January 25, 2022 - 5:22 am

Centre Proposes An Amendment To IAS Cadre Rules

    Seeking to overcome the dire shortage of IAS officers in the central government, The Union government is planning to acquire for itself overriding powers to transfer IAS and IPS officers through Central deputation, doing away with the requirement of taking the approval of the State governments. The Centre’s move is set to put it in a collision course with the States, particularly those ruled by the Opposition.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of all state governments, dated 12 January and titled ‘Proposal for Amendments in IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) says that the Central Government has proposed four amendments to Rule 6(1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 dealing with deputation, and has sought the views of State governments before January 25, 2022. The existing Rule 6(1) states that a cadre officer may be deputed to the Central Government (or to another State or a PSU) only with the concurrence of the State Government concerned. However, it has a proviso which states that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government. The letter is an extension of an earlier amendment proposal that was sent to the states three weeks ago. In the first proposal, the Centre asked the states to specify a certain number of officers whom they would relieve for central deputation. The DoPT is the cadre controlling authority of IAS officers. Similar letters have been sent for deputation of Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service Officers (IFoS) after approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Environment Ministry respectively.

States are right in perceiving the proposed amendments as a serious infringement of their rights to deploy IAS officers as they deem best, especially when the cutting edge of policy implementation is mostly at the State level. The contemplated changes have grave implications for the independence, security and morale of IAS officers. If States begin to doubt the loyalty of IAS officers, they are likely to reduce the number of IAS cadre posts and also their annual intake of IAS officers. They may prefer officers of the State Civil Services to handle as many posts as possible. In course of time, the IAS will lose its sheen, and the best and the brightest candidates will no longer opt for the IAS as a career. Short-sighted decisions can do long-term damage to the polity.

In S.R. Bommai vs Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court held that “States have an independent constitutional existence and they have as important a role to play in the political, social, educational and cultural life of the people as the Union. They are neither satellites nor agents of the Centre”.  In a federal setup, it is inevitable that differences and disputes would arise between the Centre and the States. But all such quarrels should be resolved in the spirit of cooperative federalism and keeping the larger national interest in mind.