Pre Independence Era

The civil service for the public works started during the middle of 19th century. This was the time when the colonial state went for a permanent civil service based on merit.

The Government of India Act of 1858 provided for a multi-tier bureaucratic authority which continued to exist upto 1947. These were:

  • The secretary of the state assisted by India office;
  • The viceroy and his executive council which constituted central government assisted by the central secretariat.
  • The Governor and his Council at the provincial level assisted by the Provincial Secretariat and
  • The District Collector assisted by other district officers

Services were divided into three levels – the superior services (All India and Central Services), the provincial services, and the subordinate services. All India Services were recruited by the Secretary of State to work in any part of India; as a rule, officers were assigned a particular province. By the Government of India Act 1919, other services were abolished but the India Civil service and the Indian Police Service remained. These services were monopolized by the Britishers and gradually got Indianised. In 1923, the Government of India established Public Service Commission for the recruitment of persons with appropriate qualification. The Government of India Act of 1935 undertook some modifications.

Post Independence Era

The Constitution has made specific provisions regarding the responsibilities of the civil servants. In a democratic system the political executive is the highest body assisted by the civil servants.

Civil Service and Legislature:

The distinctive features of the Administrative Framework of the country are:

  • The individual responsibility of each minister holding a portfolio to formulate the departmental policies. It is his or her responsibility of supervising the administration of these policies and other departmental works.
  • The obligation on the part of ministers and civil servants to uphold the Constitution and rule of law.
  • The obligation of every public servant to implement faithfully all policies and decisions of the Ministers even if these are contrary to the advice tendered by them.
  • The right of public servants to express themselves frankly in tendering advice to their superiors including the ministers.
  • The observance by public servants of the principles of political neutrality and impartiality and anonymity.

Most of the posts below the level of Ministers in the Secretariat and in the field organization are manned by the civil servants. Their work consists of assisting the political executive in policy formulation, programme implementation and administration of the laws of the land. They did contribute in policy making process actively as they are taken as the professionals who are competent to provide the inputs in the policy making process. The final touches are supposed to be given by the minister followed by the Council of Ministers. It is wrong to presume that the policy making is done by the political masters and the implementing agency is the civil service. They are responsible for implementing the policies. At the same time, they are not accountable to the Parliament. It is the ministers who are accountable to Parliament and answer the questions related to the issues regarding the implementation of policies.

Constitution of India

The provisions of the Constitution have made it clear that civil servants cannot be removed by the politicians. They retain their independence in the democratic system. Art 311 says that they cannot be removed from the job without a proper enquiry duly constituted by the President of India. This explains the peculiar position of the civil servants in our democracy. They can be controlled and managed by the Civil Service Commission like the French system. Art 309 gives powers to the central government to regulate the service conditions and recruitment through an Act made by the appropriate authority. They are regulated by the Central civil Service conduct Rules, 1964. The Official Secrecy Act, 1923 provides for stringent action for unauthorized disclosure of information prejudicial to the interests of the State. They have been provided adequate security as they handled some of the important works of the government. If they shrink responsibilities they can be persecuted by the state under the various Acts of a State.

Often there is a complaint that they are prone to corruption and abuse of power and it is not easy to bring them under the Prevention of corruption Act, 1947, as one needs the permission of higher authority for filing charges against the civil servants at the joint secretaries’ level and above.

Relationship between Civil Service and Political Environment

  • The civil service system gets its nourishment from its political environment. It is not independent of the political executive. Their performance depends on the quality of the political executive. With a decline in the quality of political leadership, the democracy has suffered. The performance of civil service had declined.
  • They are accountable to the political leadership. They have to perform in a neutral and objective manner. In an era of coalition politics, their non partisan role is going to strengthen democracy.
  • They are getting pressurized by some vested interests in the name of politics. This nexus between the politicians and criminals and civil servants has been studied by the Vohra committee. This is a warning for both the democratic leadership and civil service.
  • There is a demand by the civil service association for scrapping the Official Secrecy Act which can help them to be bold and fearless. With the introduction of citizen’s charter, there is a demand that their notings should be made to the public where their work can be evaluated in terms of value addition. These changes can help them to perform better in a democracy.
  • Civil service and political leadership has a definite relationship in a democracy as they play an active role in the making of public policy. They give a clear direction to the civil administration for implementing the public policy and also make them accountable to the failures in implementing the policy.

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