union public service commission
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This article is written by Ritika Sharma.


Union Public Service Commission is often abbreviated as UPSC which is a commission primarily responsible for the appointments and examination for All India Services of Central Services. It is the major recruiting agency which is also known as India’s premier central recruiting agency. It becomes important to note that the prestigious posts of IAS, IPS are being regulated by this commission. From Article 315 to Article 323 in Part XIV of the Indian Constitution, there is detailed mention of public services. The concept of civil services has been an evolving concept wherein there have been many changes that are being seen in today’s era. It is important to understand the aspects of the Union Public Service Commission through a constitutional perspective and in the holistic manner. The entire aspect explained in the Constitution of India is known to be the major description of selection, tenure and removal of the officers as the Constitution is the fundamental law of land. 


In a general sense, a service which is provided by the government, such as hospitals, schools, or the police is termed as public services. India is a land of diversity. The country with such diverse conditions becomes prone to conflicts and differences, even in normal circumstances. India is the country which tends to celebrate the concept of unity in diversity and promotion of this feeling and belongingness leads to serve the nation in order to uphold its integrity. If there is any difficult task in our country, it becomes more difficult just because of the multi-lingual and multi-religious nature of our country as there are a lot of minority and backward communities because of the diverse aspect that is present. 

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In order to accomplish such a difficult task, the establishment of the Public Service Commission was being sought to accommodate such differences. It was established as Public Service Commission on 1 October 1926, which was later restored as Federal Public Service Commission by the Government of India Act, 1935 in order to be renamed as Union Public Service Commission after the independence that is after 1947. Presently, the commission is being headquartered at Dholpur House which is in New Delhi itself and it functions through its own secretariat. Arvind Saxena has been the Chairman of UPSC since June 2018.

Historical background

The Civil Servants for the East India Company used to get nominated by the Directors of the Company and were then trained at Hailey bury College in London after which they were sent back to India. The report of Lord Macaulay of the Select Committee of British Parliament was followed by which the concept of a merit based modern Civil Service in India was introduced in 1854. 

The Report recommended that the system based on patronage of East India Company needs to be replaced by a permanent Civil Service which should be based on a merit based system following the entry through competitive examinations. Hence, a Civil Service Commission was setup in 1854 in London. The competitive examinations started in 1855. In the initial time, the examinations for Indian Civil Service were conducted exclusively in London. The maximum age to appear in the examinations was 23 years and minimum age was 18 years. 

Entire syllabus was designed in a manner that European Classics had a major share of marks. This made it difficult for Indian candidates to clear the examinations. Yet, in 1864, the first Indian named Shri Satyendranath Tagore brother of Shri Rabindaranath Tagore cleared it in the first attempt. After three years, four other Indians succeeded and till the next 50 years, Indians complained for examinations to be held in India simultaneously without success. This was because the Britishers did not want many Indians to succeed and enter the ICS. It was only after the First World War and the Montagu Chelmsford reforms that this was agreed to and from 1922 onwards the Indian Civil Service Examination began to be held in India also, first in Allahabad and later in Delhi with the setting up of the Federal Public Service Commission. 

The first open competition for the service was held in England in June, 1893, and the ten top candidates were being appointed as the Probationary Assistant Superintendents of Police. The entry into the then Imperial Police became open to Indians only after 1920. Indianisation of the police service continued to be extremely slow regardless of the pronouncement and recommendations of the Islington Commission and the Lee Commission. 

The Royal Commission was established under the chairmanship of Lord Lee who was from Fareham, England. It was established by the British Government in 1923 in India. It consisted of equal numbers of Indian and British members. A report was submitted by the Commission in 1924 in which it recommended that the Public Service Commission has to be established. At that time, the Lee Commission proposed that there should be a provision such that forty percent of future entrants should be British, forty percent Indians should be directly recruited and the rest twenty percent Indians should be the ones who are promoted from the provincial services.

This led to the establishment of the first Public Service Commission on 1 October 1926 under the chairmanship of Sir Ross Barker. It was also granted a mere limited advisory function and the leader of the freedom movement consistently stressed on this very aspect. This then resulted in the establishment of a Federal Public Service Commission under the Government of India Act, 1935. Later on it was also given a constitutional status under that of the Constitution of India on 26 January, 1950. 

