Civil service reforms during the British colonial period in India were implemented with the aim of establishing a professional and efficient administrative system that would serve the interests of the British Empire. Read here to learn the history of civil services in India.
The East India Company established a civil service system in India to benefit its commercial concerns. It eventually developed into a well-organized system to handle the administrative affairs of India’s newly acquired territories.
In fact, the phrase “civil service” was originally used to distinguish between the Company’s employees working in the military and naval services from those working in commercial matters. The authority and responsibilities of civil servants grew over time.
History of Civil Services in India
Its beginnings can be traced back to ancient India’s Mauryan era.
- For effective administration in the growing Mauryan Empire, meritorious public personnel were needed.
- Adhyakshas and Rajukas were the titles given to government servants by the Mauryan government.
- The rules for hiring and promoting government workers, the requirements for loyalty throughout the hiring process, the procedures for evaluating their performance, as well as their code of conduct, are all laid out in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
- The Arthashastra mentions some checks and balances on their appointments and caution. It also suggests a continuous watch on the operation of the civil service, including regularly updating the monarch on their performance.
During Medieval India, Akbar started land reforms and created the Land Revenue System, which ultimately became a crucial part of the Indian Taxation System. His view of service was regulated and welfare-oriented.
Civil Service Reforms during British Period
By means of a royal charter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, the East India Company was established in the year 1600 CE with the purpose of trading valuable Indian goods like silk and spices.
- The Company built outposts or factories throughout the Indian coasts, particularly at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, to support its trade. The business needed staff to protect its property, which gradually led to the hiring of soldiers for their factories, which quickly transformed into their forts.
- However, because the East India Company’s mandate was restricted to commerce, it never established any specific services for the government.
- Officers of the East India Company used to be chosen by the company’s directors, trained at London’s Haileybury College and then dispatched to India.
The Regulating Act of 1773 gave the British government power over the Company’s management.
After being appointed Governor General of India in February 1786, Lord Cornwallis implemented a number of legislative and administrative changes.
- In order to enhance the general governance of the East India Company in India, he passed the Cornwallis Code in 1793. This law established the separation of the judicial and tax administrations.
- Due to his reforms and reorganizations of the Company’s administration, he is also known as the Father of Civil Service in India.
- Lord Cornwallis forbade civil officers from accepting gifts or bribes in order to curb widespread corruption among corporate employees. Even worse, he increased their pay and forbade the recruits from engaging in private trade for such employees.
Civil Service Reforms under Lord Macaulay
The Charter Act of 1833 granted native Indians the right to participate in administration in British India.
Under Lord Macaulay’s leadership, the First Law Commission of India was established under the Constitution, and it made recommendations for the codification of the Criminal Procedure Code, Penal Code, and other laws.
- After the Select Committee of the British Parliament’s submission of Lord Macaulay’s Report, the idea of a merit-based modern civil service in India was first floated in 1854.
- The report made the recommendation that the patronage-based system of the East India Company be replaced by a merit-based permanent civil service with entrance through competitive exams.
- A Civil Service Commission was established in London in 1854 as a result of the suggestions, and competitive examinations began in 1855.
The Indian Civil Services Act of 1861 was passed as a result of Lord Macaulay’s recommendations, allowing Indians to compete on an equal footing with British citizens in an open merit-based recruiting process.
- The age range for the Indian Civil Service examinations was initially established at 18 to 23 years old, and they were exclusively held in London.
- Indians have a more challenging time succeeding since the curriculum was structured to benefit British citizens.
- The first Indian to pass the test was Shri Satyendranath Tagore, the brother of Shri Rabindranath Tagore, in 1864.
Aitchison Committee on Public Services, 1886
Indians petitioned for simultaneous tests to be held in India over the course of the following 50 years, but they did not have much success since Britishers were wary of hiring many Indians because they believed the service would become too Indianized.
- However, in the years after the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885, there was a rising desire for simultaneous examination in India and London, along with a call to increase the upper age restriction. This led to more major civil service reforms in the country.
