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This article is written by Preeti Pallavi Jena, pursuing a bachelor of law from the school of law, KIIT University, Odisha. This article talks about bureaucracy, its features, characteristics and functions.


The separation of powers of the government is made by distribution of power among three major branches of government namely, the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary but it’s all in the past. Now our structure still prevails the same though the executive body has escalated considerably and today, not only do we treat the executive as an important branch, but also, we see them as a branch with numerous employees and departments.

In a democratic state, the ministers are generally elected and re-elected periodically and there is a chance that after every election the state may experience a new government. Hence, for this very reason, the ministers have little knowledge about the administration of a state and can’t be considered as mature administrators. So, there arose a need to have a permanent administrative body that helps the ministers to run the state. This permanent body consists of people known as civil servants or bureaucrats. 

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The civil service system or bureaucracy has its origins rooted in the times when the British were ruling over India. The British took complete control of India’s administration through the Government of India Act, 1858. This was the beginning when the British ruled over India through a group of appointed experts. Within a span of less than a hundred years, the British had nurtured a capable body of administration that comprised mostly Indians who owed their allegiance to the British Government. This administrative body could be very well called as the sine qua non of British Rule in India. After India gained independence, at a time when the third-world states were struggling to build qualified and capable career services, the stand of India’s senior bureaucracy was strong and exceptional. It gave and is still continuing to give India an autonomy and continuity that has not been shaken even at times when there is uncertainty and unsteady political control at the National and State level.


Bureaucracy means arranging a lot of people who are required to work together. Bureaucracy means “rule by offices”. The bureaucrats assign government policy to consider the laws made by the elected officials and do it practically. These consist of permanent professional people who are part of the government’s executive. The main job of these people is to facilitate the working of government departments. Though they work under the ministers.

The civil servants hold perpetual positions in government offices. They generally join their administrations during their young people and keep on functioning as government servants till the time of retirement which is normally 58 to 60 years.

Characteristics of bureaucracy

There are 6 main characteristics of bureaucracy. They are:

Specialization & division of labor

In bureaucracy each person has their own job. In that particular part they are masters and experts. Here different people are assigned for various works. One single component of work is broken down & given to different people to perform or do their part. Together they combine their works. This is done so that the work can be done properly and one person will not have all the burden on him. This also does more work in less time.

Hierarchical authority structures

Bureaucracy has a chain of work. Each person has given their own work in the chain and each one’s work will be observed by their senior one. In a hierarchy, the power flows from the top and approaches the bottom. This is organized properly because work can be done in a better way and communication will be easier.

Rules and regulations

The standard procedures are clear, formal and written in the instruments at each level of the hierarchy. The workers will communicate among themselves to go with a flow and see who is lagging behind. Without these rules, nothing can perform systematically. Due to these rules and regulations, things can be made over-controlled.

The idea of technical competence

The bureaucracy has many offices but it takes specific works on the basis of their rules. The bureaucracy is impersonal. People working there don’t know each other properly. You have to hire someone who has adequate qualifications. Once you are hired, your activity will be monitored. And this idea is technical competence.

Impersonality and personal indifference

It doesn’t matter who you know, what you know, who you are, you are always different, unique. This is the reason a uniform way is followed by everyone. Bureaucracy does not discriminate. No special treatment is given to anyone. You have to do it in the same way as others do. This is the idea of impersonality.

A standard of formal, written communication

Bureaucracy prefers written communication more as compared to actual in person. This communication depends on the briefs made, emails sent, paperwork, etc, but needs to be done in written format. Here everything is systematic & documented. Every small detail also needs to be done through written communication not face to face.

Government policies

Once a government that is elected takes decisions on policy, bureaucracy gets the responsibility of implementing those policies. The political executive heads the policy-making but they need bureaucracy for its formulation. Hence, after bureaucracy plays an important role in forming those governmental policies.

Bureaucrats give necessary feedback regarding the effects of the policy to the ministers. It gives all the positive as well as the negative impacts of the policies. They also formulate alternative policies and then the minister can execute or adopt the policies that are made.


  • Role of bureaucracy in running the administration

The bureaucracy has the responsibility to make sure that the administration is running perfectly without any disturbances. They make the administration running as per the rules and regulations that are implemented by the government.

  • Role of bureaucracy as advisors to political executives

The bureaucracy advises the political executive for making decisions for the betterment of government and for smoothly running the government. Political executives have no knowledge regarding the functions of the government. Hence these bureaucrats guide them properly because they are highly educated and are experienced enough. Even the ministers take their advice for the proper work or utilization of the government policies. These bureaucrats provide adequate information to the ministers also.

