At the time of framing the present Constitution,
India had some experience of public service commissions functioning as integral
parts of the old Constitution. The Government of India Act of 1935 had provided
for the establishment of public service commissions, both at the Centre and in
the provinces. When the present Constitution came into being on
January 26, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission was already functioning. The experience of the working of these commissions was of value to the framers of the Constitution in dealing with this part. Except for a few changes, they have, in fact, closely followed the provisions of the Government of India Act of 1935 in this regard.
Need for Public Service Commissions
Experience in most democratic countries has shown that under the old system of private and political patronage, the Government used to be deprived of the services of the most capable men. This was because their place was taken by those whose main qualification was the possession of influence. Civil servants actually in office were discouraged from giving off their best to their work because advancement depended not on their ability and zeal, but on political and private favouritism. The civil service was unable to provide continuity of administrative experience for the benefit of successive governments, because the senior posts changed hands when governments changed. The number of civil servants was often unnecessarily enlarged in order to provide posts for the dependents of those who held the reins of political power. By drawing on the widest possible field for recruitment, the public service commission gets more able people than when it relied on a system of personal contacts. Moreover, it was able to divide the talent more evenly amongst all the government departments.
In a country like India, the necessity and importance of public service commissions should be evident. Its population of more than 1.2 billion now is multilingual and multiracial. One must also take note of the existence of regional diversity, a number of religious minorities, socially and educationally backward classes and communities. If political considerations and favouritism dominate the recruitment to the public services under these conditions, the injury to the nation will be incalculable. It will certainly affect the efficiency and integrity of the public services.
The function, therefore, of a public service commission is twofold: firstly, it must, to adapt a famous phrase in American history, “keep the rascals out”; and secondly, it must try to put the best men in. It is difficult to overemphasise the importance of this function.
Constitution of the
Union Public Service Commission
Article 315 makes it obligatory for the Union to constitute a public service commission. It is presided over by a chairman who is designated as the Chairman, Union Public Service Commission. The Chairman and the Members of the Commission are appointed by the President. They hold office for a period of six years from the date they join duty or until they attain the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier. It is provided that at least one-half of the Members of the Commission should be persons with a minimum of ten years’ experience in government service. This is intended to always ensure the presence of men of experience in civil service in the Commission so that it may function as an expert body. The number of Members in the Commission is determined by the President by regulations.
A Member of the Commission is ineligible for the same appointment for a second term. His further employment elsewhere also is severely restricted. The Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission is ineligible for further employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State. However, a Member other than the Chairman is eligible to become either the Chairman of the UPSC or the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission.
The President is empowered to determine by regulations the salary and other conditions of service of the Members of the Commission. He may also make regulations with respect to the strength of the staff of the Commission and their conditions of service. It is provided that the conditions of service of a Member of the Commission cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. The Chairman and Members of the Commission are paid, besides allowances, specified amounts as salary. These amounts compare favourably with the salaries of comparable positions at the highest level of the government. The entire expenses of the Commission, including the salaries and allowances of its Members, are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
A Member of the Union Public Service Commission can be removed from office only by an order of the President on the ground of proven misbehaviour. The Constitution prescribes a procedure to ascertain such misbehaviour. According to this, the matter will be referred to the Supreme Court by the President and the Court will conduct an enquiry in accordance with the procedure prescribed under Article 145 of the Constitution and will submit a report to the President. Pending the enquiry by the Supreme Court, the President may suspend the Member concerned. The President is empowered to remove by an order a Member of the Commission also on the following grounds :
(1) if he is adjudged an insolvent;
(2) if he engages himself during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
(3) if he, in the opinion of the President, is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; and
(4) if he becomes in any way concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Government of India or a State Government or in any way participates in its profits or benefits except as an ordinary member of an incorporated company.
All these provisions are intended to make the Commission an independent and impartial body.
Constitution of the State Public Service Commissions
Under Article 315, each constituent State of the Union should have a public service commission. There is, however, provision for setting up joint State Public Service Commissions each serving more than one State. But such commissions may be set up only by the law of Parliament on a request for the same by the States concerned. The Constitution also permits the Union Public Service Commission to render its services to a State, for all or any of the needs of the State, with the approval of the President.
