UPSC GS Study Notes


Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

  • 10 Jul,2023
  • Team ExamGuru


GS-II Role of Civil Services in a Democracy Civil Service And Democracy

Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

In a democracy, the civil services play an extremely important role in the administration, policy formulation and implementation, and in taking the country forward towards progress and development. 

Democracy is an egalitarian principle in which the governed elect the people who govern over them. There are three pillars of modern democracy:

  1. Legislature
  2. Executive
  3. Judiciary

The civil services form a part of the executive. While the ministers, who are part of the executive, are temporary and are reelected or replaced by the people by their will (through elections), the civil servants are the permanent part of the executive. 

  • The civil servants are accountable to the political executive, the ministers. The civil services are thus, a subdivision under the government.
  • The officers in the civil services form the permanent staff of the various governmental departments.
  • They are basically expert administrators.
  • They are sometimes referred to as the bureaucracy or also the public service.

Role of Civil Services in Democracy

  • India being a constitutional democracy, its functioning depends upon three pillars – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary where each of these pillars play a defined role in our democratic setup. These pillars i.e., legislature, executive and judiciary are involved with the governance of the State. For a successful development and smooth governance in India the founding fathers of India had the foresight to create the necessary institutional framework for governance which has brought us thus far.
  • The civil services form a part of the executive. While the ministers, who are part of the executive, are temporary and are reelected or replaced by the people by their will (through elections), the civil servants are the permanent part of the executive. 
    • The civil servants are accountable to the political executive, the ministers. The civil services are thus, a subdivision under the government.
    • The officers in the civil services form the permanent staff of the various governmental departments.
    • They are basically expert administrators.
    • They are sometimes referred to as the bureaucracy or also the public service.
  • One of the basic elements of Indian governance architecture is the concept of an impartial, honest, efficient and resolute civil service which is the core of the Executive be it the All India Services or the other Civil Services.
  • The civil service system is the backbone of the administrative system which acts as the most important tool for governance of our country. It supports the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies and in delivering public services. Civil servants are accountable to Ministers who in turn are accountable to the Parliament.
  • Right from the ancient times, civil services has played a vital role in the Indian Governance system. Modern history of Indian Civil Services starts from the British rule in India.
  • Their role has changed over the time depending on the needs. Due to vast power vested in civil services, the success and failures which we have achieved so far are attributed to them. At present, the context in which all the civil services are functioning has been changing very fast.
  • Rapid economic growth has led to a manifold increase in the quantum of work. Moreover, performance expectations have increased in terms of both speed and quality. The Government is no longer seen merely as a law enforcer or a controller of national resources. It is increasingly being viewed as an efficient provider of basic services and public goods. People expect the Government to facilitate growth and development. Also, the advent of globalisation has added different dimensions to the concept of governance.
  • In this context, civil servants have to be prepared to face the challenges arising out of globalization. However, they will have to shift their orientation from being controllers to facilitators and from being providers to enablers. They need to equip themselves with the necessary skills and capabilities to meet these new challenges. They need to master new technologies and new styles of functioning.

Historical Background of Civil Services

  • Ancient Times: The concept of a well-organized public administration system has existed in India since ancient times. The Mauryan government used civil servants under the guise of adhyakshas and other titles.
  • The civil servants were recruited on the basis of merit and excellence, according to Chanakya’s Arthashastra, and they had a strict investigative system.
  • Mughal Era: During the Mughal era, state officers were in charge of the land revenue system.
  • British Era: The East India Company had a civil service in contemporary times to handle their commercial activities. The civil services were founded by the British administration in India primarily to reinforce their grip over their Indian territories.
    • Lord Wellesley, who served as Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805, established the College of Fort William in 1800, where every Company employee was required to attend a three-year course.
    • To teach employees about the civil service, the East India Company College was founded in Hertfordshire, near London.
  • Post-Independence Era: The civil service was reorganized in post-independence India.
  • Civil service officers were primarily concerned with maintaining law and order and collecting revenue during the British Raj.
  • When the government took on the role of a welfare state after independence, civil services played a key role in implementing national and state welfare and development objectives.

