Role Of Civil Services In a Democracy(GS-2 Course Material)2020-21

The Role Of Civil Services In a Democracy is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the Indian nation.

Administration enriches the lives of citizens in three different ways: 

      • First, it widens the scope of social and political participation. Therefore it has an intrinsic value. 
      • Second, it has an instrumental role, because it enables people to express what they value and to demand that political attention be paid to it. 
      • Third, by guaranteeing discussion, debates, and exchange of views in the public sphere, democracy plays a crucial role in the formation of values and determining social or economic priorities. Thus it has also a constructive role to play.

Evolution of Civil Services in India-

  • It had its origin in the Mauryan period during ancient India. Kautilya’s Arthashastra lays down the principles of selection and promotion of the civil servants, the conditions of loyalty for appointment to the civil service, the methods of their performance evaluation and the code of conduct to be followed by them.
  • In medieval India, the Mughals set up their own civil service systems which centered on the management of land revenue, administration of government factories and establishment of the patrimonial state.
  • The East India Company had a civil service responsible for carrying out commercial functions. They enacted a Civil Service Act and included the civil servants on the Council of Administrators, which resulted in the accrual of both political and administrative powers to the civil servants in India.
  • Initially, the recruitment to the Indian civil service was confined only to the British. The minimum age of entry was kept at 19 years and the maximum age was prescribed as 21 years. The language of examination was English. The only centre for conducting the examination was London
  • However, due to pressures and demands raised by the Indian National Congress in 1921, Indians were allowed to take the examination.
  • On the basis of the recommendations of the Aitchison Committee, the minimum and maximum ages were increased from 19 and 21 years to 20 and 22 years respectively. The candidates were allowed to take the examination both in London and India.
  • In 1947, free-India inherited the Indian Civil Service (ICS). After prolonged consideration, the Constituent Assembly decided to continue to run the Indian Administration with the help of the Indian Civil Services.

Constitutional Provisions-

Part XIV of the constitution deals with provisions of civil services.
  • Article 309: Powers of Parliament and state legislatures 
  • Article 310: Doctrine of Pleasure
  • Article 311: Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank
  • Article 312: Creation of new All India service
  • Article 315 to 322: Deals with Public Service commissions.
  • Article 323A: Administrative Tribunals

What role does it play?-

Role Of Civil Services In a Democracy perform the following important foment: No government can exist without administrative machinery. All nations, irrespective of their system of government, require some sort of administrative machinery for implementing policies.

