"A civil servant cannot afford to and must not, take part in politics," said the architect of All India Services Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the ironman of India, addressing the first batch of IAS officers on April 21, 1947.
But much heat and dust are being raised over the proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules by the Centre. The Centre's move to bring in amendments to the Central deputation in the Indian Administrative Service that is covered under Rule-6 (1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules-1954, inserted in May 1969, has met with protest from West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
What Amendments DoPT Brought In?
Recently the amendments proposed to Rule 6 of IAS (Cadre) Rules 1954 are the following.
- If a State government delays posting a State cadre officer to the Centre within a specified time, “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government.
The current practice is officers have to get a no-objection clearance from the State government for Central deputation.
- Another amendment proposed is the Centre, in consultation with the State, will decide the actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central government. The states have to make eligible the names of such officers.
- As per the new amendments, in case of any disagreement between the Centre and the State, the matter shall be decided by the Central government and the State shall give effect to the decision of the Centre within a specified time.
- Moreover, in specific situations (discretionary power) where services of cadre officers are required by the Central government in “public interest”, a State shall give effect to the Centre's decisions within a specified time.
What The IAS Cadres Rules 1954 Say?
The deputation to the Centre is governed by Rule 6 of the 1954 Cadre Rules. What the rule says is given below.
Deputation of cadre officers - 6(1) A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government or under a company, association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, which is wholly or substantially owned or controlled by the Central Government or by another State Government.
As per an insertion made by the notification dated May 14, 1969, in case there will be disagreement between Centre and states on deputation of any state cadre IAS officer. It says, "Provided that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government, and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government."
Original Rule Vs Amendments
A look at the IAS Cadre Rules 1954 very clearly outlines that the Centre in consultation with states will recruit IAS officers on deputation to the Centre. And more so, the Rules have clearly maintained that in case of disagreement between the Centre and states, the Centre's decision will prevail.
However, the 1954 rules have not mentioned any time period to bring into effect the Centre's decision. Simply put, in the original rules, there is no 'Time-Line' for states to implement the Centre's direction.
But in the proposed amendments, it has been clearly specified that states must implement the Centre's order “within a specified time.” The implication here is states cannot sit on the Centre's order for years.
Centre's Rationale Behind Bringing Amendments
As per the norms for appointment on deputation to the posts under Central Staffing Scheme (CSS), IAS officers from the CDR (Central Deputation Reserve) fixed for every state are eligible for deputation.
In accordance with the IAS(Cadre) Rules, 1954, the strength and composition of each cadre is ordinarily decided every five years in consultation with State Governments. The cadre strength for each includes a Central Deputation Reserve (CDR), which can be up to 40% of the Senior Duty Posts.
It is this CDR in each State Cadre that determines the extent to which officers could be sent on deputation to the Government of India.
The Centre's argument is proper cadre management requires an adequate number of officers to be at the Centre under the Central Staffing Scheme. It has given the following reasons.
- Only 10 percent of mid-level IAS officers were posted with the Union government in 2021 vis-a-vis 19 percent in 2014.
- On the contrary, the Central Deputation Reserve (CDR) pool had been increased to 1,381 in 2018 and fixed at 1130 in 2021.
- According to data available with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the number of IAS officers on central deputation in 2018 was 497. It has gone down to 376 as of Jan 1, 2021.
- The above data shows a huge gap between IAS officers on deputation and the actual requirement.
The Centre's argument is as states are reluctant to send IAS officers on deputation to the Centre, the vacancy at the Joint secretary level hurts the working pattern at the Centre.
Is It True?
Let's take the instance of Odisha to put the subject of CDR requirement and the shortfall in its proper perspective.
In 2021, the authorised strength of IAS in Odisha had been 237. And the Central Deputation Reserve based on the authorised strength has been 95.
But the IAS officers actual strength in Odisha in 2021 was 173. And as per the norms, the IAS officers on the 'offer list' from Odisha should be 69.
However, the actual number of IAS officers on Central deputation at present from Odisha stands at around 27.
The above number-crunching reveals a shortfall in IAS officers required from the State to man the Central departments/ministries.
As per DoPT data, almost all states exhibited a big gap between requirements and placements.
Why Big Gap Between Sanctioned Strength And In-Position IAS?
Data shows Odisha has a vacancy to the tune of 19 percent in the category of direct recruits done via UPSC Civil Services Exam.
However, a vacancy to the tune of a massive 56 percent has been observed in the category of promotion quota (means promotion of eligible OAS officers to IAS cadre).
Why Then Are The Criticisms?
Though the 1954 Rules have vested the final authority power to the Centre on IAS deputation matter, the amendments, in a way, redefined the powers making it look like a 'compelling power'.
Like any rules, some observers feel the powers may be misused to harass Opposition-ruled states, whereby the Centre can 'compulsorily' take high ranking IAS officers like Chief Secretary on deputation to Centre.
The sayings of Sardar Patel that Civil Servants (IAS/IPS) should not take part in politics holds true. Many instances have come from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and even in Odisha, where senior IAS officers to be in good books with the powers that be in the State, conduct in a manner that was not in conformity with Civil Service Rules.
A coin has two sides goes the saying. The 'un'-civil conducts of a few civil servants and the new IAS cadre rules will give rise to more tussles in the future.