The All India Services (IAS, IFS, IPS and IFoS) have their strengths and weaknesses but, by and large, they have served the country well. One of the reasons is that the examination, interview, selection, allotment of service and allotment of cadre are done by, or on the recommendation of, the UPSC — and is believed to be totally objective.
Currently, the written examination carries the bulk of the marks — 1750. The personality test (the interview) carries 275 marks. The total is 2025. Based on these marks, the successful candidates are declared and the Service and the Cadre are allotted taking into account the choice of the candidate. There is anonymity in the written examination, and there is objectivity because the examination and the interview are conducted by the UPSC. The Executive has absolutely no role to play. This is consistent with Article 320 of the Constitution of India which mandates that
“It shall be the duty of the Union and State Public Service Commissions to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union and the services of the State respectively.”
‘Appointment to the services of the Union’ is comprehensive and unqualified. It includes selection and allotment to the Service and to the Cadre.
Candidates from humble backgrounds, from all regions/states, speaking different languages, and belonging to different faiths and communities have joined the All India Services and served in all parts of India. There have been no serious complaints about the examinations or the selection or the allotment of service/cadre. The few and rare mistakes have been corrected by the Courts.
The competitive phase ends with the allotment of Service and Cadre. The Foundation Course (FC) is post-selection and post-allotment of Service and Cadre. It is intended to bring the selected candidates together, weld them, and promote a spirit of camaraderie.
The FC, currently, carries 300 marks. The FC is marked to ensure that the selected candidates take the FC seriously. The candidates’ marks in the FC may affect the inter-se ranking of the candidates allotted to a particular Service/Cadre. Suppose ten candidates are allotted to the IAS-Tamil Nadu cadre. They have an inter-se rank. The FC marks may affect the inter-se ranking, but it will not change the fact that all ten candidates were allotted to the IAS (Service) and to Tamil Nadu (cadre).
Under the change proposed by the PMO, FC marks will be taken into account for allocation of Service and Cadre. The 300 marks — that may be increased — have the potential to alter the allocation currently based on the 2025 marks.
Who conducts the FC? Who sets the question paper(s) for the examination at the end of the FC? Who marks the examination paper(s) of the candidates in the FC? It is officers appointed by the Executive government and answerable to the Executive government. The UPSC has absolutely no role to play.
Firstly, the proposed change appears to be unconstitutional, as it is violative of Article 320. The selection for “appointment” to the service, now done solely by the UPSC, will be affected by the FC marks given by the Executive government. I doubt if the proposed change can be implemented without amending Article 320.
Secondly, anonymity and objectivity will be greatly affected. ‘Preference’ of the Executive government and ‘subjectivity’ will play a role in the allotment of Service and Cadre. Neither factor is desirable. There is a clear and present danger.
Is the central government planning another disruption? And if yes, why?
[The writer, P Chidambaram, is senior Congress leader who had served as union Home Minister as well ass Finance Minister. The article is published by National Herald]
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