Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Civil Services Board . . . . an ineffective institution in governance

                    I would not have written this piece  but for a news item  that   there is a proposal to  change the procedure to be followed by the CSB(Civil Services Board) .The CSB was created  on the direction in 2013   by the Supreme Court  to protect civil servants from  premature transfers.
  In Indian Administrative service (cadre) Rules ,1954, a new schedule was added on January 28,2014.This schedule provided for the composition of CSB as follows:
1.Chief Secretary  .. .Chairman
2.Senior most Additional Chief Secretary,or Chairman ,Board of Revenue or Financial Commissioner
or officer of equivalent rank and status . . .Member
3.Principal Secretary , department of Personnel in the state government . . .Member Secretary
Procedure followed by the CSB  is to be as follows:The CSB
 (1)shall consider the report of administrative department along with any  other inputs it may have from other reliable sources.
(11).Obtain the comments or views of the officer proposed to be transferred based on the circumstances presented to it in the justification of the proposal
(111)Not make recommendation of the transfer of the  cadre officers  unless it has been  satisfied itself of the reasons of such premature  transfer.
 The Rules of 2014 provide that  minimum tenure of  civil servants is two years , but a civil servant can be shifted before two years from a post  if the CSB   recommends  the proposal.  
                In the first week of August ,2015, the Central government circulated a proposal  to change the existing  rules of procedure  followed by CSB, that make it mandatory  for the CSB to  get a report from the  department concerned and hear out the officer  before clearing  a premature transfer.The new  proposal  says that in such cases ,the CSB  may"obtain  such information  from the relevant  sources" as it desires.In other words,there is a proposal to delete  first part of  clause (1) and  full clause  (11) above. The Centre's  communication to the states  makes it clear that  the changes were proposed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.The U.P. Government had given the suggestion at a conference of states earlier this year(2015).
                  The constitution of a CSB  headed by  the Chief secretary and having other senior   officers serving under the state government  makes it totally vulnerable to the dictates of the political executive.Such a CSB  " recommends" all premature transfers  which are  decided beforehand  by the Chief Minister ,in case of all India services(IAS,IPS , IFS).I do not know what the supreme court had in mind when they directed the clearance by such a CSB.A pliable , subservient and vulnerable CSB  is completely ineffective in  stopping the premature transfers done  on the grounds of  political expediency or the "dictates of the sovereign".It  forces the chief secretary and his colleagues to take the responsibility for recommending proposals which  they may not find reasonable or feel satisfied about ,but which they are forced to recommend because they want to continue in the senior key posts like chief secretary  and other equivalent posts, for  the reasons of their own .Let us face it .What is the value addition of such a CSB to good  governance? Practically none.I agree that there is a hypocrisy  in  most of the  areas of public  life in India , but when such a hypocrisy has the indirect sanction from the highest offices , the search of the people of India for good governance is just a cry in wilderness.
          The step of trying to change the procedure  to be followed by the CSB is just an indication that we want to drive the last nail in the coffin of the CSB(which is dead ,in any  case.).The fact that this nail has reportedly  come from my own state of  Uttar Pradesh makes me  feel concerned.I also wonder if this was the intention of the supreme court.  What good governance do we expect from civil servants who are not sure how long they will remain in their present post, and which next morning , they will read in the newspapers ( along with million with others) that they have been transferred prematurely to a new post in a new place.


  1. We need principled leadership at the top, with a spine for reform. Unless there is political will right at the very top, or a firm and clear legal dictat by the apex Court, the of the political class will resist such governance reforms that erode their discretionary powers. Contrast the example you have given with the example of the Labour government of Tony Blair in the late 1990s, which voluntarily ceded its power to set interest rates and formed a Monetary Policy Committee with only economists and experts who were empowered to set the national interest rate every month, rendering the decision apolitical and based on economic imperatives.

  2. Thank you , Prof Geeta , for your comments.I agree that political class in India , both at the Centre and at the states , finds it difficult to give up its discretionary powers .We have yet to wait for the likes of Tony Blair to emerge in India.But it is important that people in general are aware of the real situation.