Kautilya Arthashastra

by R. Shamasastry | 1956 | 174,809 words | ISBN-13: 9788171106417

The English translation of Arthashastra, which ascribes itself to the famous Brahman Kautilya (also named Vishnugupta and Chanakya) and dates from the period 321-296 B.C. The topics of the text include internal and foreign affairs, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. Original ...

Chapter 9 - Examination of the Conduct of Government Servants

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Those who are possessed of ministerial[1] qualifications shall, in accordance with their individual capacity, be appointed as superintendents of government departments. While engaged in work, they shall be daily examined; for men are naturally fickle-minded, and, like horses at work, exhibit constant change in their temper. Hence the agency and tools which they make use of, the place and time of the work they are engaged in, as well as the precise form of the work, the outlay, and the results shall always be ascertained.

Without dissension and without any concert among themselves, they shall carry on their work as ordered.

When in concert, they eat up (the revenue).

When in disunion, they mar the work.

Without bringing to the knowledge of their master (bhartṛ, the king), they shall undertake nothing except remedial measures against imminent dangers.

A fine of twice the amount of their daily pay and of the expenditure (incurred by them) shall be fixed for any inadvertence on their part.

Whoever of the superintendents makes as much as, or more than, the amount of fixed revenue shall be honoured with promotion and rewards.

(My) teacher holds that that officer who spends too much and brings in little revenue eats it up; while he who improves the revenue (i.e, brings in more than he spends) as well as the officer who brings in as much as he spends does not eat up the revenue.

But Kauṭilya holds that cases of embezzlement or no embezzlement can be ascertained through spies alone.

Whoever lessens the revenue eats the king’s wealth. If owing to inadvertence he causes diminution in revenue, he shall be compelled to make good the loss.

Whoever doubles the revenue eats into the vitality of the country. If he brings in double the amount to the king, he shall, if the offence is small, be warned not to repeat the same; but if the offence be grave he should proportionally be punished.

Whoever spends the revenue (without bringing in any profit) eats up the labour of workmen. Such an officer shall be punished in proportion to the value of the work done, the number of days taken, the amount of capital spent, and the amount of daily wages paid.

Hence the chief officer of each department (adhikaraṇa) shall thoroughly scrutinise the real amount of the work done, the receipts realised from, and the expenditure incurred in, that departmental work both in detail and in the aggregate.

He shall also check (pratishedhayet)[2] prodigal, spendthrift and niggardly persons.

Whoever unjustly eats up the property left by his father and grandfather is a prodigal person (mūlahara).

Whoever eats all that he earns is a spendthrift (tādātvika).

Whoever hoards money, entailing hardship both on himself and his servants, is niggardly.

Whoever of these three lands of persons has the support of a strong party shall not be disturbed; but he who has no such support shall be caught hold of (paryādātavya).[3]

Whoever is niggardly in spite of his immense property, hoards, deposits, or sends out—hoards in his own house, deposits with citizens or country people or sends out to foreign countries;—a spy shall find out the advisers, friends, servants, relations, partisans, as well as the income and expenditure of such a niggardly person. Whoever in a foreign country carries out the work of such a niggardly person shall be prevailed upon to give out the secret. When the secret is known, the niggardly person shall be murdered apparently under the orders of (his) avowed enemy.

Hence the superintendents of all the departments shall carry on their respective works in company with accountants, writers, coin examiners, the treasurers, and military officers (uttarādhyakṣa).

Those who attend upon military officers and are noted for their honesty and good conduct shall be spies to watch the conduct of accountants and other clerks.

Each department shall be officered by several temporary heads.[4]

Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or the poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government servant not to eat up, at least, a bit of the king’s revenue. Just as fish moving under water cannot possibly be found out either as drinking or not drinking water, so government servants employed in the government work cannot be found out (while) taking money (for themselves).[5]

It is possible to mark the movements of birds flying high up in the sky; but not so is it possible to ascertain the movement of government servants of hidden purpose.[6]

Government servants shall not only be confiscated of their ill-earned hoards, but also be transferred from one work to another, so that they cannot either misappropriate government money or vomit what they have eaten up.

Those who increase the king’s revenue instead of eating it up, and are loyally devoted to him, shall be made permanent in service.

[Thus ends Chapter IX, “Examination of the Conduct of Government Servants,” in Book II, “The. Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of thirtieth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


See Chap. IX, Book I.




Shall be deprived of his property.—Com.


See Chap. IV, Book II.


Stanzas of the type of Vaṃśastha.


In śloka-metre.

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