The UPSC performs the following functions:
(a) It conducts examinations for appointments to the all-India services, Central services and public services of the centrally administered territories.
(b) It assists the states (if requested by two or more states to do so) in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any services for which candidates possessing special qualifications are required.
(c) It serves all or any of the needs of a state on the request of the state governor and with the approval of the president of India.
(d) It is consulted on the following matters related to personnel management:
(i) All matters relating to methods of recruitment to civil services and for civil posts.
(ii) The principles to be followed in making appointments to civil services and posts and in making promotions and transfers from one service to another.
(iii) The suitability of candidates for appointments to civil services and posts; for promotions and transfers from one service to another; and appointments by transfer or deputation. The concerned departments make recommendations for promotions and request the UPSC to ratify them.
(iv) All disciplinary matters affecting a person serving under the Government of India in a civil capacity including memorials or petitions relating to such matters. These include:
-- Censure (Severe disapproval)
-- Withholding of increments
-- Withholding of promotions
-- Recovery of pecuniary loss
-- Reduction to lower service or rank (Demotion)
-- Compulsory retirement
-- Removal from service
-- Dismissal from service
(v) 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.
(vi) Any claim for the award of a pension in respect of injuries sustained by a person while serving under the Government of India and any question as to the amount of any such award.
(vii) Matters of temporary appointments for period exceeding one year and on regularisation of appointments.
(viii) Matters related to grant of extension of service and re-employment of certain retired civil servants.
(ix) Any other matter related to personnel management.
The Supreme Court has held that if the government fails to consult UPSC in the matters (mentioned above), the aggrieved public servant has no remedy in a court. In other words, the court held that any irregularity in consultation with the UPSC 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 UPSC does not confer any right to the post upon the candidate. However, the government is to act fairly and without arbitrariness or malafides.
The additional functions relating to the services of the Union can be conferred on UPSC by the Parliament. It can also place the personnel system of any authority, corporate body or public institution within the jurisdiction of the UPSC. Hence the jurisdiction of UPSC can be extended by an act made by the Parliament.
The UPSC presents, annually, to the president a report on its performance. The President places this report before both the Houses of Parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the cases where the advice of the Commission was not accepted and the reasons for such non-acceptance. All such cases of non-acceptance must be approved by the Appointments Committee of the Union cabinet. An individual ministry or department has no power to reject the advice of the UPSC.
The following matters are kept outside the functional jurisdiction of the UPSC. In other words, the UPSC is not consulted on the following matters:
(a) While making reservations of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens.
(b) While taking into consideration the claims of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in making appointments to services and posts.
(c) With regard to the selections for chairmanship or membership of commissions or tribunals, posts of the highest diplomatic nature and a bulk of group C and group D services.
(d) With regard to the selection for temporary or officiating appointment to a post if the person appointed is not likely to hold the post for more than a year.
The president can exclude posts, services and matters from the purview of the UPSC. The Constitution states that the president, in respect to the all- India services and Central services and posts may make regulations specifying the matters in which, it shall not be necessary for UPSC to be consulted. But all such regulations made by the president shall be laid before each House of Parliament for at least 14 days. The Parliament can amend or repeal them.
The Constitution visualises 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. It 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 Pensions5. Therefore, UPSC is only a central recruiting agency while the Department of Personnel and Training is the central personnel agency in India.
The role of UPSC is not only limited, but also recommendations made by it are only of advisory nature and hence, not binding on the government. It is upto the Union government to accept or reject that advise. The only safeguard is the answerability of the government to the Parliament for departing from the recommendation of the Commission. Further, the government can also make rules which regulate the scope of the advisory functions of UPSC6.
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 advise. However, the UPSC, being an independent constitutional body, has an edge over the CVC, which is created by an executive resolution of the Government of India and conferred a statutory status in October 2003.