Union Public Service Commission (UPSC): Powers, Functions and Responsibilities

The UPSC is a central agency that has great responsibility for conducting examinations pertaining to Civil Services, Engineering Services, Defence Services, and Medical Services. It also conducts Economic Service, Statistical Service, and Police Forces examination.

The Union Public Service Commission of India was formed by the British Government during the British rule. In 1924, Lee Commission had suggested in its report for the establishment of an independent and impartial Public Service Commission for India and on the basis of such recommendation, the Union Public Service Commission was established in 1926.

Consequently by the government of India Act 1935, Public Service Commission was established separately for both the central and the state government services. After independence, arrangements were made to establish an independent and neutral Union Public Service Commission for the said purpose following the pattern adopted in the Government of India Act 1935.

Constitutional Provisions

  1. Article 315 to 323 of Indian Constitution has a provision for such an agency.
  2. According to Act 315 of the constitution of India, there shall be a permanent Union Public Service Commission for appointment to the various posts of the central government services.
  3. Similarly, as Act 318 of the constitution of India also stated that the Union Public Service Commission will be constituted with a chairman and a fixed number of members; the number of such members and the terms and conditions of their service is to be determined by the President of India. The President, as such, appoints the Chairman and other members of the commission for a period of six years.

Appointment and Tenure

  1. The Commission consists of a Chairman and ten other members. They are appreciative to follow the rules mentioned in Union Public Service Commission (Members) Regulations, 1969.
  2. All the members of the commission are appointed by the President of India with at least half of the members being the Civil Servants (working or retired) with no less than ten years of experience in Central or State service.
  3. The Constitution of India has also espoused certain measures to guarantee the neutrality and fairness of the U.P.S.C.
  4. The Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission has not been authorized to take any office of profit under the central or any of the state governments after his retirement from service as chairman.
  5. Furthermore, before the expiry of their term of service, the executive cannot remove the Chairman or any of the members of the commission from their service. They can be removed only through the means stipulated in the constitution. Apart from this, once these members are appointed the terms and conditions of their services cannot be changed.
  6. Art. 322 announces that the remuneration and allowances of these members including the chairman will be considered as expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India, which means that their salaries and allowances are not subjected to the approval of the Parliament.
  7. The Secretariat of UPSC is led by a Secretary, two additional secretaries, joint secretaries, and deputy secretaries.
  8. Every member can hold office for six years or till the time he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  9. A member can submit his resignation at any time to the President of India.
  10. On the other side, the President can eliminate him on the basis of misbehaviour.
  11. The UPSC submits a report of its work to the President annually. The report is then tabled in both houses of Parliament for discussion. The President places a memorandum in relation to the cases where the commission’s recommendations were not accepted. The memorandum elucidates the reasons for non-acceptance.

Functions of Union Public Service Commission

The duty of the Union Public Service Commission will be to conduct examinations for appointment to the services of the Union. Art. 320 of the constitution of India have categorically itemized the functions of the Union Public Service Commission (Tummala, 1994).

    1. Foremost function of Union Public Service Commission is to advocate for appointment in administrative services the meritorious and potential young men and women after selecting them through All India competitive examinations.
    2. Another function of U.P.S.C. is to assists them in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any service for which candidates possessing special qualification.
    3. Union Public Service Commission advises the President on “all matters relating to methods of recruitment to civil services and for civil posts.
    4. Principles to be followed in making appointments to civil services and posts and in making promotions and transfers from the service to another and on the suitability of candidates for such appointments promotions or transfer.
    5. Next function is to look at all disciplinary matters affecting a person serving under the Government of India or the Government of a State in a civil capacity, including memorials or petitions relating to such matter.

Other functions of Union Public Service Commission are as under:

  1. To conduct examinations for appointment to the services of the Union and conduct interviews for direct recruitment.
  2. To advise on any matter referred to them and on any matter which the president may refer to the appropriate commission.
  3. To exercise such additional functions as may be provided for by an Act of Parliament regarding the services of the Union and also with respect to the services of any local authority constituted by law.
  4. It shall be the duty of the Union Public Service Commission if requested by any two or more states, to assist those States in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any service.
  5. It is generally compulsory for the Government of India to consult the Union Public Service Commission in respect of all the above matters. Nevertheless, the President has the power to make rules, specifying the matters in which, either generally or in particular circumstances the commission may not be consulted. Under the Union Public Service Commission (exemption from consultation) regulations framed by the President in 1958, it is not obligatory for the President to consult the U.P.S.C. in the following cases.
  6. Posts in respect of which the authority of appointment, has specifically been conferred by the constitution in the President, Chairman of members of any Board, Tribunal Commission, Committee or any other similar authority, created under a statute or under the authority of a resolution of either Houses of the Parliament or by a resolution of the government of India for conducting an enquiry into any matter or advising the government of specified matters.
  7. Posts concerned with the administration of North-East Frontier Agency and any service or post in respect of which the commission has agreed that it is not necessary for it to be consulted. The temporary and officiating appointments can also be made without consulting the U.P.S.C. provided the incumbent is not likely to hold the post for more than a year. But intimation has to be sent to the commission regarding such appointment as soon as the posts are filled. Similarly there is no need to make any reference to the commission regarding the reservation of posts in favour of backward classes, Scheduled Castes, Schedule Tribes.

