Call Us Now

+91 9606900005 / 04

For Enquiry

Role of civil services in a democracy


  1. Evolution of Civil Services in India
  2. Role of Civil Services in a Democracy
  3. Issues with Civil Services in India
  4. Reforms Required in civil services

Evolution of Civil Services in India

The Indian civil service system is one of the oldest administrative systems in the world. In India, it had its origin in the Mauryan period. Kautilya’s Arthashastra lays down the principles of selection and promotion of the civil servants, the conditions of loyalty for appointment to the civil service, the methods of their performance evaluation and the code of conduct to be followed by them.

The genesis of modern civil services can be traced back to the British Raj.

• During the period of Warren Hastings, the institution of collector was created in 1772. The main duty of district collector was collection and management of revenue.

• Lord Cornwallis is known as the father of civil services in India. He reformed and organised civil services. He separated revenue administration from judicial administration. The collector was made head of revenue administration of the district.

• The Charter Act of 1853 provided for open competition to civil services. But the Indian Civil Service was divided into covenant and non-covenant with Indians being restricted to non-covenant posts of lower bureaucracy only.

• In 1854, on the recommendations Macaulay’s report, Civil Services Commission was set up to recruit civil servants. Initially examination was conducted only in London with minimum and maximum age being 18 and 23 years respectively.

• Despite syllabus being heavily favored towards European Studies, Satyendranath Tagore became first Indian to become a civil servant in 1864.

• Aitchinson Commission (1886) recommended the re-organization of the services on a new pattern and divided the services into three groups – Imperial, Provincial and Subordinate.

• The british government setup Indian Civil Service in 1911, primarily with the objective of strengthening british administration.

• Though Indians petitioned for reforms for years, it was only after first world war and Montagu Chelmsford reforms that changes were brought in the selection process.

• From 1922 onwards, examination was conducted in India as well. First in Allahabad and then in Delhi with setting up of Federal Public Service Commission.

• The Government of India Act 1919 divided the Imperial Services into All India Services and Central Services. The central services were concerned with matters under the direct control of the Central Government.

• This Act also provided for the establishment of Public Services Commission in India. But the establishment was delayed till 1926 when Lee Commission strongly recommended to establish the commission.

• Further, the Government of India Act, 1935 envisaged a Public Service Commission for the Federation and a Provincial Public Service Commission for each Province or group of Provinces. Thus this act made Public Service Commission, Federal Public Service Commission.

Police Services

• Imperial Police prior to Independence was appointed by Secretary of State through competitive examination.

• Entry into Imperial Police was thrown open to Indians only after 1920 and the following year examinations for the service were conducted both in England and India.

• Despite recommendations of the Islington Commission and the Lee Commission, Indianisation of police services remained slow with 20% of total posts in 1931.

Forest Services

• In 1864, Imperial Forest Department was set up. Imperial Forest Service was constituted in 1867. From 1867 to 1885, the officers appointed to Imperial Forest Service were trained in France and Germany.

• In 1920, it was decided that further recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service would be made by direct recruitment in England and India and by promotion from the provincial service in India

With the inauguration of the Constitution of India in January 26, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission came to be known as the Union Public Service Commission, and the Chairman and Members of the Federal Public Service Commission became Chairman and Members of the Union Public Service Commission by virtue of Clause (1) of Article 378 of the Constitution.

Current Status

In India, the various Civil Services at the Union and State levels can be classified in different ways. Firstly, the Civil Services can be categorized into three broad groups –Central Civil Services, All India Services and the State Civil Services.

• The Central Services function under the Union Government and are generally engaged in administering subjects which are assigned to the Union under the Constitution.

• All India Services are common to the Union and the States and the State Services function only under the State Governments.

• The Union and State Services can be classified into Group A, B, C and D categories based on their role and responsibilities.

• These services can also be classified into technical and non-technical services. The selections to the All India Services and Group A and some Group B services are conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The incumbents to some Group B, Group C and D services are selected by the Staff Selection Commission. The State governments have their

own State Public Service Commissions. The working of these Commissions is controlled by a separate Act.

 Provisions with Respect to Civil Services in the Constitution

Part XIV of the constitution deals with provisions of civil services.

Article 309: Powers of Parliament and state legislatures

It empowers the Parliament and the State legislature regulate the recruitment, and conditions of service of persons appointed, to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State respectively.