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Constitution and the Union Public Service Commission

The Constitution of India is known to be the supreme law of land. Hence, the Public Service Commission has been clearly mentioned in its provisions as follows:

  • The Constitution of India has envisaged the concept of Public Service Commission for both State and the Union under Article 315. Also, according to Article 315(2) provides that if two States agree to have one Public Service Commission, they shall have so after making the resolution passed to that effect. 
  • Article 316 talks about the appointment and the term of office of the members. In Article 316(1) of the Constitution, it is mentioned that the Chairman and other members of the Public Service Commission will be appointed by the President in case of Union or Joint Commission. The proviso makes a mention that one-half of the members of every Public Service Commission shall be persons who at the dates of their respective appointments have held any Government office at least for ten years. 
  • Article 316(2) of the Constitution provides that the member of a Public Service Commission shall hold the office for the term of six years from the date on which he has entered upon his office and in the case of Union Commission; the age is of sixty five years.
  • Article 317 of the Constitution provides for the removal and suspension of a member of the Public Service Commission. The Chairman or any other member of the Public Service Commission can only be removed from his office by order of the President on the ground of misbehavior after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by President, has, on inquiry held in accordance with the procedure prescribed in that behalf under the Article 145. The President can also suspend the Chairman or any other member of Commission under clause (2) of the Article.
  • Article 318 of the Constitution provides the power to make the regulations as to the conditions of the service of members and the staff of the Commission. 
  • According to Article 319 of the Constitution of India, the members of the Commission are prohibited to hold the offices after that cease to be such members. The clause (a) of the Article the Chairman or any other member becomes ineligible for further employment under the Government of India or under the Government of a State. According to the clause (b) of the Article the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman or any other member of the Union Public Service Commission or as the Chairman of any other State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State. 
  • The functions of the Public Service Commission are being defined under Article 320 of the constitution. The clause (1) provides that Union Public Service Commission is entitled with the task of conducting the examination for the appointment to the services of the Union. According, clause (2) of the Article, It shall also be the duty of the Union Public Service Commission, if requested by any two or more States so to do, to assist those States in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any services for which candidates possessing special qualifications are required.
  • The Public Service Commission can also be entitled with the additional functions under Article 321 of the Constitution. 
  • The salaries, allowances and the pensions are payable from the Consolidated Funds of India according to Article 322 of the Constitution of India. 

Hence, it is important to note that it is the Constitution of India under which the Commission is being described in detail. 

Leading cases with respect to union public service commission

There has been a major transformation that has taken place through that of the judgment and leading cases from time to time. It is important to note that the cases pertaining to the composition, removal and functions brought enormous changes in the system. The cases are as follows:

  • In State of Mysore v. R.V. Bidap, it was held by the Supreme Court that a member when appointed as Chairman in the middle of the term starts a new six years term subject to the other provisions of the Constitution.
  • In H.S. Bedi v. Patiala, it was held by the Supreme Court that provision of Article 320(1) of the Constitution is directory and not mandatory and any appointment by the Government without consulting the Commission would not be valid. 
  • In Kesava v. State of Mysore, it was held by the Mysore High Court that since the Commission is an advisory or a consultative body to the Government and also because under Article 323 the Government has to explain the reasons for non- acceptance of the Commission’s advice, it is not open to the Commission to withhold any information wanted by the Government. 
  • In Jatinder Kumar v. State of Punjab, it has been held by the Supreme Court that the phrase “shall be constituted” in Article 320(3) are to be construed as mandatory and accordingly in absence of consultation the action of the Government under any sub-clauses of clause (3) shall be null and void. 
  • In Badrinath v. The Government of Tamil Nadu, the issue of censure arised wherein it was held that the government should refrain from passing the orders pertaining to the censure. Thus the fact that censure is allowed but in certain cases. 


It has been observed that being a central recruiting agency, the UPSC is solely responsible to maintain the meritocracy system and bring about the best suitable people for the respective posts. It conducts the examination throughout the country and sends its recommendation to the government for the recruitment of the personnel for all-India services and central services in group A and group B. The role of the UPSC is highly advisory in nature and is not binding on the government per se. But, the government is answerable to the parliament if in case it rejects the advice of the commission. Above that, the UPSC is only concerned with the examination process and not with the classification of services, cadre management, training, service conditions and other aspects. These matters are handled by the Department of Personnel and Training under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. The government consults the UPSC on promotion and disciplinary matters. Hence, it becomes important to understand that the commission is highly responsible for the most crucial task. 

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