  • An instrument for implementing Laws and Policies: Civil services are responsible for implementing the laws and policies of the government. By carrying outlaws, it regulates the behavior of the people in society. By implementing public policies and programs, it delivers the promised goods and services to the intended beneficiaries. Efficient civil service can avoid waste, correct errors; limit the consequences of incompetence or irresponsibility while implementing laws and public policies.
  • Participation in policy formulation: Civil servants participate in policymaking by giving advice to ministers and providing them the necessary information. The administrative tasks of public bureaucracy include the formulation of policies and plans, executing and monitoring programs, laying down laws, rules and regulations, which affect human actions in almost all walks of life.
  • Provides continuity: Civil services carry on the governance when governments change due to elections etc. Ramsay Muir has remarked that while governments may come and go, ministers may rise and fall, the administration of a country goes on forever. It is needless to say that civil services form the backbone of administration.
  • Role in socio-economic development: The developing nations are struggling to achieve modernization of society and economic development and realize welfare goals. These objectives have placed challenging tasks on public administration such as formulation of economic plans and their successful implementation to economic growth and social change. Civil servants play an important role in socio-economic development in the following ways:
      • To develop agriculture & manage community resources such as land, water resources, forests, wetlands and wasteland development.
      • To facilitate industrial development, infrastructural facilities such as roads, electricity, communications, market centers etc. have to be provided. 
      • Setting the right developmental goals and priorities for agriculture, industry, education, health, communications etc.
      • Formulation and implementation of strategies and programs for the development and modernization of the nation.
      • Mobilization of natural, human and financial resources and their proper utilization for accomplishing developmental objectives.
      • Development of human resources to secure the necessary managerial skills and technical competence to carry out the developmental tasks.
      • Creation of new administrative organizations and improving the capacity of the existing ones for developmental purposes.
      • Securing the support of the people for developmental activities by involving them in the process of development by creating an appropriate attitude towards the socio-economic changes that are taking place in society.
      • Promotion of clean and green environment and protection of human rights.
  • Developing a sense of nationhood: Several divisive forces such as communal and ethnic conflicts, caste feuds, and regional rivalries often threaten national unity. In order to develop a sense of nationhood among the people of these countries, the civil servants have to resolve the sub-national and subcultural differences among the people.
  • Facilitating democracy: The civil servants play a vital role in maintaining the democratic ideals by assisting their political heads (Ministers) in policy-making function and in implementing the policies made. Since developing countries are new to democratic institutions, it is only the stable and efficient civil service that can strengthen democracy.
  • Calamities and crisis: Natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, and cyclones have also enhanced the importance of civil services. In the event of the occurrence of such natural calamities, the public administrators have to act quickly and undertake rescue operations in order to prevent loss of life and property of the affected people.
  • Administrative adjudication: This is a quasi-judicial function performed by the civil service. The civil servants settle disputes between the citizens and the state. For this purpose, the Administrative Tribunals, with civil servants as judges are established. For example The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. In addition to the above, some other functions performed by civil service are:
      • Assisting ministers in fulfilling their responsibilities towards the parliament and its committees.
      • Handling financial operations of the state.
      • Reforming and improving administration through O and M (i.e. organization and methods)

What is expected from Civil Servants?-

  • Honest intellectuals
  • purposeful persons
  • no-compromise-on-values attitude
  • sincerity
  • Decision-making
  • Integrity
  • commitment to the common good
  • questioning
  • conscientiousness
  • ability to think positive
  • neutrality and impartiality
  • credibility


  • There is a mismatch between positions and skillsets. Recruitment is not competency specific and often, the right person is not placed in the right job.
  • Lack of professionalism and poor capacity building.
  • An ineffective incentive system that does not reward the meritorious and upright civil servants.
  • Rigid and outmoded rules and procedures that do not allow civil servants to exercise individual judgment and perform efficiently.
  • Lack of accountability and transparency procedure, with no adequate protection for whistle-blowers.
  • Political interference causing arbitrary transfers, and insecurity in tenures.
  • Erosion in ethics and values, which has caused rampant corruption and nepotism.

Reforms suggested-

The reforms that are being suggested by NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ includes-