Constitutional Provisions and Doctrines

Constitutional Provisions

  • The Constitution of India provides for separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary with well-defined roles and responsibilities for each one of them. Since, India is a parliamentary democracy, there is an interface between the legislature and the executive at the level of the Council of Ministers, which is collectively responsible to the legislature.
  • As per Articles 53 and 154, the executive power of the Union and the States vests in the President or Governor directly or through officers subordinate to him. These officers constitute the permanent civil service and are governed by Part XIV of the Constitution.
  • The other part of the executive is the ‘political’. The President or Governor is required to act according to the aid and advice of his/her Council of Ministers, appointed under Articles 73 and 163 of the Constitution. The President and Governor frame rules for the conduct of business in the government. Work is allocated among Ministers as per the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules and the manner in which the officers are required to help the President or Governor to exercise his/her executive functions is governed by the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules.
  • A civil servant is required to implement the orders of government without bias with honesty and without fear or favour. It is precisely in this area that a degree of a difference of opinion often occurs between the political executive and the civil servants.
  • Article 308 onwards, Part XIV of the Constitution of India makes provisions for dealing with the civil services. As per Article 309, the appropriate Legislature (the Parliament or the State Legislature) is empowered to 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. The provisions of Article 309 states that it shall be competent for the President or the Governor as the case may be to make rules relating to the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union and the State respectively until provisions in that behalf are made by or under an Act of the appropriate Legislature under this article.
  • Parliament in exercise of its powers under Article 309 of the Constitution has enacted the All India Services Act, 1951. This law authorizes the Union Government in consultation with the State Governments to make rules for the regulation of conditions of service of persons appointed to an All India service. The parliament made provision in part XIV of the Constitution of India with regard to: (i) Services under the Union and the States and (ii) All India Services: — It has two chapters.
    • Chapter-1 contains articles 308, 309, 310, 311 and article 312 that deals with All India Services, which is the subject matter of our study. It also has article 312-A which deals with power of Parliament to vary or revoke conditions of service of officers of certain services.
    • Chapter-2 of part 14 deals with Public Service Commissions and it has articles 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322 and 323
  • By 42nd amendment of the Constitution, Part XIV-A was also inserted into the Constitution of India. It has article 323-A and 323-B which deals with establishment of administrative tribunals for the Union and separate administrative tribunal for each State or for two or more States, whereby. Civil Courts cease to have jurisdiction to adjudicate matters relating to Civil Servants.
  • As the Indian Civil Service has been organized on the same lines as the Civil Service of United Kingdom, the Constitutional principle, based on the doctrine of pleasure is also incorporated in the Constitution of India in dealing with matters relating to Civil Servants. Another concept of Rule of Law is also incorporated in the Constitution of India in the form of articles 14, 15 and 16 . Another important doctrine viz. Natural justice has been incorporated in article 311 of the Constitution with special reference to services under the Union and the States. The most prominent principles i.e. notice , inquiry opportunity (right of hearing) and fair treatment have been enshrined in the Article.
  • Article 315 provides for creation of a Public Service Commission for the Union and a Public Service Commission for each State. Article 316 deals with appointment and term of office of members. Under this Article the President shall appoint the Chairman and members of the Union Public Service Commission and Chairman and members of a State Public Service Commission shall be appointed by the Governor of the State. Article 317 deals with the procedure for removal and suspension of a member of a Public Service Commission.

