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‘Arbitrary Exercise of Centralised Power’: Ex-Bureaucrats on Proposed Amendments to AIS Rules

“While this change in the rules may appear to be a minor, technical one, it, in fact, hits at the very core of the constitutional scheme of Indian federalism,” the CCG statement highlights.
‘Arbitrary Exercise of Centralised Power’: Ex-Bureaucrats on Proposed Amendments to AIS Rules

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The Hindu

More than a hundred former civil servants who held top positions in Central and State governments during their careers have come out with a joint statement against the proposed changes to the All India Services (AIS) rules, which includes Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) branches.

The signatories, who are part of the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) have strongly objected to the amendments that “give unilateral powers to the Union to pick and choose any AIS officer(s) working in the States to be withdrawn from their services in the State of their allotment and brought to the Centre without the concurrence either of the officer concerned or of the State Government that the officer is serving.”

The statement emphasises important linkages between the AIS and the Constitution and terms the former a body “covenanted” in the latter. “For Sardar Patel, this feature was critical to guaranteeing members of the AIS their independence and their ability to speak their mind. Their Constitutional status and independence would give them the security to function as a protective ring around the Constitution.”

It adds that “It was not merely that Constitutional protection was available to members of the Service but that they were expected to be the ones protecting the Constitution from the vicissitudes of politics and centrifugal forces, thereby giving governance stability and endurance.”

The Union government has claimed there is a shortfall in this deputation, which has meant vacancies in key positions in the IAS as well as the IPS. Most states are not meeting their Central Deputation Reserve, the Union government has maintained.

The ex-bureaucrats fear that the amendments would effectively turn the AIS into three more Central Services. “It is possible that AIS officers may view the interests of the State as secondary and subordinate to the Centre and to the political regime in power there. AIS officers working in the State will be reluctant to take any decision or action against the wishes of the political party in power at the Centre for fear of being summarily transferred to the Centre and harassed there.”

Another concern that surfaces in the statement revolve around the Centre arbitrarily targeting AIS officers holding “Strategic Positions” in State administrations, such as those of Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Director General of Police, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police etc, thereby obstructing the state apparatus.

So far, the rules have also been opposed by at least 11 states, with most arguing that they would purge the federal contract. The 11 states opposing the changes are Rajasthan, Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar and Karnataka.

“It is abundantly evident that the proposed amendments have not been thought through and are being rushed through without adequate federal consultation in a manner which shows the present establishment’s by now familiar penchant for arbitrary exercise of centralised power,” the statement concludes, asking whether the “Government which holds Sardar Patel in higher esteem than any other figure in the history of the freedom movement pay heed to his words and drop the proposal to change the AIS Cadre Rules?

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