Describe the constitutional position of civil services in India. Do you think lateral entry into the civil services can undermine its neutrality?

Describe the constitutional position of civil services in India. Do you think lateral entry into the civil services can undermine its neutrality?


In the Parliamentary system of governance the policy-making is a prerogative of the elected representatives of the people i.e. the ‘Council of Ministers’ but the implementation of these policies is the responsibility of the civil service.

Part XIV of the constitution deals with the process, functions, recruitment, removal and powers of civil servants in India. Some of the constitutional provisions relating to civil services include:

1. Article 310: Every person who is a member of a civil service of the Union holds office during the pleasure of the President, and every person who is a member of a civil service of a State holds office during the pleasure of the Governor of the State.

2.   Article 311:

  • No person who is a member of a civil service of the Union or a civil service of a State shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.
  • No such person shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

3. Article 312: It allows the Rajya Sabha to create one or more All India Services through a resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.

4. Article 315: This article allows creation of Public Service Commissions at the Union and State levels which function as the recruiting agencies of their respective governments.

5. The power, purpose, and responsibilities of these All India Services (IAS, IPS and IFS) are described in the All India Services Act, 1951 which authorizes the Government of India with the consultation of State Governments to make guidelines and procedures for the service conditions and the recruitment of the people appointed to All India Services.


Recently, in a novel move, the central government has opened the highest echelons of the bureaucracy to skilled individuals from the private sector and academia, inviting applications for ten candidates at the level of joint secretary across various departments. Candidates up to the age of 40 can apply for the post if they fulfill certain conditions and they will not need to go through the UPSC route.

Lateral entry into civil services is a mixed bag and is viewed differently for its merits and demerits.

  1. The lack of specialization across the top tier of Indian bureaucracy is a concern that has remained unaddressed until now and lateral entry will bring specialists into civil services.
  2. IAS officers get recruited at a very early age via the UPSC exams. It is difficult to gauge their administrative judgement and capabilities then. Allowing for lateral entry of seasoned professionals and experts into the service makes up for this deficiency.
  3. Attempts to introduce ‘meritocracy’ in place of ‘seniority’ in promotions in civil services has backfired due to rejection by bureaucracy. Bringing in experts from the professional sphere is expected to shake the IAS out of their comfort zone.
  4. Recruitments to the top posts of RBI, Niti Ayog have been happening efficiently with lateral entry system and replication of this system to other branches and levels will bring efficiency to other bodies too.
  5. As the government in today’s world acts as a facilitator and works in tandem with the private sector, therefore an outsider with latest market knowledge and experience about successful trends could guide the government department better.
  1. Against constitutional ethos: The Constitution mandates the UPSC to be the central recruiting agency which conducts an all-India level test tom select the best candidates. However, the entry of candidates laterally goes against this constitutional norm.
  2. Lack of transparency: The system is non-transparent as everything from shortlisting to selection depends upon the selection panel.
  3. Differences in work-culture: Lateral entrants from the private sector and academia may not work well with the bureaucracy. Differences in work culture, turf wars and systemic inertia may act as a dampener. Candidates coming from the outside may not know the nuances of the system which can be exploited against them in any number of ways.
  4. Lack of bonhomie: The IAS establishment is likely to hesitate working with lateral entrants who haven’t made it through probably the hardest open competitive exam in the world, but because of privilege and social networks.
  5. Misuse of lateral entrants: Handpicked pro-establishment lateral entrants could stifle good civil servants who are resisting against something inadvisable that the government seeks to do.

The government’s notification for lateral entry is a bold move, whose time has come. However, the lateral entrants must have mandatory ‘district immersion’, serving at least five of their first ten years in field postings. The hard grind of such field postings will make lateral entry self-selecting, drawing in only those with commitment and aptitude.

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