Constitutional Doctrines

  • Doctrine of pleasure: Article 310 incorporates the doctrine of pleasure into our Constitution. This doctrine borrowed from the British constitution applies to all the Services under the Union and the States. A person holding a civil post under the Union or a State holds office during the pleasure of the President or as the case may be, of the Governor of the State.
  • However, in order to afford constitutional protection to Civil Servants Article 311 introduces certain safeguards. Moreover, a specific contract can override the doctrine of pleasure (Purushotham Vs. Union of India).
  • Safeguards for Civil Servants: The Constitution of India provides two procedural safeguards for the security of tenure of Civil Servants as distinguished from Military personnel. The safeguards are to be found in the Provisions to Article 311 of the Constitution. This situation distinguishes the doctrine of pleasure as it is in India from what it is in Britain. While in Britain the pleasure of the Crown is absolutely unfettered the Constitution of India subjects the above pleasure to certain exceptions and limitations.
    • Civil Servant shall not be dismissed or removed by any authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed Article 311( 1).
    • No dismissal removal or reduction in rank shall be ordered against a Civil Servant unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of the charges brought against him.
  • Prior to 1976, this opportunity had to be given at two stages: (a) at the stage of inquiry into the charges; and (b) to make representation against the penalty (such as dismissal, removal, reduction in rank, censure) proposed to be imposed, after the inquiry had been concluded, holding the employee guilty of the charges.
  • But the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, has omitted the right of the employee to make a representation against the penalty proposed, retaining, however, the safeguard that the penalty can be proposed only on the basis of the evidence adduced at the inquiry stage. The result is that the judicial decisions prior to 1976, which required that the ‘opportunity’ under Article 311(2) must be offered at two stages, have been superseded by the 42nd Amendment.
  • Hence, after this amendment of 1976, the expression ‘reasonable opportunity’ must be interpreted to imply that the Government or other authority proceeding against a Civil Servant must give him:
    • An opportunity to deny his guilt and establish his innocence, which he can only do if he is told what the charges leveled against him are and the allegations on which such charges are based;
    • An opportunity to defend himself by cross-examining the witnesses produced against him and by examining himself or any other witnesses in support of his defence.

Importance of Civil Services

A permanent Civil Service is the sine qua non of a parliamentary democracy. They are considered as the most important element of Indian administrative system that has the responsibility to fulfil the development objectives of the welfare state. Any failure or shortcomings in fulfillment of these objectives are attributed to the failure of civil services. The importance of the civil service to the Indian administrative system stems from the following:

  • Service presence throughout the country and its strong binding character: The Indian civil services, with its national character , have been a strong binding force to the Union of States. The institution of civil service has rendered service to the overall socio-economic development of the country. It has not only played a pivotal role in designing and activating policies, it has also ensured basic service delivery at the grass root level to the marginal section of our society.
  • Non-partisan advice to political leadership: At the stage of formulation of policy, the civil servant is expected to provide information and advice, including advice to Ministers, on the basis of the evidence and accurately present the options and facts, even in the midst of political instability and uncertainties.
  • Administrative and managerial capacity of the services: Once the Minister gives the policy a final shape, it is the duty of the civil servant to manage and implement the policy diligently. As the civil servants act as a bridge between different institutions of governance, they should be able to maintain effective coordination between different institutions of governance.
  • Service delivery at the cutting edge level: Public policy today has become a complex exercise requiring in-depth knowledge and expertise in public affairs. A permanent civil service provides continuity and develops expertise as well as institutional memory for effective policy making.
  • Provide ‘continuity and change’ to the administration: In the midst of change of governments due to periodic elections, the Civil Service provides an element of stability and continuity without which orderly government would be impossible. They are more likely to assess the long-term social payoffs of any policy whereas the political executive may have a tendency to look for short term political gain.

Core Values

The Public Service and the Public Servants shall be guided by the following values in the discharge of their functions:

  • Allegiance to the Constitution and the laws of the nation: The civil Servants must align behaviours and interests with the needs and goals of the organization by following the requisite laws.
  • Objectivity: This is the use of rational, logical or scientific means of arriving at a decision. It is important for civil servants to be objective in order to take unbiased decision.
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship: Civil servants, in carrying out their official work, including functions like procurement, recruitment, delivery of services etc., should take decisions based on merit alone. He should carry out responsibilities in a way that is fair, just and equitable and reflects the Civil Service commitment to equality and diversity. He should treat people impartially, regardless of political, social, demographic, geographic, circumstances or bias.
  • Honesty and integrity: Public servants hold their office in trust. They shall not use public office for private gain and must behave in an open, fair and transparent manner. They should honour one’s commitments and works to uphold the Public service values. They must set out the facts and relevant issues truthfully and correct any errors as soon as possible.
  • Empathy: It is described as the capability to understand what others are feeling, civil servant must be able to hear out and understand the thoughts, feelings and concerns of others, even when these are not made explicit, especially towards the concerns of vulnerable and weaker sections of society.
  • Transparency: It being a major principal for good governance is vital for civil servant. It allows for open channels of communication between stakeholders and officials.
  • Commitment to public service: Civil servants should deliver services in a fair, effective, impartial and courteous manner. Civil servants must maintain absolute and unstinting devotion towards their duties and responsibilities at all times. Moreover, there should be spirit of service and sacrifice as they are working for national cause.
  • Adherence to the highest standards of probity and conduct: Civil servants should be guided solely by public interest in their official decision making and not by any financial or other consideration either in respect of themselves their families or their friends.
  • Exemplary Behaviour: Civil servants shall treat all members of the public with respect and courtesy and at all times should behave in a manner that upholds the rich traditions of the civil services.
  • Accountability: Civil servants are accountable for their decisions and actions and should be willing to subject themselves to appropriate scrutiny for this purpose.

