim and bystanders to install security devices from
Prem Chopras company to make their home and shops secure from criminals.
Pran even tells them When you goto Prem Chopras office, tell him Ive sent
you, hell give you special discount.
Dev confronts Pran about this matter. Pran justifies his action by saying:
1. Yes, I take money for Prem Chopra to endorse his security products for
homes and offices.
2. No, Im not doing anything unethical because
1. I use this money to pay my informers and keep a check on criminal
elements. I dont spent this money on myself or my family.
2. Even municipal buses and railway-wagons have advertisements, then
why is an endorsement by a city official unethical or illegal?
3. Besides, Prem Chopras security devices are very effective at preventing
Should DevAnand permit Pran to continue this endorsement activity?
Answer keypoints
1. Advertisement on bus / railway wagon is not same as a public official
promoting a brand. Because those bus/railway ads dont interfere with


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vehicles primary function of transporting persons from one place to

another. But when a public official promotes a brand, he is spending part of
his office time and energy for private gain rather than serving the citizen.
2. If Dev permits Pran, then other staff members will also start similar
marketing. Thus part of the office-time will diverted to selling products
rather than solving crime
3. Might even lead to internal rivalries about who is earning more
4. Citizens may feel informal pressure to buy such products fearing their file /
matter will not be cleared by the public officials otherwise.
5. Endorsements of commercial products by public officials can easily result
in an unethical situation: sharing financial gain through bribes, kickbacks,
or postemployment opportunities for government officials.
In short, it will open a Pandoras box. Therefore, DevAnand should order Pran to
stop this activity at once.

Man of Word or Man of Money?

DevAnand is a brilliant maths teacher in a private English medium school in
Ahmedabad and gets yearly package of Rs.3 lakhs. Another school at Baroda
offers him package of Rs. 3.5 lakhs. Dev makes a verbal commitment to the
Baroda school principle, Sure,Ill join your school from next month.
But when Dev submits his resignation to Abad school, its Principle Mr.Pran
requests him to stay and offers new package of Rs.3.8 lakhs. Should Dev take
back his resignation? yes/no/why?
Answer keypoints
from ethical perspective, even verbal acceptance = contract. And contract
must be honored.
Even if Prans counteroffer is higher, Dev has a moral obligation to remain
consistent with his original intention (of joining Baroda school).

Courage with a price tag

(Copy pasting a news report from TheHindu)


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December 7, 2012, Chandigarh.

Robanjit Kaur, 23-year-old daughter of ASI Ravinderpal Singh was returning
home after her IELTS coaching class when Shiromani Akali Dal leader Ranjit
Singh Rana and his goons started teasing her. She called up her father
Mr.Ravinderpal Singh, an ASI with Punjab Police.
When her father arrived and confronted the group, a heated argument followed
and Rana pulled out his pistol and began firing at both father and daughter. Both
received bullet injuries and father collapsed.
Even as Ms. Kaur struggled to shift her father into a vehicle to take him to
hospital, Rana and his gang returned with a rifle and shot Ravinderpal Singh
again in full public view.
Ms. Kaur said to media, Rana kept kicking and hitting us in full public glare. I
cried and pleaded for help but everyone ran away. Even when the ambulance
came, I had to lift my father into it as no one came to help me.
End of news.
A Sociologist remarks: Our government has not set up a system to encourage
civilians to fight against criminal acts. Why should someone risk injury or their
life to save another if ones life or livelihood is endangered? Government needs
to enact a new scheme named after you know who, to reward any civilian with
Rs.10 lakh, a government job and a 3 BHK flat, if he prevents a crime in a public
Do you believe announcing big financial rewards to pedestrians who standup
against a criminal, will change the situation? Does or can courage have a price
tag? Yes/No/Why?
Answer keypoints
1. Indeed an act of courage should be rewarded and applauded.
2. But running a scheme with Rs.10 lakh and a government job, might lead to
vigilante mobs of unemployed youth, roaming around with hokey sticks and
baseball bats looking for a crime to happen (or orchestrating a crime by
themselves) in order to get the money and the job.


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3. In the given case, goons were armed with pistols and rifles. No unarmed
civilian can be expected to fight with them. In future, might lead to a
situation where a poor man intentionally jumps in the fight, knowing fully
well that hell be killed- but only doing so his family can get Rs.10 lakh.
4. Maintenance of law and order is states responsibility not civilians. Money
is better spent on recruiting more policemen and judges.
For more on case studies & revision notes, visit Mrunal.org/ETHICS


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