As the Centre’s dry spell with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers available to serve the Union Government continues, a proposal mooted in December 2021 to depute IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officers to the Centre without necessarily taking the State Governments’ nod appears to have been put in cold storage. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in a Right to Information (RTI) response that a final view on the proposal is yet to be taken and it cannot disclose the information held in a “fiduciary relationship”.
The proposal was moved as the Union Government is facing an acute shortage of All India Services (AIS — IAS, IPS and IFoS) officers, and despite existing provisions, States are not sponsoring adequate officers for Central deputation. In many cases, the officers are also not willing to serve the Union Government. According to the DoPT, only 10% of mid-level IAS officers were posted with the Union Government in 2021, a sharp fall from 19% in 2014.
On May 13, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) approved the appointment of 23 Joint Secretary rank officers in various Ministries, out of which only six were IAS officers and one officer belonged to the IPS. The remaining belonged to other Central services such as the Indian Audit and Accounts Services (IA&AS), Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS), Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), Indian Post and Telecommunication Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TA&FS), and Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IFOS), among others. Till November 2021, there were 20 Joint Secretary level posts vacant in the Government of India (GOI). A Joint Secretary is the third-highest ranking officer in the GOI.
In 2021, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) recommended 31 candidates, mainly from the private sector, for appointment as Joint Secretary, Director and Deputy Secretary in various Union Ministries under the “lateral entry” programme. The last such lateral appointments were made in 2019, when nine candidates were selected. Two resigned later.
The DoPT asked States to respond to its proposal to amend the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 first on December 20, 2021. It sent two reminders — on December 27 and January 6 — and further revised the proposal on January 12, empowering the Union Government to relieve AIS officers and depute them to its offices even if the State Government disagreed. So far, eight States — Odisha, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana — have opposed the move.
In response to queries by The Hindu under the RTI Act, 2005 on the response sent by the State Governments, the DoPT said that the comments were under examination. “Comments have been sought from States, Union Territories in terms of the provisions contained in Section 3 of All India Services Act, 1951 on a proposal to amend Rule 6(1) of the Indian Administrative IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954. The comments/inputs received from various State Cadres/Joint cadres and other stakeholders on the proposal are currentIy under examination, and a final view of the Government of India on the matter is yet to be taken,” the DoPT said.
The reply added: “Therefore, information sought is held in fiduciary relationship and exempted disclosure in terms of Section 8 (1) e of the RTI Act, 2005.” The Section, which exempts a public authority from disclosing information, states: “Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.”