Proposed Amendments in IAS (Cadre) rules

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To address the critical shortage of IAS officers in the central government, the Narendra Modi administration has proposed severe new guidelines that will remove states’ ability to refuse New Delhi’s request for employees. The Union government intends to obtain overriding powers to transfer IAS and IPS personnel through Central deputation, eliminating the need for State governments’ permission. The letter was sent in response to a scarcity of All India Services (AIS) officials in Union Ministries. According to the DoPT’s email, the states “are not supporting an acceptable number of officers for Central deputation,” and the number of officers is insufficient to fulfil the Centre’s requirements. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already filed a protest with the national government, and additional non-BJP-ruled states may follow.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) stated in a letter to the chief secretaries of all state governments dated 12 January and titled ‘Proposal for Amendments in IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954’ that an officer whom the Centre wants on deputation would “stand relieved” from his or her respective cadre, even if the state government concerned disagrees or does not give its consent within the specified time. These revisions will be introduced during the forthcoming session of Parliament, which begins on January 31. The Centre has requested a response from the states by January 25. The DoPT had previously written three letters asking feedback from the states on December 20 and 27, as well as January 6, but when six states objected to the plan and the remainder did not reply, the proposal was changed. States have been given till January 25th to react. According to a senior government source, if the states do not react, the Ministry would send reminders before publishing the guidelines in the Gazette of India.

What are the amendments?

On December 20, the states received the first amendment proposal and were given until January 5 to reply. On the 27th of December and the 6th of January, reminders seeking a response were issued.

  • Rule 6 is being changed in four ways. One of the major changes proposed is that “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government” if the State government delays posting a State cadre officer to the Centre and does not give effect to the Central government’s decision within the specified time. Officers must currently get a no-objection certificate from the state government before being delegated to the central government.
  • Another suggested modification is that the Centre would select the exact number of officers to be delegated to the Central government in conjunction with the States, and the latter will make the names of such officials eligible. States are required to depute All India Services (AIS) personnel, including Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, to Central government offices under current regulations, and this number cannot exceed 40% of the entire cadre strength at any time.
  • The third proposed amendment states that in the event of a disagreement between the Centre and the State, the subject shall be determined by the Centre, and the State should “within a stipulated period” give effect to the Centre’s judgement.
  • The fourth suggested amendment is that in particular situations where the Central Government requires the services of cadre officers in the “public interest,” the State should give effect to its judgments within a stipulated time frame.

The DoPT is the IAS officials’ cadre governing authority. Similar letters were provided following clearance from the Ministries of Home Affairs (MHA) and Environment (IFoS) for the deputation of Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service Officers (IFoS).

In December 2020, the DoPT submitted a similar letter, but it was unable to fill director and joint secretary posts in several Central ministries. Around 40% (or 390) of the Central Staffing Scheme (CSS) positions are at the joint secretary level (with more than 19 years of experience), and 60% (or 540) are at the deputy secretary (with nine years of experience) or director level (14 years of service). Only ten IPS officials from states have offered themselves for Central deputation, according to the most recent offer list on the MHA’s website, comprising four Director General rank officers and only two Superintendent of Police rank officers.

To ensure that more officers come to the Centre, the Department of Personnel and Training changed the rules in 2020, requiring IAS officers from the 2007 batch to serve for two years in Central deputation within the first 16 years of their service if they wanted to be empanelled for a joint secretary rank in the future. Any official of the AIS who is asked for deputation to the Centre must first give his or her consent. Nominations are sought from state governments by the DoPT’s Establishment Officer. When a nomination is received, it is reviewed by a panel, and an offer list is created, generally with the help of the state government.

A shortage of public personnel and a question of jurisdiction

According to senior civil employees, the state’s ability to veto an IAS or IPS officer’s central deputation or send an objection or no objection notice is now ‘dead’ because of this alteration. Different areas of the civil service reacted differently to the amendments.

“In fact, this change calls into doubt the state’s authority over its cadre officers. The IAS rule is that the officers are recruited by the Centre, but they are assigned to state cadres by the state government. On the condition of anonymity, a retired IAS officer observed, “This is how the federal structure works.”

“If the Centre now has the right to keep a state official, it may recall any officer it wants at any time.” All the new amendment states are that. This might be utilised for political gain or to frighten state cadre personnel,” the officer stated.

Another group of officers believes the Centre enacted these regulations to guarantee it has enough civil workers to operate the Union government.

“The Centre has been dealing with a shortage of IAS and IPS officials since states have been reluctant to transfer their cadre personnel.” I checked a few days ago and found that the Centre has 645 IPS officer jobs, but only 390 are filled and the rest are open. A senior IPS officer functioning under the Union government remarked, “The scenario is identical in the case of IAS cadre officials as well.”

“This IAS cadre rule change would now be relevant for the IAS cadres, and a similar amendment for the IPS cadres must also be presented,” the IPS officer added.

According to a senior IAS officer, states must submit their reply by January 25. “Because these regulations are subordinate legislation, they do not need to be enacted during a Parliamentary session.” However, there are some complications in the case of changes, which may need them to be tabled in the house,” this person explained.

Bengal’s Stand

Meanwhile, states run by opposition parties have begun to oppose to such amendments. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the first to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing her opposition to the modification proposed in the first letter.

“The amendment disrupts the time-tested amicable arrangements which have prevailed between the Centre and the states in the subject of posting of IAS and IPS officials,” Mamata wrote, calling the measure “against the spirit of cooperative federalism.”

She said that “such revisions appear to put a permanent damage in the spirit of cooperative federalism and the consultative approach,” referring to how the Centre might overturn a state’s sovereignty over its cadre officers through the amendment.

She requested the Prime Minister’s involvement to protect the current regulations, which had been “violated” by “withdrawing/not giving effect to the proposed modification.”

After Ms. Banerjee allegedly skipped a review meeting with Mr. Modi on Cyclone Yaas last year, the DoPT directed West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to report to its office hours. The 1987-batch IAS official has never served on Central deputation and was set to retire on May 31. He is currently battling the Centre in court.

Other State who opposes the amendment

P. Rajeeve, Kerala’s Law Minister, stated that the state government would reject the Centre’s plan to change the IAS (Cadre) norms “if it violated the core concept of federalism.”

Mr. Rajeeve stated that the government will investigate if the proposed amendment was an attempt to undermine the State’s constitutionally mandated jurisdiction.

It would be opposed to any plan to consolidate all executive authority in the hands of the central government. “The government will investigate the problem and formulate a calibrated reaction as quickly as possible,” the Minister added.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently supported Tamil Nadu counterpart M.K. Stalin’s vehement opposition to the draught Indian Ports Bill. The Bill, according to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, undermined the state’s jurisdiction over ports and harbours. The proposed revision to the IAS cadre norms, according to Congress politician and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, will erode the State’s democratic influence over the bureaucracy. It would stymie good government and lead to unnecessary legal and administrative squabbles. Furthermore, the Centre might use the bureaucracy against a democratically elected state administration. The Congress has previously fought similar moves by the Centre to undermine provincial power.

Bihar, for example, has 248 IAS officials, but only 32 are assigned to the Centre, according to the DoPT. In Odisha, 25 of the 180 officials are assigned to the central government. The number of cadre officers and those stationed at the Centre in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh was 125/20, 322/20, and 536/32, respectively.

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