UPSC » UPSC CSE Study Materials » Governance » Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics

Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics

Election Commission of India: Model Code of Conduct (MCC), Similarities between Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics, etc


To understand the tenets of the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics, it is mandated to evaluate the existing debate on ethics. The article discusses ethics and its implications in regard to society and the role of public administrators in upholding the ethical codes. It will also analyse and highlight the branches of ethics. 

The definitions of ethics cannot be outlined in a single paradigm. The nature and scope of the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics have larger prospects. Ethics are guided knowledge for all the aspects that govern society, organisation, governance, and individuals. So how do we deconstruct the concept of “Ethics”? 

To deconstruct the concept of Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics it is called for to evaluate the tenets of ethics and morality, branches of ethics, and implication of ethics on society, governance, and more importantly on public relation administrators. The crux of the evaluation will focus on the public administrator Code of Ethics. 

Ethics vs Morality: 

Before decoding the Code of Ethics, discussing and understanding the existing debate on ethics and morality has to be assessed critically. The many facets of the debate on ethics and morality have always been extended and confusing especially for the reader on the subject. 

To breakdown the notion of ethics and morality: The questionable decision of what is right and wrong for an individual and how an individual behaves in the society, this sums up the fundamental explanation on morality, but the definition of ethics is overarching and umbrella the society and everything in it extends to the Code of Conduct a society must and should adhere to. To simplify the analogy, ethics reflect a code for all social systems in which the morals of an individual are applied to it. 

Branches of Ethics: 

  1. Descriptive Ethics: It encompasses the belief of the people’s morality. The study aims to review the history and evolution of ethics by creating a value-free approach to ethics. It empirically investigates the ethical ideals of the social system and what are the unethical actions of the people in the society. 
  2. Normative Ethics: It is also posited as prescriptive ethics where it concludes the moral standards regulating what is right and wrong conduct. This branch of ethics guides the moral principles to reach moral decisions. Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Kant’s deontological ethics, Mill’s consequentialism are normative ethics theories to be referred to. 
  3. Meta-Ethics: The term “Meta” translates to beyond or after hence it is an overview of what ethics is actually all about. So it is defined as the study of origin and meaning of ethical concepts. Meta-ethics primarily deals with metaphysical issues and psychological issues. In basic understanding, it explained what ethical terms and theories actually refer to. So understanding it will answer the meaning of moral terms or judgment. 
  4. Applied Ethics: Here as the term applied is synonymous with empirical, it deals with questionable moral issues existing in the social system. It uses knowledge of moral principles to solve present dilemmas. 

The implication of Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics: 

The context on the implication of the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics is on the ethics of public administrators. And as an aspirant of public relations, the implication of ethics should be followed at every step. 

  1. The first step to imply a Code of Ethics for aspiring public administrators is to strictly adhere to rationality and legality. This means an administrator is obligated to abide by the governance rule when performing the duties and making public policies and decisions. 
  2. The next step to apply a Code of Ethics for public administrators is the quality to undertake responsibility and accountability. Adhering to governance guidelines and performing duties for the greater good of the public with a moral code. 
  3. Continuing on the implication of the Code of Ethics for civil servants another feature of the Code of Ethics is transparency. When an administrator implements any policies for the general public based on morality, the sources of information and reason of decision should be transparent to the public. 
  4. Another important component of the Code of Ethics is the emphasis on national interest. Civil servants, while conducting their duties ethically for the public, should also understand the degree of importance to emphasize national interest, which in turn, means betterment for the public. 
  5. Lastly and an integral part of the Code of Conduct is justice. Any formulation and execution of policies and decisions should reflect the tenets of equality, equity, inclusiveness, and impartiality. A public administrator should make sure no special treatment is delivered based on power, status, gender, class & caste, or wealth which will be against his personal morality and against the Code of Ethics. 

Determinative factors for good governance: 

When discussing the context of the Code of Ethics, features for good governance demand a strict moral and ethical code that is upheld by the civil servants. Ethical governance will influence ethics in public administration and guide the public to a good ethical code. Though a fruitful implementation of the Code of Ethics factors on different forces such as historical, socio-cultural, political, and economic, a good ethical code will evolve into a greater social system in which public administrator plays a vital role. Here, applying the difference between intrinsic value and extrinsic value is critical to providing ethical governance. 

Code of ethics in educational institutions: 

It has become increasingly important to further strengthen the roots of the Code of Ethics in education and educational institutions. The nature and scope of the Code of Conduct can be broken down and studied to the extent and Code of Ethics features. In doing so it will help the future civil service aspirant understand the ethical code of what is permissible and what is not. Educational institutions can provide guidance on why one should adhere to the Code of Conduct and why subject himself/herself to ethical standards beyond his/her personal belief. The exploration of all these answers and the guidance provided by the educational institution could enforce a good Code of Ethics when one pursues civil service. And the aspirant can find the similarities between the Code of Conduct and the Code of Ethics. 


The article basically outlines the importance of Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, Code of Ethics features, and finally the similarities between Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics. In the attempt to analyse the above, the articles highlight the branches of the Code of Ethics and evaluate the implication of the Code of Conduct and ethics. The article argues the pre-requirement of a good ethical code should be rooted in educational institutional and individual learning to produce a competent public administrator. It draws the conclusion that a good Code of Ethics results in good governance, a better instrument for governance i.e. public administrator.