Aitchison Committee on Public Services was established by Lord Dufferin in 1886 to look at the issues with the Indian public service in response to these growing demands, particularly those made by the Moderate faction of the Indian National Congress, who supported the notion of representation.
- Additionally, the Commission proposed that the phrases “covenanted” and “uncovenanted” be changed to “imperial” and “provincial,” which was approved.
- It recommended that Indians take open civil service tests between the ages of 19 and 23, respectively.
- The covenanted civil service became known as the Civil Service of India when Aitchison’s recommendations were accepted.
- The provincial service was given that province’s name.
In terms of Indian history, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, which were implemented by the Government of India Act, of 1919, are best known for bringing dyarchy, or executive councilor and popular minister control, to the subcontinent.
- However, it also acceded to the long-standing demand for India to host civil service exams.
- In accordance with the pledges, the Indian Civil Service Examination started to be held in India starting in 1922 in addition to London.
- The Government of India Act of 1919 also allowed for the creation of the Public Service Commission of India, which was finally constituted in October of 1926 and had previously been suggested by the Islington Commission.
- In its 1917 report, the Islington Commission (1917) suggested that 25 percent of the top government positions go to Indians.
- The Islington Commission’s suggestion was rejected because of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, which suggested that one-third of all appointments to senior positions in the services should be made to Indians.
Royal Commission on the Superior Civil Services in India- Lee Commission, 1923
The appointment of the Royal Commission on the Superior Public Services in India, generally known as the Lee Commission, might be considered the next significant move in the permeation of civil services with Indian roots.
- The Commission, which had an equal number of Indian and British members, was established by the British administration in 1923 to examine the racial makeup of the superior Indian public services of the Government of India.
- Earlier, the Islington Commission (1917) had suggested that Indians should hold 25% of the senior government positions in its 1917 report.
- The All-India Services and the Central Services were two service categories whose current positions were assessed by the Lee Commission together with the recommendations made in the Islington Commission report.
- The Provincial Services were not taken into consideration because the Provincial Governments already had jurisdiction over them.
- Based on the Islington Commission’s recommendations, the Lee Commission recommended in 1924 that 40 percent of future entrants should be British and 40 percent should be Indians directly recruited, with the other 80 percent of superior posts to be filled by promotions from provincial civil services.
- The Lee Commission advised that the statutory Public Service Commission envisioned by the Government of India Act, 1919, be constituted as soon as possible in its report from the year 1924.
- The Public Service Commission was thus established in India for the first time on October 1, 1926. In addition to the Chairman, there were four other members. The first Chairman of the Commission was Sir Ross Barker, a British Home Civil Service employee.
- The Public Service Commission (Functions) Rules, 1926, were in place to regulate its operations rather than having them outlined in the Government of India Act, 1919.
Civil Service Reforms during British- 1940s
The Government of India Act, of 1935, which was adopted in response to the Simon Commission’s recommendations, included Services of the Crown in India among other legislative, executive, and judicial measures (Part X).
- For the Federation and the Province, respectively, this part provides for the Defence Services, Civil Services, Special Provisions for Judicial Officers, and Public Service Commissions.
- In the event of a Federal Commission, the Governor-General may appoint the chairman and other members; in the case of a Provincial Commission, the Governor of the Province may appoint the chairman and other members.
- The Federal and Provincial Service Commission was tasked with holding tests for appointments to the Federation’s and the Province’s services.
- Thus, the Federal and Provincial Commission provision persisted until the 1950 adoption of the Constitution of India, which superseded the Government of India Act, of 1935, following extensive discussion and deliberation in the Constituent Assembly.
After lengthy discussions and deliberations, the Indian Constituent Assembly chose to keep using the Indian Civil Service to run the country, much to the chagrin of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
He wasn’t opposed to the Administrative Service’s current recruitment process, but he did want new civil service hires to be familiar with progressive socialization as a guiding principle of state policy in addition to their early selection and specialized training.
The opinion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who had collaborated with these civil servants and held them in high regard, ultimately prevailed. Thus, the articles relating to Services under the Union and States were incorporated into the Indian Constitution by the Constituent Assembly.
Article Written By: Aryadevi E S