Evolution and Regulation of Indian Civil Service

The term 'Civil Service' refers to the administrative system of the state which is responsible for implementing policies made by the political executive, which constitutes of the elected representatives in a democracy.

Evolution of Civil Services in India

The Indian state had some form of civil service since the ancient past

  • Mauryan Empire had a centralized bureaucracy that was responsible for tax administration, as mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra.
  • Such a piece of governing machinery existed under the Gupta period as well
  • The Mughals had created an elaborate bureaucracy known as the Mansabdari system which ranked officers based on a number of troops they commanded.
  • Until the rule of East India Company, there was no clear demarcation between civilian officials and military officials. Also, payment of salaries to these officials varied from cash payments to in-kind payments such as land grants.
  • The British had systematized civil services in India by distinguishing it from the military services, creating a hierarchy of officials who are paid out of public revenues.
Also Check: Syllabus of Indian Modern History

Civil Service under the Company's Rule

  • The need for the civil service was felt soon after the Company acquired territories after the Battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764).
  • Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General of Bengal had created the post of District Collector who was made in-charge of collecting land revenue. This post was soon abolished on grounds of excessive concentration of powers and corruption.
  • Lord Cornwallis is usually known as the Father of civil services in India. He had introduced the Covenanted Civil Services and the Uncovenanted Civil Services.
  • The Covenanted Civil Services was created out of the Law of the Company. It was the higher civil services and comprised, almost exclusively, of Europeans who were paid very high salaries.
  • The Uncovenanted Civil Services were the lower civil services and comprised mostly of native-born Indians, and to some extent, Europeans too. They were not paid as high as the Covenanted Civil Services.
  • Charter Act of 1833, provided that no Indian subject be barred from holding any office under the company. This, however, did not alter the structure of British bureaucracy
  • Until 1853, the Court of Directors had the exclusive right to appoint persons in the Company's civil services. These appointments were a source of privilege and patronage which the Company held on to very tightly.
  • The Charter Act of 1853 provided for an open competitive examination for the recruitment of civil servants and had deprived the Court of Directors of the power of appointments based on patronage. This was recommended by a committee headed by Lord Macaulay. The first competitive exam was held in 1855.
Also Read: Preparation Strategy for UPSC IAS exam

Civil Service under the Crown's Rule: After 1857's revolt

  • After the Government of India Act of 1858, the higher civil service in India came to be known as the Indian Civil Services (ICS).
  • The Indian Civil Services Act of 1861 provided that certain posts under the Government of India were to be reserved for persons who had been a resident of India for 7 years or more. This paved the way for the entry of Indians into the higher civil services.
  • The Indian Civil Services Act of 1870 carried the process of Indianization of civil services forward. Satyendranath Tagore was the first Indian to get selected in the Indian Civil Services.
  • Aitchison Committee was appointed by Lord Dufferin to recommend changes in the civil services. The Committee recommended that the Covenanted and Uncovenanted Civil Services should be changed into Imperial, Provincial, and Subordinate civil services.
  • ICS came to be regarded as the steel frame of the British rule in India i.e., it provided the support for maintaining control over the vast territories of the British Empire.
  • With the August Declaration of 1917 by Edwin Montague in the House of Commons, which had promised an increase in the association of Indians in the administration, the proportion of Indians in the civil services began to increase significantly and by 1930s Indians were in majority in the civil services.
  • By 1934, there were seven All India Services including the Indian Forest Service, Indian Police, Indian Political Service etc.

Characteristics of Civil Services at the time

  • It reflected the deep-seated racial prejudice among the British against Indians
  • Almost all the higher-level posts were reserved for Europeans.
  • Only the low paid jobs were open for Indians.
  • The recruitment process involved examinations that were held in London and involved knowledge of subjects (Greek, Latin, English) alien to Indian natives, as a result, Indian representation in the Services was negligible.
  • In 186o, the maximum age limit was lowered from 23 years to 22 years. This was further lowered to 21 years in 1866.

Post-Independence Civil Service Development

  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was among the top nationalist leaders who had argued for the continuation of the civil services because he had believed that an organized bureaucracy was essential to ensure the unity and integrity of the newly independent India.
  • He had also stressed the need for having All India Services such as the IAS, IPS, and IFoS to ensure uniformity in the administrative system throughout the country. This was essential for national unity.

Regulations and Legislation Relating to the Services - Through Time

  • Recruitment to the civil service was made based on open competitive examination after the passage of Charter Act, 1853.
  • Aitchison Commission had recommended that the minimum and maximum age limits to appear for the exam were to be 19 and 23 respectively.
  • Viscount Lee Commission, set up in 1923, had recommended the creation of a public service commission for the purpose of conducting examinations to recruit the civil servants. Accordingly, a public service commission was set up in 1926.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 enlarged the powers of the commission and made it a Federal Public Service Commission. After independence, it became the Union Public Service Commission, with constitutional status since 1950.
  • UPSC is empowered to conduct the civil services examination for the purpose of selecting and recommending the candidates to be appointed as civil servants. The exam is based on the model of examination for the erstwhile Imperial Civil Service
  • Kothari Committee of 1976 had recommended a three-stage selection process. A preliminary examination is of objective type with one Optional and General Studies paper each. The main examination is of the subjective type with 9 papers. The final stage is the Personality Test.
  • Satish Chandra Committee of 1989 recommended the introduction of an Essay paper and a greater weightage for the interview (Personality Test).
  • The Hota Commission of 2004 recommended the introduction of an aptitude paper in the preliminary examination.

The Civil Services in British India was of immense importance. It was the steel-frame on which British Empire rested. British understood that alien rule in a country can survive only with a heavy hand and the bureaucracy proved useful in this regard. It also offered a lucrative career opportunity that British politicians and officials vied for.

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