The Central Government may on the recommendations of or in consultation with the Central Authority notify from time to time other values.

Public Services Code

The Government promotes the Public Service Values and a standard of ethics in the Public Service operations, requiring and facilitating every Public Service employee:

  • To discharge official duties with competence and accountability, care and diligence, responsibly, honesty, objectivity and impartiality; without discrimination and in accordance with law;
  • To ensure effective management, professional growth and leadership development;
  • To avoid misuse of official position or information and using the public moneys with utmost care and autonomy;
  • To function with the objective that Public Services and Public Servants are to serve as instruments of good governance and to provide services for the betterment of the public at large, foster socioeconomic development with due regard to the diversity of the nation but without discrimination on the ground of caste, community, religion, gender or class and duly protecting the interest of poor, underprivileged and weaker sections.

As per the 2nd ARC a comprehensive Civil Service Code can be conceptualized at three levels:

Three Levels of Civil Services Code

Top Level

Intermediate Level

Third Level

Values and Ethical Standards of a Civil Servant

Code of Ethics

Code of Conduct

These values should reflect public expectations from a civil servant with reference to political impartiality, maintenance of highest ethical standards and accountability for actions.

The broad principles which should govern the behaviour of a civil servant may be outlined.

There should be a specific Code of Conduct stipulating in a precise and unambiguous manner a list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and actions of Civil Servants.

Lateral Entry

  • Traditionally to get into Civil Services, a candidate needs to successfully clear the three stages of civil services Examination; Preliminary, Main Exam and Interview conducted by UPSC. Some proportion of the vacancies is also filled by promotion of eligible candidates working in different State Services. Lateral entry into civil services refers to bypassing the selections made by the above procedure and inducting private individuals for appointment in the middle rung of ministries that deal with economy and infrastructure, including the ranks of deputy secretary, director and joint secretary.
  • The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and state levels.

Arguments in Favour

  • Shortfall in Numbers: There is a huge shortage of IAS officers across states. Recently, a Parliamentary standing committee had expressed concern over persistent shortage of IAS officers and strongly recommended that all efforts be made to fill these vacancies. Early in 2017, the government stated that there is a shortage of over 1,400 Indian Administrative Service (IAS). 900 Indian Police Service (IPS) and 560 Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers in the country. Lateral induction is therefore a small step towards essential housekeeping in central government staffing and ought to be supported.
  • Increased Efficiency: Bureaucrats are seldom challenged or held accountable, which leads to complacency in achieving goals. In fact, Bureaucracy in India has received constant criticism for its inefficiency, so much so that it is ranked as the worst. Lateral entry will bring in much-needed outside experience buffer the talent within the administration and challenge the civil servants into continuous self improvement.
  • Improved and innovative governance: It is widely perceived that intake of specialist people would infuse freshness in the system and look for innovative solutions to the present challenges. It will lead to adoption of best practices which will lead to improved governance. Moreover, the IAS was instituted in pre-reform period and as the economic and social challenges get deeper, the government needs to understand the impact of its policies on all the stakeholders the private sector, the non-government sector and the larger public.
  • Allows entry to performers: As civil servants get recruited at a very young age, it becomes difficult to judge the potential administrative and judgement capabilities. This leads to non-selection of many potentially good administrators. Moreover, some who do make it fall short of the requirements. Mid-career lateral entrants with proven capabilities will help bridge this deficiency.
  • Increased Competition: Career progression in the IAS is almost automatic. Notwithstanding sporadic efforts to introduce meritocracy, very few get weeded out for poor performance. The only penalty if at all for failing to make the grade is fringe posting. Lateral entry can push the civil servants out of their comfort zone and challenge them for more competitive outcomes which will lead to larger public welfare.

