By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, July 8, 2023: Public Service Commission as an institution originated in Britain after a disastrous battle during the Crimean War in the 19th century when it was realized that civil support to military was ineffective and inefficient because those who were recruited to give this support were not selected based on merit but on consideration of patronage.

Way back then, civil service was also expanding along with imperial growth of Britain. There was universal recognition with spread of democratic institutions that recruitment to civil service should be based on merit determined through an independent body free from interference of the government. Hence the Public Service Commission was established in Britain. The United States also followed the same course. Over the years this institution started taking roots across the Commonwealth of Nations.

India, after a long period of governance through the East India Company transited to come under the direct control of the British government after the War of Independence of 1857 called by the Imperial British as Sepoy Mutiny .Merit based recruitment was adopted for governing India. With the evolution of governing structure of the British India through various legislations like the Government of India Acts of 1858, 1892, 1909, 1919 and finally1935 this concept continued to grow. First time a statutory body called Public Service Commission was established under the Government of India Act 1919 at the Central level and subsequently at the provincial level in 1935.

When the Constitution of India was drafted the model of Government of India Act 1935 was followed. No wonder the Public Service Commission got a constitutional status. Debates of the Constituent Assembly would reflect why the institution was kept free from government control.

Members and Chairmen were prohibited under the Constitution to be employed by Government after their tenure was over in order to ensure that those who constituted Commissions were not lured or tempted by political government in power to influence the recruitment process. The principal objective was to make the civil service merit based free from external influence and keep it politically neutral.

Therefore, important thrust should be to appoint members to the Public Service Commission equally through transparent process by a group of people who should be of high rank and not guided by narrow consideration of patronage or guided by caste, creed, sect, language origin, religion, faith ,belief and political affinity. The process should be neutral.

The Administrative Reform Commission has repeatedly asserted this in its recommendations. Instead of giving unfettered authority to the government whether at the Centre or at the State, the Committee approach has been invariably recommended . Over the years due to judicial interventions and growing public opinion, the process of selection to high statutory posts are being made through the Committee approach.

At this stage it must be stated that the concept of power advocated by Montesquieu incorporated in various constitutions in the eighteenth century ,nineteenth and early twentieth century recognized legislature, judiciary and executive as classical institutions needing to be separated to preserve liberty and contain arbitrariness and sustain democracy. In India since the commencement of the Constitution the bodies like CAG, Election Commission and Public Service Commission have acquired the status of independent bodies like judiciary.

As the collegium system in selection of judges has evolved need for Committee Approach in selection of members of Commission is being realized . It should consist of PM,CJI and Leader of Opposition at the Centre and similarly at the State level a Committee of CM, CJ of the State and Leader of Opposition should be constituted.

One could think of taking on the Committee heads of other constitutional bodies like CAG, Chief Election Commission or Chairman of Election Commission of the Public Service Commission. Unless persons of proven merit, high integrity and political neutrality are chosen to hold constitutional posts ,there would be lack of public confidence in these institutions. The constitution gives authority to expand the scope of activities of Public Service Commission.

The executives of Public Sector Undertakings, teaching faculty members of public universities and high level officials of other public institutions like urban and rural local bodies should be selected through this constitutional body. When there is need to take professionals from private sector process should also be through this constitutional body.

As it is, under the Constitution there exists provision regarding role of Public Service Commission in appointment of officials in the High Court and Supreme Court. A review should be made to what extent these provisions are being used in recruitment to these judicial institutions. In their annual reports the Commissions should reflect so that legislatures can debate on them.

The apex judiciary has observed that transfer and postings of high level posts should be done through an independent body and not through political executive. The best institution in this respect would be Public Service Commission.
Reports of the Public Service Commissions are placed before the legislature. The debate on these reports should be a part of the legislative agenda.

The role of Public Service Commission is confined to recruitment, promotion and disciplinary action. Under these provisions the Commissions should review to what extent civil servants recruited based on merit maintain efficiency, integrity and also remain professionally competent in the course of their career. In the course of review of careers of civil servants at certain age when the question as to whether they should be retained any further, Public Service Commission should be invariably consulted.

All these are pious hopes to make the Commissions to become the gate ways for improving leadership and ensure good governance in the nation. All these presuppose that the education standards in the schools, colleges and universities are maintained at high level and ethical values are preserved in the society by all stake holders.

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