Article 310: Doctrine of Pleasure

Every person of Defence service, Civil Service and All India Service holding any post connected with the above services holds office during the pleasure of the President or Governor of the State.

Article 311: Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank

• No removal by subordinate authority: No member of a civil service holding a civil post under the Union or State shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.

• Inquiry and informed of the charges: No such person as aforesaid shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

Article 312: Creation of new All India service

If Rajya sabha passes a resolution supported by not less than two thirds of the members present and voting, Parliament may by law provide for the creation of one or more All India Service including an all-India judicial service common to the Union and the States, and regulate the recruitment, and the conditions of service of persons appointed, to any such service.

Article 315 to 322: Deals with Public Service commissions.

Article 323A: Administrative Tribunals

Parliament may, by law, provide for the adjudication or trial by administrative tribunals of disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State or of any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India or of any corporation owned or controlled by the Government.

Substantive Role of Civil Servants

Civil services perform the following important functions:

• Basis of government

• An instrument for implementing Laws and Policies

• Participation in policy formulation

• Provides continuity: Civil services carry on the governance when governments change due to elections

• Role in socio- economic development: formulation of economic plans and their successful implementation to economic growth and social change.

o To develop agriculture, civil servants have to properly manage community resources such as land, water resources, forests, wetlands and wasteland development.

o To facilitate industrial development, infrastructural facilities such as roads, electricity, communications, market centres etc.

o Setting right developmental goals and priorities for agriculture, industry, education, health, communications etc.

o Formulation and implementation of strategies and programmes for the development and modernisation of the nation.

o Promotion of clean and green environment and protection of human rights.

• Developing a sense of nationhood: Several divisive forces such as communal and ethnic conflicts, caste feuds and regional rivalries often threaten the national unity. In order to develop a sense of nationhood among the people of these countries, the civil servants have to resolve the sub-national and sub- cultural differences among the people.

• Facilitating democracy: The civil servants play a vital role in maintaining the democratic ideals by assisting their political heads (Ministers) in policy-making function and in implementing the policies made.

• Calamities and crisis: Natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones have also enhanced the importance of civil services.

• Administrative adjudication: This is a quasi- judicial function performed by the civil service.

The civil servants settle disputes between the citizens and the state. For this purpose, the Administrative Tribunals, with civil servants as judges are established. For example: The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.

• In addition to above, some other functions performed by civil service are:

o Assisting ministers in fulfilling their responsibilities towards the parliament and its committees.

o Handling financial operations of the state.

o Reforming and improving administration through O and M (i.e. organization and methods)

Bureaucracy and Democracy

Bureaucracy is the executive arm of the government. Democracy is the process whereby the government is elected by the people whereas Bureaucracy is the system in which elected government employs competent state officials to run state matter. They are selected by government through merit based process.


• Ministers or Bureaucrats: Critics argue that appointing legislators on the executive post is faulty practice and rife with perils. Elected representatives should look to resolve social issues and form laws, not become administrators. To expect them to deliver quality services in the age of specialization and technology is absurd. When career politicians are placed in charge of career administrators, it defeats the purpose of both.

• Politicization of bureaucracy: This defeats the bureaucrats’ primary purpose of providing non-partisan and efficient administration. As soon as the government changes, the administrators have to train and teach ministers about the finer aspects and technicalities of departments

• Politicians – bureaucrats – Businessman nexus: The nexus was borne out of license quota raj where politicians and bureaucrats had discretionary power over allocation of natural resources in the country. This led to this unholy nexus and crony capitalism. It has undermined the democratic credentials of the country.

• Attitude of the bureaucracy: Subsequent to the structural adjustment of the economy consequent to liberalization, there have been perceptible shifts in the attitude of then bureaucracy. In the initial phase, they were openly hostile to these reforms. They proved to the obstruction to development, instead of being a facilitator. However, this trend has changed over the years.

Cadre based Civil Service

What is Cadre based Civil Service?

▪ Cadre literally means a small group of trained people who form basic unit of a military, political or business organization.

▪ In All India Services, once selected, candidates are assigned cadres based on their preferences, merit and availability of positions.

▪ In India, each state is a cadre with some exceptions like AGMUT and DANICS. These are joint state cadres with multiple states.

This is deliberate features of All India Service to promote quality, impartiality, integrity and All India outlook.