Arguments Against

  • Lack of field exposure: A distinguishing feature of the IAS, indeed one that is their claim to pre-eminence even among other civil services is their field experience. This cutting-edge level exposure comes in very handy as IAS officers move up the ladder to policy-making at the highest levels. The lateral entrants lacking in field experience can be a recipe for disaster as they won’t be able to understand the needs of people especially the disadvantaged and rural people.
  • Disconnect in policy making and implementation: Besides the obvious disconnect lateral entrants will find in policy making and implementation, it will also result in inequitable sharing of the benefits and burdens of government service. Lateral entry would open the flood gates for a spoils system and drive talented people away from a civil service career as it would be inequitable in terms of sharing the burdens and benefits of public service. While the permanent civil servants might well be left to do the humble implementation of policies, the lateral entrants will get access to more privileged policy making positions, without any experience of serving in rural hinterlands.
  • Past experiences: Past experiences of inducting private individuals to head public sector enterprises has had a mixed result and has not been extraordinary. They failed to deliver in an environment which had challenges different and complex than in the private sector.
  • Deterrence for the available talent: For any service, it is important to assure the top talents that they will reach the top echelons of the organization. With the lateral induction of individuals, it will reduce motivation of hard working civil servants as there will be uncertainty in career progression.
  • Discontented Civil Servants: Lateral entry of individuals at mid-level would lead to lowering of morale of the existing civil servants who sacrificed a lot to join the civil services beating a tough competition. Also, hostility from existing civil servant towards outsiders often lead to failure of such mechanisms.

Way Forward

Though the induction of lateral entry has its own merit, the remedy does not lie only in recruiting people from outside. Some of the steps that can be taken are as under:

  • The lateral entrants should therefore, have mandatory “district immersion”, serving at least five of their first 10 years in field posting. The hard grind of such field posting will make lateral entry self-selecting, drawing in only those with commitment and aptitude.
  • Institutionalised lateral entry should be complemented with allowing regular IAS officers to specialise in sectors over time as well as encouraging them to work outside the government for limited periods. This will enable them to compete on an equal footing with lateral entrants.
  • The government may think of using the lateral entrants to head specific mission-mode projects. Like Nandan Nilekani for the Aadhaar Project.
  • The rules for such hirings must be clearly spelt out with accountability for outcomes. Also, hiring for such posts should be done in a transparent way.
  • Civil servants should also be allowed to work outside the government with multilateral agencies and corporations to gain vital market exposure.

There is little argument that India’s civil services need reform. Internal reforms like insulating civil servants from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization in addition to lateral entry into service can complement each other well as it will fill the required void. Also, an institutionalised lateral entry into civil service will help the government to have the best of both youth and experience and take the system closer to the goal of “minimum government, maximum governance”. However, caution must be ensured as we keep putting steps forward.

360-degree Approach of Rating

  • The 360-degree approach is a new multi-source feedback system for performance appraisal of bureaucrats started by the current government for future posting. The system seeks to look beyond the ratings received in appraisal reports written by their bosses. It relies on feedback of juniors and other colleagues for an all-round view. It is being showcased as one of its major administrative reforms.
  • The approach does not have a statutory backing and is not supported by any act. It is also being criticized for lack of objectivity as the feedback from peers may be subjective and biased.


  • Lack of professionalism and poor capacity building.
  • Alienation from the public and lack of understanding of people’s want.
  • Inefficient incentive systems that do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants but reward the corrupt and the incompetent.
  • Outmoded rules and procedures that restrict the civil servant from performing effectively.
  • Lack of focus on outputs and outcomes.
  • Systemic inconsistencies in promotion and empanelment.
  • Lack of adequate transparency and accountability procedures – there is also no safety for whistle blowers.
  • Arbitrary and whimsical transfers tenures impedes institutionalization.
  • Political interference and administrative acquiescence.


