Deputation of Cadre Officers and the Proposed Amendments – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to the States on January 12 that the Union Government proposes to amend Rule 6 (Deputation of cadre officers) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954. The proposed rules will provide overriding powers to the Union Government to transfer IAS and IPS officers for Central deputation.

The proposed changes remove the requirement of taking the approval of the State governments for central deputation of officers. At least six State governments have written to the DoPT opposing any such move. The rest did not respond, hence the DoPT further revised the proposal. The States have been given time till January 25 to respond to the proposal. According to a government official, if the States did not respond, the Ministry would send reminders and then notify the rules by publishing them in the Gazette of India.

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What are the present rules for the deputation of cadre officers?

Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is the cadre controlling authority of IAS officers. The same role is played by the Police Division in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Environment with respect to the IPS and the IFoS Officers respectively.

Rule 6(1) of the IAS Cadre Rules says an officer may, “with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government…” It says “in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.”

The Establishment Officer in the DoPT invites nominations from the State governments. Once the nomination is received, their eligibility is scrutinised by a panel and then an offer list is prepared, usually with the State government on board. The Centre would choose officers only from among those “on offer” from the States.

The States would relieve the officers picked up by the Centre at the earliest. Before any officer of the AIS is called for deputation to the Centre, his or her concurrence is required. Further, the officers have to get a no-objection clearance from the State government for Central deputation

States have to depute All India Services (AIS) officers, including the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, to the Central government offices and at any point, deputation cannot be more than 40% of the total cadre strength of the state.

Note: The total strength of any cadre is calculated by including central deputation reserve (CDR), which is around 40% of the sanctioned posts.

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What are the proposed amendments to Rule 6 (deputation of cadre officers)?

Four amendments are proposed to Rule 6 of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954. These include,

First, presumed as approved in case of delay: 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, “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government.”

Second, the number of deputed officers will be decided by the Centre: The Centre will decide the actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central government in consultation with the State. For that, the State should make eligible the names of such officers.

Third, the decision of the Centre will be supreme: In case of any disagreement between the Centre and the State, the matter shall be decided by the Central government and the State shall give effect to the decision of the Centre “within a specified time.”

Fourth, mandatory deputation in case of public interest: In a specific situation where services of cadre officers are required by the Central government in “public interest,” the State shall give effect to its decisions within a specified time.

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Why did the centre propose the amendments to the deputation of cadre officers?

There are a shortage of All India Services (AIS) officers in Union Ministries. The DoPT was unable to fill vacancies at the director and joint secretary levels in various Central ministries. For instance, actual deputation as a percentage of the mandated reserves fell from 69% (2014) to 30% (2021).

Note: Around 40% or 390 Central Staffing Scheme (CSS) posts are at joint secretary level (more than 19 years experience); 60% or 540 posts are at the rank of deputy secretary (9 years) or Director rank (14 years of service).

Only 10% of mid-level IAS officers were posted with the Union government in 2021, a sharp fall from 19% in 2014. The decrease in the central deputation of IAS officers becomes even starker as the total pool of such officers at this level expanded from 621 in 2014 to 1130 in 2021, an increase of around 80%.

The DoPT said in its communication that the States “are not sponsoring an adequate number of officers for Central deputation”. For instance, In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the number of cadre officers and those posted at the Centre stood at 125/20, 322/20 and 536/32 respectively. This number is very low.

The DoPT denotes most of the states are not meeting the central deputation reserve (CDR) obligations(around 40%). The CDR utilisation has gone down from 25% in 2011 to 18% presently. This underutilisation at the central level, particularly at the deputy secretary and director level, causes serious gaps in cadre management.

There are instances where officers are reluctant to take the centre’s deputations. Most officers avoid Central deputation as they enjoy better perks and powers in the States. For instance, a) A former West Bengal Chief Secretary, a 1987-batch IAS officer, had never been on Central deputation, b) As per the latest offer list on the MHA’s website, only 10 IPS officers from States have offered themselves to be available for Central deputation, including four Director General rank officers and only two Superintendent of Police rank officers. c) As of January 1, 2021, out of around 5,200 IAS officers in the country, only 458 were on central deputation.

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Why did the state government oppose the move of deputation of cadre officers?

First, Long term impact of the changes: There are opinions that the proposed amendment might facilitate the Centre to weaponise the bureaucracy against an elected State government. The contemplated changes have grave implications for the independence, security and morale of IAS officers.

If States begin to doubt the loyalty of IAS officers, they are likely to reduce the number of IAS cadre posts and also their annual intake. Instead, they may prefer State Civil Services to handle as many posts as possible. In course of time, the IAS will lose its sheen, and the best and the brightest candidates will no longer opt for the IAS as a career.

Second, according to the West Bengal Chief Minister, the proposed amendment is against the “spirit of cooperative federalism” and the “amendment unilaterally mandates the State government to make such a number of officers available for deputation as prescribed under [the] Central Deputation Reserve.”

Third, according to Kerala’s Law Minister, the proposed amendment was a bid to subvert the State’s authority guaranteed by the Constitution and facilitate the concentration of all executive power in the Central government.

Fourth, the state governments also said that the proposed amendment will weaken the State’s political control over the bureaucracy. This will create hurdles to effective governance and create avoidable legal and administrative disputes.

Read more: Why central deputation to 3 Bengal police officers not right?
What can be done to facilitate the deputation of cadre officers?

Mandatory deputation for particular ranks: The centre can make deputations mandatory to be empanelled in particular ranks in future e.g., in 2020, the DoPT changed norms and made it mandatory for IAS officers from the 2007 batch onwards to mandatorily 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. The same can be extended to other All India Services.

Address the real issue for shortage: Poor working conditions in junior-level posts, an opaque and arbitrary system of empanelment for senior-level posts, and lack of security of tenure at all levels are the real reasons for the shortage of IAS officers. So, the Centre should address these issues on priority.

Promote lateral entry to address the shortage: The shortage in central deputation can be addressed by actively promoting lateral entry.

Disincentivising states not deputing enough officers: If the states depute officers much below the mandated numbers then Union Public Service Commission can adjust the future cadre strength in their reviews. This will compel the states to depute adequate officers.

Proper adherence to existing rules from States: State governments should provide no-objection clearance in a timely manner so that the Central postings can be filled without any delay. The nominations from the State governments should include all cadre officers in a rotational manner.

Provide enough time for States to respond: In July 2001, the Centre unilaterally “placed at its disposal” the services of three IPS officers of Tamil Nadu cadre. In May 2021, the Centre unilaterally issued orders for the central deputation of the Chief Secretary of West Bengal just before his last day in service. Similar such instances, create a perception that the officers have been deputed to Center on grounds of inefficiency or as a punishment. The Centre can avoid such practices.

Sardar Patel created the AIS because he considered the AIS essential to knit the administrative framework of a vast and diverse country into an integrated whole, and to provide a connecting link between implementation at the field level and policymaking at the top. Hence, the Centre may relook at the proposed amendments and the States have to respect the rules and facilitate more officers for deputation to the Centre.

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