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Union Public Service Commission under Indian Constitution


Civil servants play an important role in successfully managing a country at multiple level. Therefore, recruitment, education, training, emoluments, service conditions, promotion policies, etc. are important. In order to fairly consider these issues concerning civil servants, an independent professional authority is called Public Service Commission is required. 

One of the most important features of our constitution is that the constitution itself contains a public service commission at both sate and central level. Although, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and State Public Service Commission (SPSC) are constitutional bodies, a Joint Public Service Commission is originated by a legislation by the Parliament. 

Why is public service commission needed? 

Recruitment of civil servants should be neutral, unbiased, and free of all kinds of bias. This is what benefits the system is to evoke confidence. Several steps have been taken to ensure objectivity and fairness at the time of hiring. The composition of an independent body in form of recruitment public service commission is one. 

Through this body the executive branch has been dispossessed of the power to recruit at higher levels of the civil service. Therefore, the body created is an extra-departmental body, like a commission, which functions outside the usual machinery of government. A special constitutional status is granted to this body to ensure an autonomous function. 

The commission is only a recruitment body and not an appointment body. The power of appointment rests with the government. The Commission is an advisory and recommendation body. Its decisions are not binding. Usually, the government accepts its recommendation, but it may not always accept what the committee proposes. However, in such cases, the reasons why recommendations were not accepted should be explained and documented. 

Why is it a commission type of organisation? 

The constitution provided for a separate commission from the usual type of department to deal with the recruitment of civil servants. The fathers of the constitution were probably guided in their decision by the fact that the tasks required experts and specialized knowledge longer and this facilitated collective discussion by a group of experts able to bring together their knowledge and experience to arrive at objective and informed decisions. Such a method of making decisions is collectively known as corporate method of decision making or function. 

In addition, a plural body such as a public service commission that includes experts in specialized and technical departments is important in the decision-making process. When several leaders discuss, biases are eliminated and objectivity is ensured. A commission operated outside the usual government apparatus, so it can be more flexible and innovative in its approach. The bureaucratic rigidity delays that characterized government services can thus be avoided. 

Importance of Constitutional Status to the Commission

The constitutional status is intended to allow the commission to function with fear or favors. This can only be promoted when composition, roles, and authority, privileges of its members, and appointments and evaluations on the accession and evaluation facility are protected by constitution. The commission can work without being affected by a political consideration or other external consideration. Thus, the discharge of the constitutional status is intended to provide security measures for a possible encroachment on the authority and independence of the commission either by the executive or the legislature.  

Union Public Service Commission

The Union Public Service Commission of India was established by the British government during British rule. In 1924, the Lee commission reported in its report on the establishment of an Independent and Fair Public Service Commission for India, and on the basis of this recommendation the Union Public Service Commission was established in 1926. 

Further, under Government of India Act, 1935, the Public Service Commission was established separately for central and state government bodies. After independence, agreements were made to establish an independent and neutral Union Public Service Commission for this purpose, the Government of India Act, 1935 model was adopted. 

Article 315 to 323 of the Indian Constitution have provisions for such agency.

  • ARTICLE 315: says that there shall be a permanent Union Public Service Commission for appointment to various posts of the central government service. 
  • ARTICLE 318: states that the Union Public Service Commission will be constituted with a chairman and fixed number of members. The President, appoints the Chairman and other members for a period of six years, he even determines the terms and conditions of their service. 

Composition of Union Public Service Commission

The UPSC consists of a chairman and other members appointed by the president of India. The constitution, without specifying has left the matter to the discretion of the President, to determine the strength of the Commission. usually, the Commission consists of 9 to 11 members including the chairman. Further, qualifications are also not prescribed for the Commission’s membership except one i.e.; one-half of the members of the Commission must have held a government (state or center) office for at least 10 years. 

Functions of Union Public Service Commission

Union Public Service Commission advises the government on matters relating the methods of recruitment and norms to be followed in making appointments to the civil services, either directly or by promotion. 

It advises the President on “all matters relating to methods of recruitment to civil services and for civil posts.”

The function of UPSC is to advocate for the appointment to administrative services of deserving and potential young candidates after selecting them through All India competitions. 

Next function is to look into the disciplinary matters affecting a person working under government of India or the State Government in civil capacity, inc. memorials or petitions relating to such matter.

The commission’s duty is to present an annual report to the President of the work done. A memorandum besides the report is presented before the Parliament, explaining the actions taken by the government on the recommendations of the Commission. Thus, it becomes a responsibility of the government to explain the cause if it has not accepted the recommendation of the Commission. 

State Public Service Commission

Parallel to the Union Public Service Commission at the Centre, there is State Public Commission (SPSC) in a state. Article 315 to 323 of the Constitution deal with the composition, appointment and removal of members, power and functions and independence of a SPSC. 

Composition of State Public Service Commission

A State Public Service Commission consists of a chairman and other members appointed by the governor of the state. Alike UPSC, the constitution has left the matter of strength to the Governor of the state. Similar to UPSC, there are no specific qualifications for being SPSC’s member expect one, one-half of the members should be such persons who have held office for at least 10 years at either Union Government or State Government.

Function of State Public Service Commission 

SPSC performs all those functions in respect of the state services as the UPSC does in relation to the Central Services. It conducts examinations for the appointment of State service officials. 

SPSC is consulted on matters of personnel requirement like:

  • Disciplinary matters, deciding suitability of candidates, their promotion and transfer.
  • The principles to be followed in making appointments to civil services and posts and in making promotions and transfer from one service to another. 
  • Any claim for reimbursement of legal expenses incurred by a civil servant in defending legal proceedings instituted against him in respect of acts done in the execution of his official duties. 

The Supreme Court has held that any irregularity in consultation with the SPSC or acting without consultation does not invalidate the decision of the government. Thus, the provision is directory and not mandatory. Similarly, the court held that a selection by the SPSC does not confer any right to the post upon the candidate. However, the government is to act fairly and without arbitrariness. 

Joint State Public Service Commission

The Constitution makes a provision for the establishment of a Joint State Public Service Commission (JSPSC) for two or more states. While the UPSC & SPSC are created directly by the constitution, a JSPSC can be created by an act of Parliament on request of the state legislature concerned. Thus, JSPSC is a statutory body and not a constitutional body. Two states of Punjab and Haryana had a JSPSC for a short period, after the creation of Haryana out of Punjab in 1966. 

The chairman and the members of a JSPSC are appointed by the President. They hold office for a term of 6 years or until they attain age of 62 years. 

A JSPSC presents its annual performance report to each concerned state government. Each governor places the report after the state legislature. 

The UPSC can also serve the needs of a state on the request of the state governor and with President’s approval. 

This article has been written by Khwahish Arya of Jamnalal Bajaj School of Legal Studies, Banasthali University.


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