  • Insulating civil servants from undue political interferences: In a democracy, the civil service has to be answerable to the elected government. There is criticism that increasingly partisan intervention and cronyism are undermining Rule of Law and promoting personalized despotism, distorting incentives and condoning corruption. This is adversely affecting the morale of public servants.
  • Professionalization with stability of tenure and competition: Modern administration involves complex challenges in various spheres of activities. Meeting such challenges require attributes like domain expertise, long experience in the sectors concerned. There is need to foster excellence in the public system. Existing procedures and practices do not adequately help in developing domain expertise nor do they help in utilizing the available domain expertise.
  • Accountability: There is a general feeling that existing mechanisms of accountability are inadequate. On the one hand there are alibis for non-performance and on the other competence and integrity are not adequately recognized or rewarded.
  • Outcome orientation: Most of the monitoring in government is through measurement of expenditure against outlays. Clearly, we need to move towards measurement of outcomes. Though a change in this direction has already started with the ‘initial outcome budgeting’ exercises, we need to shift towards outcomes. However, for that to happen, major changes in attitudes, monitoring and evaluation systems, incentives and accountability measures are necessary.
  • Monopoly of existing civil services over higher positions: At present all the civil services are cadre based i.e. a person joins a service and moves up the ladder. The natural corollary of this is that there are very few lateral entries and the civil services enjoy a virtual monopoly over the all the positions in the government. With rapid expansion of knowledge, increasing complexities in certain fields, rapid expansion of private sector, a large amount of expertise has developed outside government which can be used for India’s progress.
  • Lack of incentives for better performance: Lack of adequate motivation to ‘better performers” and “high achievers” in the Government is often cited as a reason for sub-optimal work standards and levels of competence and a plea is made to link remuneration with performance. A motivated and willing civil service is the best instrument to achieve the desired outcomes. Motivation comes through incentives. The incentive structure in government is too weak and insufficient to motivate better performance. Even the tool of promotion is not largely used for motivation as the principle of seniority is generally followed rather than competence and performance.
  • Mechanism for retirement: The natural fallout of a performance- based civil service would be a mechanism to weed out the non-performers. In the existing dispensation everyone has a life time job security irrespective of performance. The Armed Forces have been able to have a time tested weeding out system for their officers.
  • There is a mismatch between positions and skill sets. Recruitment is not competency specific and often, the right person is not placed in the right job.
  • A related issue is the opposition to lateral entry , which hinders the development process. As the complexity of the economy increases, policymaking becomes a specialized activity. This creates an inherent need for the lateral entry of professionals into government service.

Politicization of Bureaucracy

  • Over the years, whatever virtues the IAS possessed – integrity, political neutrality, courage and high morale – are showing signs of decay. Some civil servants are deeply involved in partisan politics: they are preoccupied with it, penetrated by it, and now participate individually and collectively in it.
  • One of the main reasons why systemic reforms have not been taken up earnestly by the states is the lack of stable tenure for IAS officials.
  • Transfers have been used as instruments of reward and punishment, as tools for controlling and taming the bureaucracy. There is no transparency, and in the public mind transfer after a short stay is categorised as a stigma.
  • Officers who are victimised are not in a position to defend themselves. Internally the system does not call for any reaction to explain one’s conduct, while externally public servants are debarred from going public to defend themselves.
  • A high degree of professionalism ought to be the dominant characteristic of a modern bureaucracy. The fatal failing of the Indian bureaucracy has been its low level of professional competence.
  • A civil servant spends more than half of his tenure on policy desks where domain knowledge is a vital prerequisite.
  • However, in the present environment prevailing in the States there is no incentive for a young civil servant to acquire knowledge or improve his skills. There is thus an exponential growth in both, his ignorance and arrogance.
  • For instance, it is said that in the house of an IAS officer one would find only three books – the railway timetable, because he is always being shunted from one post to the other, a current affairs magazine because that is his level of interest, and of course, the civil list – that describes the service hierarchy!
  • An important factor which contributes to the surrender of senior officers before political masters is the total lack of any market value and lack of alternative employment potential.
  • Of late, some senior officers are being hired by the private sector, not so much for their professionalism, but for their ability to influence government in favour of the hiring company.
  • Bureaucrats remain busy in tadbir management instead of trying to improve their capabilities since party “loyalty” and strength of tadbir are the only requirements for getting promotion.
  • The most threatening thing is that thousands of brilliant civil servants have been penalised from time to time in the name of “loyalty.” Such a situation will certainly discourage qualified and talented graduates from competing for the civil services.

Recommended Reforms

NITI Aayog Recommendations

Civil services is the backbone of the government. Today , rising complexity of the economy has meant that policy making is a specialized activity.

