By Seyed Ehsan Raisol-Sadati

The coronavirus and a look at the principle of continuity of public services

March 9, 2020 - 14:23

One of the basic concepts related to public administration theory is the principles of public service. The principles determines the executive framework and the ways in which public administrative theory enters into force. Because of their importance in social life, “public services” adhere to principles which are the foundation of administrative law, justifying and legitimizing many rules and regulations of administrative law.

These principals are equality, compatibility, continuity, adaptability, precedence, and free public services.

Since public service activities are essential to the development of social interdependence and have a nature that can rarely be fully realized without the intervention of government. In this regard, it is still a fundamental theory of modern public law and remains the spirit of modern administrative law. One of the most important principles of public services is continuity.

1. Principle of continuity of public services cannot be discontinued due to the necessity of a constant response to public demands. This principle places a burden on public and administrative authorities, whereby the continuity of the public services must be properly guaranteed. This principle originates from the necessity of community administration and is of great importance in matters such as security, health care, and so on.

Characteristics and implementation of the principle of continuity of public services have been stated that services must be provided continuously and consistently, as these activities are relevant to the general public and the daily needs of the people. Hospitals, for example, cannot refuse to accept patients during certain hours such as at nights because such services must be provided on a continuous basis. Any interruption in public services can cause anxiety and disturb the peace of people’s lives.

2. The effects of implementing principle of continuity of public services can be expressed as follows:

Violation of this principle is binding in administrative law, and failure to provide public services by the relevant institution is an infringement and it can be sued for acts of omission and not fulfilling its legal obligations.

Service providers’ employees are subject to specific obligations and constraints in terms of services and the time that they should be present at work. For example, not all staff in an institution can go on leave at the same time because the institution would be closed. In addition, the resignation and dismissal of employees of such institutions are subject to certain procedures and should not result in disorder of the institution.

a. For example, the right to strike (recognized in some countries), which is one of the principles of administrative law, is constrained by the principle of continuity of public services. The principle is not explicitly stated in the constitution, but it can be perceived from the concept of Articles 63, 68, 119, 130, 131, 132 and 135. Under these articles, officials are obliged to continuously perform their duties with certain formalities, so it is not possible to resign and leave office without the formalities required by the constitution.

b. According to Article 63 of the constitution, "the term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly is four years ... [and the country should] not be without a parliament at any time". This article represents the continuity of the legislation, stating the parliament as a legislative body should always be in place. Therefore, in accordance with Article 68, if the elections cannot be held due to war and military occupation, even if the term of office of the former parliament expires, it has to keep carrying out its duties and not to be discontinued. Thus, "in the event of war and military occupation [...] and if a new parliament is not formed, the former parliament will continue to function”.

c. In case of a presidential election, Article 119 states “… during the time between the election of the new president and the termination of the former presidency, the former president shall perform the presidential duties”. The article is in line with the continuation of duties and responsibilities, which will lead to consistency or continuity of public services. Therefore, until the president's resignation is not accepted by the Leader, he is obliged to perform his duties (Article 130). The ministers shall remain in office until they are dismissed, or have not gained the votes of the parliament during their impeachment and request for vote of confidence or their resignation has not accepted by the president (Article 135).

3. Regarding the situation caused by the coronavirus, regardless of its severity and given the need to prevent its outbreak by the beneficiaries, the state bodies cannot be discontinued. Therefore, closing offices, courts, administrative and quasi-judicial bodies, banks, registry offices and the like does not make sense. As mentioned, measures such as determining different shifts for activities and reducing working hours of staffs can be expected, but shutting down administrative and public services would be precisely against national and public interests.