 Issues with Cadre based Civil Services

Civil Services in India has been constitutionally designed in way that it maintains all India character and ‘outsiders’ are posted in state cadre. ‘Outsiders’ to state cadre would ensure a higher level of objectivity and neutrality in a system which was likely to face enormous regional and local pressure.

• Permanency of cadres: It results in inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the working of civil services.

• Provincialization: According to ‘Public Institutions in India – Performance and Design by Mehta and Kapoor’ there is a feeling that IAS officers are ‘all India’ in name only. As the proportions of officers who genuinely alternate between state and central government has declined.

• Adoption of best practices: Provincialization of civil services reduces capacity of the civil services to adopt and disseminate good practices of other cadres.

• Collusion with local politicians: For the want of preferred and plum postings, the officers collude with local politicians and officers.

• Specialized Positions: According to 2nd ARC, cadre based civil services has limited the recruitment of persons with specialized knowledge at important positions through lateral entry.

• Large variation: There are large variations in the size of IAS cadres with respect to total state populations. As a result, the IAS cadre in UP is 40% smaller than it should be while in Sikkim it is 15 % more than it should be, based on population alone.

Way Ahead

• The New Cadre policy (2017) looks to resolve these issues. The new policy is aimed at ensuring ‘national integration’ in the country’s top bureaucracy.

• The new policy will seek to ensure that officers from Bihar, for instance, will get to work in southern and north- eastern states, which may not be their preferred cadres.

• All India Services officers are supposed to have varied experience which can be earned if they work in different states. It will also give them knowledge of best practices.

New Cadre Policy (2017)

In the new policy, aimed at “national integration”, divides the 26 states into 5 zonal cadres.

• Zone-I – AGMUT, Jammu, and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana

• Zone-II – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha

• Zone-III – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

• Zone-IV – West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya. Manipur, Tripura

• Zone-V – Telangana. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala

Candidates have to give cadre choices in descending order of preference from among the various zones. Candidates can only select one state/cadre from a zone as their first choice. Their next choice has to be from a different zone. It is only after selecting first choice in all the zones, one can select the second state/cadre from the first zone. Earlier the candidates used to choose their home state as their first choice and neighbouring states as their subsequent preferences.

• Lateral Entry: Also the recent move by the government to directly recruit experts for specialized position is a welcome move and in accordance with the recommendation of 2nd ARC.

Issues with Civil Services in India

India inherited Weberian model of bureaucracy from the British. The Weberian bureaucracy constitutes a career with a system of promotion based on seniority, fixed remuneration for officials with a right of pension, organized as hierarchy and adhering to rigid rules.

Thus main issues associated with civil services in India can be summarized as:

• Problems of All India Services

• Absence of accountability

• Out-dated laws, rules and procedures

• High degree of centralization

• Poor work culture and Lack of professionalism

• Politicization of services and political Interference

• Negative power of abuse of authority and Corruption

• Generalist civil servants in globalized world

Issues with All India Services

The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations sought the views of the State Governments on:

• Whether the AIS have fulfilled the expectations of the Constitution makers; and

• Whether the State Government should have greater control over them.

Most of the State Governments agree that the AIS have, by and large, fulfilled the expectations of the Constitution-makers. However, some State Governments have expressed concerns such as:

Relevance of AIS years after independence: The framers of the Constitution provided for the AIS because of the serious problems of politico-administrative management and instability then faced by the country.

Indian Police Service (IPS): As all key positions in the State police are held by members of IPS, the State Government’s responsibility in regard to public order has got whittled down.

Against Federalism: It is argued that winding up AIS and separate civil services of state and centre would bring the working of these Governments closer to a federal system.

Authority –Responsibility Gap: AIS officers tend to think that they are under the disciplinary control of the Union Government and not the State Government.

Cadre allocation Policy: The policy of the Union to induct at least 50% outsiders in each State cadre of an AIS implies that these outsiders are more amenable to the control of the Union Government than the insiders. This approach accentuates hostility between the AIS and the State Services as well as between the former and the political leadership in a State.

States perceive this to be a clever ploy of the union government to gain control over state government.

Son of soil theory: Outsiders are vaguely aware about language, ethos, profile of the state which they are posted.

AIS under Union List: AIS are joint responsibility of centre and state, yet it is under Union list (Entry 70).