Members of a State Public Service Commission are appointed by the Governor, and
those of a Joint Commission by the President. As in the case of the Union
Public Service Commission, the appointment is for a maximum period of six
years. But if a Member attains the age of sixty-two years while in service,
irrespective of his not having completed six years, he must retire from
service. The Members of State Public Service Commissions and Joint Public
Service Commissions are not eligible for any appointment under the Union or the
States except that a Chairman may become the Chairman or a Member of the Union
Public Service Commission or the Chairman of any other State or Joint Public
Service Commission and a Member may, in addition to the above-mentioned offices,
become the Chairman of the Commission of which he is a Member. The conditions
of service of the State Public Service Commissions are more or less the same as
those of the Union Public Service Commission. The only significant point of
difference is in respect of salary which varies from State to State. The
conditions of service of a Member of a State Public Service Commission may not
be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
The number of Members on the State Public Service Commission also varies from State to State. The basis and the procedure for the removal of the Members of the State or Joint Public Service Commissions are the same as for the Members of the Union Public Service Commission.
Functions of the Commissions
Under Article 320, the commissions have the following functions :
(1) to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union or the State ;
(2) to assist the States in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment if two or more States request the Union Public Service Commission in this regard ; and
(3) to advise the Union or State government :
(a) on matters relating to methods of recruitment to civil services and for civil posts ;
(b) on the principles to be followed in making appointments to civil services and civil posts and promotions, transfers, etc., from one service to another ;
(c) on all disciplinary matters affecting government services of the Union or the States ;
(d) on claims for costs of legal proceedings instituted against a Union official or a State official ;
(e) on claims for the award of pension in respect of injuries sustained by a Union official or a State official on duty ; and
(f) on any other matter specially referred to it by the President or the Governor.
Under Article 321, the functions of the Union Public Service Commission or a State Public Service Commission may be extended by an Act made by Parliament or the legislature of the State concerned. Such an Act may also bring within the scope of the functions of the Commission matters connected with the services of public institutions such as local bodies or public corporations under the Union or State governments. This is important in view of the fact that as the activities of both the Union and the State governments increase, more and more of public corporations and such other institutions are bound to be established involving the employment of an ever-increasing number of officials.
The Union Public Service Commission has to submit to the President an annual report on the work done by the Commission. The report accompanied by a memorandum explaining the action taken by the Government on the recommendations of the Commission is to be placed before both the Houses of Parliament. Similarly, a State Commission has to submit to the Governor an annual report which, with the memorandum explaining the action taken by the State government on the Commission’s recommendations, is placed before the State legislature. The memorandum should explain the reasons for the non-acceptance of the recommendations of the commission by the Government if there are any such cases.
It must be observed that the public service commissions envisaged under the Constitution including the UPSC are only advisory bodies on matters relating to methods of recruitment for Civil Services, the principles to be followed in making appointments to such services and on disciplinary matters affecting the services, etc. In India, the public service commissions are in no way subordinate to the legislature or the executive. Thus, while a public service commission would not ordinarily like to withhold information on any particular subject, its constitutional right to withhold information on any particular subject should be recognised.
Obviously, the Constitution-makers wanted to provide all reasonable safeguards to make the public service commissions in India immune from all undue influence and to enable them to carry out their duties with impartiality, integrity and independence.
Magnitude of the Commissions’ Work
A glance over the annual reports of the Public Service Commissions—Union as well as State Commissions—will show the variety and volume of their work :
(1) Conducting competitive examinations for recruiting personnel to the various services is one of the most arduous tasks undertaken by these Commissions.
(2) Direct recruitment by interview has become an important method of selection as a result of the increase in governmental activities after Independence.
(3) Many of the superior posts, particularly in the regularly organised services, are filled by promotion of officers who have acquired a certain standard of experience in junior posts in those services. Recommendations for such promotions are made by the departments concerned and the Commission is requested to ratify them.
(4) The Commission is consulted about certain minor forms of recruitment such as temporary appointments for periods exceeding one year but not exceeding three years, grant of extension of service and re-employment.
(5) The Commission has to be consulted in disciplinary cases before the President imposes the penalty of censure or any more serious penalty, such as dismissal.
(6) The Commission also handles a good number of cases such as those involving regularisation of appointments, claims for the award of pension, claims for reimbursement of legal expenses incurred by Government servants in defending legal proceedings instituted against them in respect of acts done in the execution of their duties.
The Commission, in its reports, has acknowledged that, apart from a few isolated instances, the ministries and departments generally observe the provisions of the Constitution. It means that, on the whole, the recommendations of the Commission are accepted and acted upon by the Government. In fact, most of the reports show that there was not even one case where the Union Government had not accepted the recommendations of the Commission. No greater test is required to prove effectiveness of the Commission as an independent body under the Constitution even though its recommendations are only of an advisory nature.