  • Recruitment
      • Promote an officer-oriented culture and focus on expanding the numbers of officers.
      • Objectivity in the recruitment and placement process
      • Reduce the number of civil services
      • Encourage lateral entry
      • The key to reform in civil services is encouraging officers to cultivate specializations based on their education and skills early on in their careers.
      • Upon induction, young officers should be assigned mentors, preferably with an officer having a similar functional specialization or with high-quality NGOs for values and soft skill mentorship.
      • Use of IT needs to be significantly upscaled for planning, forecasting staffing requirements, and recruitments.
      • The upper age limit for the civil services should be brought down to 27 years for the general category in a phased manner by 2022-23.
      • The number of staff at municipal corporations should be increased.
      • Efforts need to be made to outsource service delivery to reduce dependence on the administrative machinery.
  • Training
      • Alter the current system of training to meet job-outcome oriented goals.
      • Introduce mid-career training modules for all Services.
      • Introduce pre and post-training matching of skills to determine postings.
      • Mid-career exams/skill assessment might be undertaken to evaluate and decide on future postings.
      • Introduce the ‘living university’ concept of value creation based on outcomes and good ideals.
      • Develop ongoing training and immersion modules on a district-by-district basis.
  • Evaluation
      • Consider replacing annual confidential reports (ACRs) with multi-stakeholder feedback (MSF).
      • There is an inherent need to set key responsibility/focus areas and progressively reduce discretionary aspects to evaluate civil servants. Institute the online Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window (SPARROW) template in all central and state cadres.
      • Review existing schemes and introduce new schemes of incentives for extraordinary performance.
      • Develop benchmarks to assess the performance of officers and compulsorily retire those deemed unable to meet the benchmarks.
  • Governance
      • An inclusive policy framework with citizens at the center needs to be developed.
      • To bring further transparency to public affairs and adopt safeguards to promote accountability, effective monitoring of suo moto disclosures is essential.
      • The capabilities and knowledge base of central public information officers (CPIOs), appellate authorities (AAs) and information commissions need to be upgraded on a continuous basis to enable them to perform their assigned roles without external influence.
      • Introduce an appropriate system of checks and balances, including for the process of suspension, to ensure that officers are given their due process and are not vulnerable to vested interests and political pressures.
  • E-initiatives and Probity
      • Strengthen institutional mechanisms for the prevention and detection of corruption.
      • Strengthen implementation of a Centralized Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System (CPGRAMs).
      • Implementation of e-Office may be expedited in all ministries/ departments; all states/UTs may also be encouraged to adopt it.
      • Every department should seek to simplify their processes to cut administrative delays and ensure participatory feedback mechanisms for efficient service delivery. IT tools need to be expanded for single-window clearances and stakeholder consultations in the policy.
Some reforms that are being suggested by 2nd ARC includes-
  • The government of India should establish National Institutes of Public Administration to run Bachelor’s Degree courses in public administration/ governance/management.
  • Selected Central and other Universities should also be assisted to offer such graduate-level programs.
  • The permissible age for appearing in the Civil Services Examination should be 21 to 25 years for general candidates, 21 to 28 years for candidates from OBC and 21 to 29 years for candidates from SC/ST as also for those who are physically challenged.
  • Other Modes of Induction into the Civil Services
  • Capacity Building- Every government servant should undergo mandatory training at the induction stage and also periodically during his/her career. Successful completion of these training should be a minimum necessary condition for confirmation in service and subsequent promotions. Mandatory induction training should be prescribed for Group D staff also before they are assigned postings.
  • Domains should be assigned by the Central Civil Services Authority (the Commission has recommended the constitution of this Authority in this Report) to all officers of the All India Services and the Central Civil Services on completion of 13 years of service.
  • There is a need to introduce competition for senior positions in government (SAG and above) by opening these positions in Government (including attached and subordinate offices) to all Services. This principle would apply to all posts including those that are presently entered with the organized Group ‘A’ Services.
  • A good employee performance appraisal system is a pre-requisite for an effective performance management system.
  • A system of two intensive reviews – one on completion of 14 years of service, and another on completion of 20 years of service – should be established for all government servants.
  • In the proposed Civil Services law, the minimum statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures required to satisfy the criteria of natural justice should be spelled out leaving the details of the procedure to be followed to the respective government departments.
  • It is essential to lay down certain norms for recruitment in government to avoid complaints of favoritism, nepotism, corruption and abuse of power.
  • ‘Civil Services Values’ and the ‘Code of Ethics’ should be incorporated in the proposed Civil Services Bill.
  • A new Civil Services Bill may be drafted.
  • Constitution of the Central Civil Services Authority.


Dr. Ambedkar thought of the civil service as forming a protective ring around the Constitution unaffected by political changes, having an all- India perspective rather than a parochial regional one and secure enough to maintain an independent, non-partisan perspective without fear or favor.

So, a competent, impartial and ethical Civil servant is the key to safeguard Constitutional values, to keep the nation on the track of growth as a Civil Servant is the person executing the government policies, bridge between State and citizens.

Mains Question-

Civil Service is termed as the backbone of administration in a democracy. Suggest ways to reform the Civil Services in India considering the important role it plays in a democracy.


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