Reforms Required in civil services

The important areas of civil services reforms and the recommendations of 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (2nd ARC) and some other committees in these areas are as follows:

 Bringing Accountability in Public Services

The 2nd ARC recommended the following in this regard:

• A system of two intensive reviews – one on completion of 14 years of service, and another on completion of 20 years of service – should be established for all government servants.

• The first review at 14 years would primarily serve the purpose of intimating to the public servant about his/her strengths and shortcomings for his/ her future advancement.

• The second review at 20 years would mainly serve to assess the fitness of the officer for his/her further continuation in government service.

• The services of public servants, who are found to be unfit after the second review at 20 years, should be discontinued.

 Emphasize Performance

 A government servant’s promotion, career advancement and continuance in service should be linked to his actual performance on the job and the dead wood should be weeded out.

• The promotions should be merit based .

• Performance Related Incentive Scheme: The Sixth Pay Commission recommended introduction of a new performance based pecuniary benefit, over and above regular salary, for the government employees

2nd ARC recommendations on Performance Management system:

o Making appraisal more consultative and transparent – performance appraisal systems for all Services should be modified on the lines of the recently introduced PAR for the All India Services.

o Performance appraisal should be year round: provisions for detailed work-plan and a mid-year review should be introduced for all Services

o Government should expand the scope of the present performance appraisal system

Competition and Specialist Knowledge for Senior Level Appointments

2nd ARC recommendations in this regard:

• The 2ndARC identified 12 domains in which officers should specialize such as general administration, urban development, security, rural Development etc. It has recommended that domain should be assigned to all the officers of the All India Services and Central Civil Services on completion of 13 years of service and vacancies at the level of Deputy Secretary/ Director should be filled only after matching the domain competence of the officer for the job.

 Effective Disciplinary Regime

The provisions of Civil Service Conduct and Discipline Rules are porous and complicated with numerous loopholes and weighted in favour of the delinquent.

2nd ARC recommendations in this regard:

• The present oral inquiry process should be converted into a disciplinary meeting or interview to be conducted by a superior officer in a summary manner without the trappings and procedures borrowed from court trials.

• No penalty of removal and dismissal should be imposed, except by an Authority, which is at least three levels above the post which the government servant is holding.

• No penalty may be imposed, unless an inquiry is conducted and the accused government servant has been given an opportunity of being heard.

• Consultation with the UPSC should be mandatory only in cases leading to the proposed dismissal of government servants and all other types of disciplinary cases should be exempted from the UPSC’s purview.

Transforming Work Culture

Most government departments suffer from poor work culture and low productivity. In order to provide cost-effective efficient services, following measures can be taken:

• Government offices should be modernized with provision of computer and other gadgets and a conducive work environment should be created.

• Officers need to be motivated and empowered by giving them more responsibility and decision-making authority.

Streamline Rules and Procedures

• These rules should be updated, simplified and discretionary power of public servants be eliminated.

• The budgetary and procurement rules should be changed, giving sufficient flexibility to departments to be able to use their judgement to secure the best value for money.

 Adoption of IT and E-Governance

The revolution in information technology has brought into focus its adoption for good governance.

• E-governance can reduce distances to nothing, linking remote villages to government offices in the cities, can reduce staff, cut costs, check leaks in the governing system, and can make the citizen-government interaction smooth, without queues and the tyranny of clerks.

 Stability of Tenure

There is a genuine problem being faced by officers, especially in the case of All India Services serving in the state governments, relating to their tenures.

 Depoliticization of Civil Services

Following are the recommendations of 2nd ARC on relations between political executive and civil servants:

• There is a need to safeguard the political neutrality and impartiality of the civil services.

• The onus for this lies equally on the political executive and the civil services.

• This aspect should be included in the Code of Ethics for Ministers as well as the Code of

Conduct for Public Servants.

• It is essential to lay down certain norms for recruitment in government to avoid complaints of favouritism, nepotism, corruption and abuse of power.

 Lateral entry into civil services

Lateral entry into civil services refers to induction of eligible candidates into bureaucracy by bypassing the regular mode at a higher level of its hierarchical structure.

Need for lateral entry

• Shortage of Officers

• Burden to Exchequer

• Competition

• Bypassing UPSC: UPSC is a constitutional body and has retained legitimacy and credibility of selection process over the years. Some experts opine that lateral entry is unconstitutional in nature.

March 2024