Part 1 Ethics terminology for UPSC IAS MAINS EXAM

Part 1 Ethics terminology for UPSC IAS MAINS EXAM
Ethics Terms

1)Conflict of Interests
Definition: a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.

Example: An MP as a Part of Parliamentary standing committee for IT while also being associated with business in the Information and Broadcasting sector.

Another MP, a part of PC on Subordinate legislation which was examining a proposal to allocate 85% of the surface area of tobacco products to graphic pictorial warnings making a proposition that there was no causal relationship between tobacco and cancer.

He is also a Bidi Baron, having huge interests in Tobacco industry.

The panel finally proposed to remove the 85% pictorial warning on tobacco

In a third case, a union minister was a part of retainership of Fintech corp, while also looking into the gas pricing issue

“One cannot be a judge in one’s own case”
How to overcome?

  • Proactive disclosure of all financial and non-financial interests
  • Recusing him/her from a case/committee in case of any conflict of interests
  • Ex: CJI was in controversy recently on arbitrary allocation of cases

The Indian disclosures fail on the following three different counts

  • Nonexistent or incomplete disclosures
  • Timely disclosures
  • No Conflict of Interest Law

2)Virtue Ethics
Focus on the Character of the agent rather than on the formal rules for or the consequences of actions

a) Socrates – Virtue is knowledge; insight into the nature of moral values is essential for becoming virtuous. Man has to cultivate virtues through the habit of doing obligatory and morally good actions

b) Aristotle – Virtue conduct consists in avoiding the extremes of excess or of deficiency.

  1. Self-control is a virtue
  2. Doing the right thing, to the right person, to the right extent, with the right motive and at the right time.
  • Prudence
  • Justice
  • Fortitude
  • Courage

3) Moral Courage
Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences.

Moral courage therefore involves deliberation or careful thought.

Example: Chauri Chaura incident
Standing up to a cause – India Against Corruption movement – Anna Hazare launching an indefinite hunger strike

Cop asking for a bribe in spite having all right docs.
Stood up there refusing to pay anything. Cop started to. threaten to book me under cases. Called 100 to

complaint on the cop on the grounds of harassment.

Civil Services: Whistleblowing, withstanding pressure and adversities, raising voice against injustice
Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently

Ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. Prudence is a cardinal virtue that can direct how you use other virtues like justice, fortitude, and temperance.

Being prudent means making wise decisions based on principal and managing your practical affairs in a shrewd and discreet manner.

For example, when buying a car, it is not wise to show up at a car dealer and purchase the first auto one sees. The prudent man assesses how much money he can spend and what kind of car fits his needs and his budget. He may also test drive different cars, look at consumer reviews, or talk to friends who own the kinds of cars he is considering.

While this might seem like commonsense, many of us make poor decisions that we later regret because we failed to take this first necessary step.

We rush into a decision without adequately considering the necessary data.

We purchase something spontaneously and later realize we didn’t really need it and should have saved the money for something else.

We commit our time to some activity and later kick ourselves for it because we should have known our plates were already quite full.

Prudence and Pubic Service

Link Public Finance Management and Prudence. Govt taking steps in fiscal consolidation, RBI Monetary policy rates have prudent fiscal management as their objective.

5) Justice
Aristotle said, Justice consists in a certain equality by which the just and definite claim of another, neither more nor less, is satisfied.

This is equal insofar as each one receives what he is entitled to, but may be unequal insofar as different people may have different rights

John Rawls Concept
Liberty principle – the Liberty Principle, which establishes equal basic liberties for all citizens. ‘Basic’ liberty entails the (familiar in the liberal tradition) freedoms of conscience, association and expression as well as democratic rights

Difference principle – Rawls argues that a second principle of equality would be agreed upon to guarantee liberties that represent meaningful.

options for all in society and ensure distributive justice.


  1. Distributive justice
  2. Proportionate justice
  3. Social justice
  4. Political justice
  5. Environmental justice
  6. Political justice

Equals should be treated equally and unequal’s to be treated unequally. It is unjustified if equals and unequal’s are treated equally.

6) Temperance

Temperance is the virtue that helps us control our physical desire for pleasure.

Self-restraint Moderation

It is generally characterized as the control over excess, and expressed through characteristics such as chastity, modesty, humility, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining an excess of some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.

Nolan Committee recommendations

The holder of public office should declare the private interests relating to public duties and he should take steps to resolve any conflict arising in a way to protect the public interest