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Union Public Service Commission - Constitutional Provisions

The conception of the Public Service Commission (PSC) dates all the way back to 1823's Macaulay Committee report which recommended the introduction of modern merit-based Civil Service in India. 

The current framework of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as an independent, unbiased, and politically neutral agency tasked with the job of recruiting a meritocracy stems from the 1950 Indian Constitution, which contains explicit provisions governing the commission's structure, functions, independence, and the sanctity of its recommendations. 

Additionally, it has measures that protect All India Services officials from improper government intrusion.

Composition of UPSC - Constitutional Provisions

Article 315 of the Constitution mandates the formation of a Union Public Service Commission, which is seen as a legal requirement for the Central Government to establish the UPSC. 

As a result, Article 316 vests the President of India with the authority to appoint the UPSC chairman and members.

Additionally, he is empowered by Article 318 of the Constitution to determine the composition, personnel, and periods of service of the Commission.

What are the minimum requirements to be a member of UPSC?

At least half of the Commission's members must have spent at least ten years in government service in India. Members of the UPSC serve in their current positions without being eligible for reappointment for a period of six years from the date of their appointment or until they reach the age of 65, whichever comes first.

Removal of UPSC Members

The UPSC was envisioned by the Constitution's authors as an autonomous body immune to the ups and downs of the country's changing political dynamics. This was accomplished by restricting the President's authority to remove members of the Commission to those designated in the Constitution.

Thus, Article 317 defines the grounds for dismissing a UPSC member, with misbehaviour appearing to be the most serious offence.

According to Article 145 of the Constitution, if a member of the Commission is dismissed for wrongdoing, the President shall bring the matter to the Supreme Court for investigation. The conclusion of such an investigation binds the President, who is obligated to execute the Court's recommendations. However, the President has never removed a Chairman or a member of the Commission for improper conduct.

Functions of UPSC

The UPSC's functions are defined under Article 320 of the Constitution, including the Commission's core responsibilities. 

It administers the examinations for appointment to the Union's services. The Commission assists two or more states in developing and implementing cooperative recruitment initiatives for any services requiring specialised qualifications.

Additionally, the Commission receives consultations on the following topics:

  • On all topics connected to the civil service and the recruitment of civil servants. That is, positions unrelated to the armed forces.

  • On the principles to be followed in the appointment of civil servants and officers, in the promotion and transfer of personnel between services, and in determining the suitability of candidates for such appointments, promotions, and transfers.

  • On any disciplinary proceedings involving an anyone operating in a civil capacity for the Government of India, including memorials or petitions in connection with such proceedings.

  • In relation to any claim made by or on behalf of a person serving or having served in a civil capacity under the Government of India that any costs incurred in defending legal proceedings brought against him in connection with acts performed in the discharge of his duty should be reimbursed from the Consolidated Fund of India.

  • With respect to any claim for a pension for injuries sustained while working for the Government of India in a civil capacity, as well as any disagreement over the amount of any such award.

Additional Powers: In addition to the functions outlined above, the UPSC may be endowed with additional powers pursuant to Article 321 of the Constitution. The act requires that such conferment be made by Parliament and law in relation to the Union's services and the personnel system of any local authority, business organisation, or public institution that falls under the Commission's jurisdiction.

Additionally, the Commission may be charged with additional responsibilities pursuant to presidential rules and directives, as well as conventions. The consultative role of the Commission is critical. The Constitution empowers the Commission to advise the Union on a variety of issues but does not require the government to act on such recommendations.

Additionally, the Union Government has the right to enact legislation restricting the Commission's advisory functions from time to time.

According to the Supreme Court, "the Public Service Commissions (PSCS and UPSC) are subject to the RTI Act and are required to furnish scanned copies of exam answer sheets and other materials requested under the RTI Act, 2005."

Issues with UPSC

Over the years, the UPSC's operations have exposed a number of deficiencies in its role and functional performance.

The following summarises them:

• It appears as though the UPSC is a victim of the government's proclivity for abusing the Union Public Service Commission (Exemption from Consultation) Regulation, 1958. By unnecessarily relying on the aforementioned law, the administration has gone so far as to restrict the Commission's jurisdiction from a number of higher-level positions, temporary, and ad hoc appointments.

• An unusual scenario occurs when the Commission's functional scope is expanded or contracted. While any enlargement of the Commission's scope requires parliamentary approval, the government retains the authority to delegate some responsibilities to the Commission. This paradox must be resolved if the Commission's independence and effectiveness are to be maintained.

• Additionally, the government has a history of delaying or deferring nominations despite receipt of the Commission's recommendations. This tendency implies a rejection of the Commission's recommendations, which must be checked promptly.

• The UPSC has been accused of operating with an extraordinary degree of secrecy. In the era of the Right to Information Act, the Commission may be unable to retain such a level of confidentiality.

As a result, the Commission's operations must incorporate procedures and systems that strengthen their transparency and accessibility.


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