Reforms in Recruitment

  • Improve the teeth to tail ratio: Promote an officeroriented culture and focus on expanding the numbers of officers.
  • Objectivity in the recruitment and placement process: Widely disseminate job descriptions and selection criterion and eliminate elements of arbitrariness.
  • Reduce the number of civil services: The existing 60 plus separate civil services at the central and state level needs to be reduced through rationalization and harmonization of services. Recruits should be placed in a central talent pool, which would then allocate candidates by matching their competencies and the job description of the post.
  • Encourage lateral entry: Inducting specialists at higher levels of government will provide much needed expertise.
  • Nurture specialization: The key to reform in the civil services is encouraging officers to cultivate specializations based on their education and skills early on in their careers. Domain specialization is the key as also recommended by 2nd ARC.
  • Mentorship: Upon induction, young officers should be assigned mentors, preferably with an officer having a similar functional specialization or with high-quality NGOs for values and soft-skill mentorship.
  • Information Technology (IT): Use of IT needs to be significantly up scaled for planning, forecasting staffing requirements and recruitments.
  • Hiring policies: The upper age limit for the civil services should be brought down to 27 years for the general category in a phased manner by 2022-23 Service conditions for employees of autonomous bodies need to be regulated and harmonized.
  • Strengthen municipal corporation cadres: The number of staff at municipal corporations should be increased. Measures that monitor performance along the same lines as proposed for other services, including through online appraisals and biometric attendance, need to be introduced.
  • Outsource service delivery: Efforts need to be made to outsource service delivery to reduce dependence on the administrative machinery.
  • Research is needed to identify possible services to be outsourced; various PPP models should be explored to determine the best possible mode of outsourcing.

Reforms in Training

  • Reorient training: Alter the current system of training to meet job-outcome oriented goals. With economic gravity shifting towards cities, training should be reoriented to focus relatively more on managing urban areas.
  • Introduce mid-career training modules for all services.
  • Strengthen and leverage online avenues for training: Introduce pre and post-training matching of skills to determine posting. Digitize human resource records across states. Develop a competency matrix to monitor ongoing skill acquisition and help match requirements with resources in real time. Institute an e-learning platform to conduct training modules.
  • Mid-career exams/skill assessment might be undertaken to evaluate and decide on future posting.
  • Prepare handbooks for skill orientation to improve competency.
  • Introduce the ‘living university’ concept of value creation based on outcomes and good ideals.

Reforms in Evaluation

  • Consider replacing annual confidential reports (ACRs) with multi stake holder feedback (MSF): It is important for MSF to be online to retain transparency and accountability.
  • Institute goal setting and tracking: There is an inherent need to set key responsibility/focus areas and progressively reduce discretionary aspects to evaluate civil servants. Institute the online Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window (SPARROW) template in all central and state cadres.
  • Incentivization: Review existing schemes and introduce new schemes of incentives for extraordinary performance.
  • Compulsory retirement for under performing officers: Develop benchmarks to assess the performance of officers and compulsorily retire those unable to meet the benchmarks.
  • Citizen-centric framework: An inclusive policy framework with citizens at the centre needs to be developed. The RTI’s management information system portal needs to be expanded to cover more public authorities, especially subordinate offices of ministries and public sector units.
  • Institutionalize system for effective monitoring of suo-moto disclosures: To bring further transparency to public affairs and adopt safeguards to promote accountability, effective monitoring of suo-moto disclosures is essential.
  • Protection of civil servants: Introduce an appropriate system of checks and balances, including for the process of suspension, to ensure that officers are given their due process and are not vulnerable to vested interests and political pressures.
  • Year Long Evaluation: Instead of current annual evaluation, it should be a continuous process rather than an episodic one.

