Cracking The Civil Services

#UPSC : IAS Aspirants Must Know Their Role Under The Constitution

Image : Representational Purpose Only

It is pertinent for the aspirants to clearly know at the very outset what are the basic provisions of the Constitution and the underlying principles of functioning of the civil service.

First, civil service is a part of the executive wing at the centre and the states. Second the Union and the State executive comprising the Union and the State Cabinet are responsible to the elected Legislature for governance of subjects assigned to the Centre and the states under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution under three Lists : List 1 Union list of 97 subjects, List 2 State list of 66 subjects and List 3 Concurrent List of 47 subjects , that is subjects for actions by both the Centre and the states. All state activities and functions under these subjects that is administration at all levels are required to be carried out ” in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution” which means in layman’s language – laws and policies of the government. At any point of time there are many laws and policies which are being enforced and implemented by the state. The Civil service is therefore the main instrument of the Centre for this purpose in respect of subjects under the list 1 Union list such as Income tax, Customs and Central Excise etc and in list 3 while state civil services play the same role in respect of the state subjects under list n 2 and concurrent list. Of course administration of subjects under the List 3 Concurrent List is carried out in close coordination between the Centre and the states.

Article 53 (1) and Art 154 lay down the role of the civil service in clear terms as quoted below:

Art 53(1). The executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.

Art154 reiterate that position in respect of the states as follows;

The executive power of the state shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.

Please note the word ” officers” which refer to the Civil service as well as the technical cadres at the centre and the states. Next, you are to note that laws ,Regulations and Rules made under the Laws, policies on various subjects need to be enforced and implemented properly ; and when these are done ,administration is deemed to have been carried out “in accordance with the Constitution” . Otherwise there’s a failure of constitutional machinery- the ground for invoking article 356 of the Constitution which empowers the President to take over the administration of a state and place it under the President’s Rule. However there is no provision for such intervention in respect of the Central Govt.

Who administers these laws and Regulations is a question we must address. The answer is civil service officials because they exercise powers conferred on them under specific laws by virtue of the position they hold in their respective spheres as members of the organised services eg IAS, IPS, IAAS, Revenue Services etc. In fact this power is post specific meaning that it is mentioned in the statue and is exercisable by the official as long as he occupies the same position. And one must note that such statutory powers are a part of the sovereign powers of the state to govern the society and the citizenry for their wellbeing and progress only. Enforcement of law in a democracy and the the policies which have the force of law because they are laid on the tables of the Legislature by all empowered bodies and especially the civil service require certain qualities of head and heart founded on impartiality, honesty, hard work, integrity, empathy and emotional intelligence. These are also the traits of a dispenser of justice – a public servant or a law giver as defined by Plato. Thus the primary quality expected of the Civil service is a judicial bent of mind , that is ,free from any bias or prejudice and capable of appreciation of facts and laws, Rules and Policies applicable to the matter, and capacity to decide and put it down in the form of what is called “a speaking order “stating the grounds and reasons for the decision in writing . Even when a matter is decided on” file “without formal hearing of the parties involved, this process has to be necessarily followed as per the Rules of conduct of government business. This is because it’s open to the parties involved to seek a review of the order before the designated higher authority and ultimately to the Courts of appeal . It must be made clear to the civil service aspirants that they are not just managers or functionaries but dispenser of justice.

This is best seen in the first regular post that an IAS officer holds in his career in the state cadre as SDO of a District under the DM and Collector . A subdivision comprises of a number of Tehsils each headed by a Sub Deputy Collector who exercises powers under the state land revenue laws and responsible for keeping land records and collection of land revenue. These include mutation, that is ,allowing alterations in land ownership records necessitated by death or inheritance etc. This entails examination of the application, scrutiny of the records, ground situation and issue of a speaking order by the SDC. Under the Revenue laws, the SDO is the appellate authority against the orders of the SDC. The disposal of an appeal is done strictly in accordance with the judicial process, that is grant of hearing to both the parties, examination of records and evidence and finally issuance of a speaking order against which the parties have the right of appeal before the designated authority and eventually to the Courts. In its essence this process is to be followed in taking decisions in all administrative matters including disaster relief or poverty alleviation measures.

What an IAS or any Civil service Aspirant must note that whatever decision she takes in her career in discharge of her lawful functions the administrative process it is always quasi judicial and demands strict adherence to the procedure established by law. The concept of accountability of the civil service is liable to be misinterpreted and Aspirants must remember that they are answerable only to the lawfully constituted authorities and the courts as their actions must be within the framework of laws and policies.

This takes us to the realm of administrative laws under which such as the Indian Boilers Act 1923 a hierarchy of officers with regular appeal from one another is created. Thus from an order of the Inspector appeal lay to the Chief Inspector and a further appeal to the higher authority. This is common practice in all services and hence the absolute need to cultivate a judicial bent of mind which is integral to the professionalism of the civil service and strength of character. Experience has been that the civil servants who cultivate such a judicial bent of mind from the very beginning and hence ethics based professionalism receive the highest reward – in the wider discourse and approbation of the public.

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