Independence of UPSC

The Constitution has made the following provisions to safeguard and ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the UPSC:

    1. The chairman or a member of the UPSC can be removed from office by the President only in the manner and on the grounds mentioned in the Constitution. Thus, they enjoy security of tenure.
    2. The conditions of service of the chairman or a member, though determined by the President, cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
    3. The entire expenses including the salaries, allowances, and pensions of the Chairman and members of the UPSC are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and are not subject to the vote of Parliament.
    4. The chairman of the UPSC on ceasing to hold office is not eligible for further employment in the Government of India or any state.
    5. A member of the UPSC is eligible for appointment as the Chairman of UPSC or a State Public Service Commission but not for any other employment in the Government of India or any state
    6. The chairman or a member of UPSC is not eligible for reappointment to that office for a second term.

UPSC and Central Vigilance Commission

Since the emergence of CVC, the role of UPSC in disciplinary matters has been affected. Both are consulted by the government while taking disciplinary action against a civil servant. Here, UPSC being an independent body has an edge over CVC which got statutory status in 2003. Recently, in order to ensure speedy

Here, UPSC being an independent body has an edge over CVC which got statutory status in 2003. Recently, in order to ensure speedy finalisation of disciplinary matters and to avoid possibilities of the difference of opinion between UPSC and CVC, it has been decided as a policy to prescribe only one consultation- either with CVC or UPSC. However, in disciplinary cases wherein UPSC is not required to be consulted, the consultation with CVC would continue to be made.

However, in disciplinary cases wherein UPSC is not required to be consulted, the consultation with CVC would continue to be made.


In order to exempt some posts which for reasons of National Security or some other reasons may not be required to be referred to the Commission for their advice, the Union Public Service Commission (Exemption from Consultations) Regulations were issued on September 1, 1958, under Article 320(3)(a) and (b) of the Constitution. These Regulations are amended or revised as and when the need arises. The following matters are kept outside the purview of UPSC:

  1. While making reservations of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens
  2. While taking into consideration the claims of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in making appointments to services and posts
  3. 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
  4. With regard to the selection for temporary appointments for not more than a year

The President can exclude posts, services and matters from the purview of the UPSC. The President can also, 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. All such regulations shall be laid before the Parliament which can amend or repeal them.

Mechanisation – Project Sampera

The Commission has recently undertaken a project called “SAMPERA” (Screening and Mechanised Processing of Examination and Recruitment Applications). A simplified single sheet common application form for all the examinations has been devised which will be scanned by using OMR/ICR technology.

The implementation of this project will mainly help in high speed scanning of data from forms eliminating manual entry. Other benefits will be accurate and faster generation of Admit Cards, Attendance lists with photo replica and signature facsimile of each candidate, and Error-free list of doubtful cases.

The main aim of this project is to cope with the increasing volume of applications through innovations and mechanised handling so as to reduce the processing time and send communications faster to minimized errors. The cases of impersonation/malpractices will also be eliminated and wasteful expenditure will be reduced.

Suggestions for rejuvenating UPSC

    1. To serve as a think-tank on personnel issues: It should go beyond the recruitment role to answer evolving issues relating to civil services and their role in a rapidly changing society.
    2. Association of Research Institutes and Universities in the functioning of UPSC: Services are often out of touch with new developments in technology and knowledge. UPSC should liaison with such institutions to conduct regular specially designed courses for administration
    3. Need of Decentralisation on the pattern of US: The increase in work of the commission has been manifold, it currently handles more than 14 lakh applications and scrutinises and advises in regard to 650 Recruitment Rules of different services/posts. There is a need of decentralization to effectively align with this increase in workload
    4. Keep in sync with changing times: UPSC so far has worked with remarkable competence, impartiality and integrity.

However a new world based on openness, accountability and delivery has emerged. UPSC needs to be in sync with these changes.

Powers of Union Public Service Commission (U.P.S.C)

Main power of Union Public Service Commission is its advisory power. It can give advises to the President and the governors of any State of the following affairs:

  1. On all matters related with the appointment of the civil services of the governments.
  2. The evaluation of the standard and efficiencies of the candidates for appointment, promotion or transfer in all civil posts.
  3. On all matters regarding the discipline and punctuality of the employees of All India Services.
  4. Affairs associated with the demands and benefits of employees working under the All India Civil Services and injured while on duty.
  5. Whether the payment or expenditure for any work of an employee of All India Civil Services will be borne by the consolidated fund of India.
  6. Regarding discipline and promptness in government functions of paying compensation to a government employee if he suffers any problem or financial loss due to the negligence on the part of the government, matters related with the punishment measures of those employees who have violated discipline or of all matters related with the interest of the government employees working under the central government.

The Constitution of India has made the Public Service Commission a simple advisory institution which is required to give advises to the subject sent to it by the President of India or by the Governors of the States. But to accept or refuse advises is the absolute discretion of the respective governments.

This is because India has adopted a responsible self-governing government where in the council of ministers cannot delegate its responsibilities to their employees to any other organization. Though at the same time, it should not neglect advises made by a commission consisting of experienced and expert persons.

In brief, The UPSC is the central recruitment agency in India. It is a sovereign constitutional body being directly created by the Constitution of India.

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By B2B

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