Reforms in E-initiatives and Probity

  • Ensure probity in governance: Strengthen institutional mechanisms for prevention and detection of corruption:
    • Reviewing existing vigilance operating manuals and instructions to ensure probity.
    • Improving transparency in placement through initiatives in recruitment, placement and training.
    • Reviewing performance of officers based on probity.
  • Strengthen implementation of a Centralized Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System CPGRAMs): Develop a reform framework for the top twenty departments for periodic monitoring of grievance receipts. An updated version that enables transfer of grievances between ministries/ departments, bulk disposal of grievances and multiple forwarding should be operationalized.
  • CPGRAMs should emerge as a strong mechanism for efficient redressal of public grievances with similar mechanisms across all states/UTs.
  • Implementation of e-Office:Implementation of e-Office may be expedited in all ministries / departments; all states/UTs may also be encouraged to adopt it.
  • Prompt delivery of services: Every department should seek to simplify their processes to cut administrative delays and ensure participatory feedback mechanisms for efficient service delivery. IT tools need to be expanded for single window clearances and stakeholder consultations in policy.

2nd ARC Recommendations

Reforms in the Procedure of Placement as well as Security of Tenure:

  • The Commission has recommended a new selection process that would foster competition and ensure that the most suitable person is selected for a senior government job.
  • The Commission has also recommended stipulation of tenure for various posts under the government. This task of fixing tenures for various posts may also be assigned to this independent agency – the Central Civil Services Authority.
  • The Commission has also suggested that candidates outside the government system should be allowed to compete for certain posts at senior levels (Additional Secretary and above). The task of identifying these posts should be entrusted to this agency.
  • The Commission has recommended comprehensive changes in the recruitment procedures However, these reforms would not require any legislative changes as these could be carried out by executive orders.
  • The Commission is of the view that it may not be possible to route all appointments through the UPSC or the Staff Selection Commission. But in the interest of efficiency in public administration and also to avoid any allegations of nepotism or patronage, it would be advisable if all appointments – even if they are for a short term – are made after following a procedure that is fair, just and transparent.

New Terms and Conditions of Appointment

  • A lifelong job security provided to a government servant has led to a distorted incentive system due to which an element of complacency and inertia has got internalised in the civil services. The Commission has, therefore, recommended that there should be a system in which the suitability of all government servants is reviewed after 20 years of service and their further continuance in service should depend on the outcome of this performance evaluation.
  • Improving Accountability Mechanisms – Simplifying Disciplinary Proceedings.
  • The process of enquiry should be simplified and the large number of stages in the process need to be reduced. It is felt that while the detailed procedure of enquiry could be spelt out in terms of rules, but it would be better if certain basic principles which need to be adhered to are outlined in the new law. This would ensure reasonable protection to all government servants while ensuring that the disciplinary process is expedited.

The Public Services Bill

  • It suggested the Constitution of an Authority known as the Central Public Services Authority which would be tasked to review the Public Services and recommend changes, recommend to the Central Government the formulation of the codes in addition to aiding and advising the Central Government on all aspects concerning the public services.
  • The Central Authority to submit an annual report to the Central Government indicating the compliance with the provisions of the Bill by every ministry/ department. Also, the reasons for non-compliance if any, and the steps to be taken to ensure compliance and the timeschedule should also be submitted.

Motivating Civil Servants

  • There is need to recognise the outstanding work of serving civil servants through National awards and awards for recognizing good performance should also be instituted at the State and district levels. It must be ensured that selection for such awards is made through a prompt, objective and transparent mechanism because the value of such awards should not get compromised by either subjectivity or lack of transparency. Further, all organizations should evolve their own in-house mechanism for rewarding good performance from simple , verbal and written appreciation to more tangible rewards.


  • 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. A provision regarding this should be made in the proposed Civil Services Law. Besides, for new appointments it should be expressly provided that the period of employment shall be for 20 years. Further continuance in government service would depend upon the outcome of the intensive performance reviews.

Disciplinary Proceedings

In the proposed Civil Services law, the minimum statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures required to satisfy the criteria of natural justice should be spelt out leaving the details of the procedure to be followed to the respective government departments. 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.

Relations between the 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.
  • Abuse of authority unduly favoring or harming someone and “obstruction of justice” should be classified as an offence.
  • It is essential to lay down certain norms for recruitment in government to avoid complaints of favoritism, nepotism, corruption and abuse of power.

The civil service remains very critical and crucial to national development and democratic stability, especially in developing societies. The roles of civil services in national development cannot be undervalued as an efficient public service acts as catalyst in the development of nation. Since it is the vehicle and machinery of public policy formulation and implementation, the service has a very critical role to play. Thus, civil services reforms are necessary for good governance and to full-fill the objectives of faster, sustainable, inclusive development.