  • Role in law-making

Here also they have a major indirect role. All the bills are drafted by them which the minister needs to submit to the legislation for making the law. The ministers contact the civil servants for help to provide all the necessary information to the legislation for the lawmaking.

  • Role in policy-formulation

The policies that are made need to be included in specific situations. This is a function of political executives. These political parties collect the data from the civil servants for implementing those in the policies. These civil servants help the political executives to identify the merits and demerits of the policies. After going on all the merits and demerits one by one, the political executive can choose any policy as the governmental policy.

  • Role in record-keeping

Bureaucrats maintain and keep governmental records. They collect and categorize the datas of government activities. They also look on the socio-economic statistics which are used for public policies and for future developments.

  • Financial administration

Bureaucracy plays a vital role in case of the financial administrations. The political executives who have very little knowledge take advice from bureaucrats for financial settlements, tax structures & also administration purposes. While dealing with respect to tax structures they collect the taxes and solve the disputes which have arisen or which may arise during the recovery of the taxes. They manage all the paperwork.

  • Responsibility for public relations

It is the responsibility of the bureaucrats to maintain relations with the general public. The ministers are somehow dependent on them because they inform their decisions regarding policy & try to communicate the interests, views, & needs of the public. The civil servants are the main agents who direct contact with people. They provide a two way link. They communicate to the government regarding the needs of the people and also communicate to the people the decisions that have been made by the government. Hence, after bureaucracy plays an active role here.

  • Collection of taxes and disbursement of financial benefits

The civil servants advise the political executives in respect of financial administrations. They provide advice regarding the tax administrations, dispute settlements, recovery of taxes etc. They also prepare the budget and taxation proposals. They also grant subsidies, tax reliefs, and many other concerns to the people.

  • Fixed salaries

Every individual from the Bureaucracy gets a fixed amount. Directly at the hour of the arrangement, he has apportioned a size of pay, which relies on the nature and level of his employment obligation. All the civil servants having a place with a specific class of managerial chain of importance are set in one size of pay. Each occupation likewise qualifies them for certain stipends.

  • Judicial work

The development of the arrangement of managerial equity, under which a few sorts of the cases and questions are chosen by the chief, has additionally been a wellspring of expanded semi-judicial work of the bureaucracy. The disputes including the award of grants, licenses, charge concessions, standards and so on are presently settled by the government employees.

  • Job roles

Weber accepted that obligations should be designated dependent on expertise and capacity. There should be no adaptable jobs. Workers should know about their position’s obligations and stick to them. Wandering outside of their assigned jobs just upsets the chain of importance of power. Joint effort, inventive reasoning and thought pitching are likewise firmly debilitated. Laborers should regard their chiefs and not violate limits.

  • Hiring basis

Weber pushed the best competitors with a specific range of abilities needed for the position should be employed to guarantee the best outcomes. There should be no special cases, just those people with the correct abilities and skills who satisfy the high guidelines of the association should be recruited. In the event that an individual isn’t completely qualified, they are not a fit.

Control over Bureaucracy

Bureaucrats have a lot of responsibility for themselves. This is why they also need to be checked or else they can misuse the power that has been given to them. This is a control barrier on them. Each & every state takes care & keeps a watch over the bureaucracy. Every state exercises it both internally and also externally.

Internal control

This means the control is made internally within the organization and not outside it. The organization is hierarchical and is divided into parts for its better function, the tools of internal controls are their need to be disciplined among them, there should be a leadership control, someone should be there to manage the budget issues and control the accounting and auditing part.

External control

It is not inside the organization, it happens outside the agencies. These can be the law making system, the legislature, the executives and the judiciary. There are many agencies that look after the works of bureaucracy. These bureaucrats are responsible for all big & small policies in both state and center. This acts as a communication link between the people & the government.


The bureaucracy of India post-independence can be rightly considered as the legacy of British rule in India. The system created, as a result, was of superior quality and extremely helped India after independence. The changeover of the bureaucrats from the colonial administration system to the newly gained democratic culture was smooth and this wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise of the civil body. Post-independence, most of the Indian administration was dominated by the ICS (Indian Civil Service) officers for almost two decades. 

Gradually, the ICS officers retired and by the end of the 1970s, most of them had retired and the responsibility of the entire Indian Administrative System came on to the shoulders of IAS officers. This could be called the start of the advent to the new age of Indian Bureaucracy. Today, the Indian Bureaucracy is not only powerful but also is capable of controlling the Indian administration through its ups and downs.


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