The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is the central recruiting agency in India. It is an independent constitutional body in the sense that it is directly created by the constitution of India.
The constitution contains elaborate provisions regarding the composition, appointment and removal of members, powers and functions and independence of the UPSC.
The constitution visualizes the UPSC to be the ‘watch dog of merit system’ in India. It is concerned with the recruitment to the All-India Services and Central Services-Group A and Group B and advises the government, when consulted, on promotion and disciplinary matters.
UPSC is not concerned with the classification of services, pay and service conditions, cadre management, training and so on. These matters are handled by the department of personnel and training-one of the three departments of the ministry of personnel, Public Grievances and pensions. Therefore UPSC is only a central recruiting agency while the department of personnel and training is the central personnel agency in India.
The UPSC consists of a chairman and other members appointed by the president of India. The constitution does not specify the strength of commission but has left the matter to the discretion of the president. Hence, the composition of the commission is determined by the president. Usually, the commission consists of 9 to 12 members including the chairman. The constitution, however, provides that half of the members of the commission should be such persons who have held office for at least ten years either under the Government of India or under the government of a state.
The chairman and members of the commission shall hold office for a term of six years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. However, they can relinquish their officer at any time by addressing their resignation to the president.
The president can remove the chairman or any other member of UPSC from the office on the charges of proved misbehavior, or in capacity. However, the president before removal refers the matter to the Supreme Court for an enquiry. If the Supreme Court, after the enquiry, upholds the cause of removal and advises so, the president can remove the chairman or a member.
To ensure independence, following provisions have been made in the constitution. Chairman & members can be removed from office by the president only in the manner and on the grounds mentioned in the constitution. The conditions of services of the chairman or a member, though determined by the president, cannot be varied to his disadvantage after appointment.
The entire expense including the salaries, allowances and pensions of the chairman and members of the UPSC are charged on the consolidated fund of India.
The Chairman of UPSC is not eligible for further employment in Govt. of India, or state. Similarly, a member of UPSC after retirement is eligible only for appointment as the chairman of UPSC or 9 state public service commissions. They are not eligible for any employment in Government of India, or a state.
The UPSC conducts examinations for appointments to the services of the union. It shall be consulted-(I) on all matters relating to methods of recruitment to Civil Services any for Civil ports (II) on the principles to be followed in making appointments to Civil Services and posts and in making promotions and transfers from one service to another, and on the suitability of candidates for such appointments, promotions, or transfers, (III) on all disciplinary matters affecting the central Government employees, (IV) on any claim by or in respect of central government employee in a civil capacity, that any costs incurred by him in defending legal proceedings against him in respect of acts done in the execution of his duty should be paid out of the consolidated fund of India & (V) on any claim for the award of a pension in respect of injuries sustained by a central government employee.
The UPSC presents, annually, to the president a report on its performance. The president presents this report before both the houses on parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the cases, if any, where the advice of the commission was not accepted and the reasons for such non-acceptance.
The emergence of central vigilance commission (CVC) in 1964 affected the role of UPSC in disciplinary matters. This is because both are consulted by the government while taking disciplinary action against a civil servant. The problem arises when the two bodies tender conflicting advice. However, the UPSC, being on independent constitutional body, has an edge over the CVC.