The Constitution has provided an elaborate framework for the governance system in India. Part V, Chapter 1 deals with the Union Executive, Chapter II deals with the Parliament and Chapter IV deals with the Union Judiciary. The Executive Power of the Union vests in the President and is exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution (Article 53).
Article 74 provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as the Head to aid and advice the President, who shall, in the exercise of these functions, act in accordance with such advice. Article 75 provides that the Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Article 77 provides for the Conduct of Government Business.
Exercising powers vested by virtue of Article 77, the President has made the “The Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules”. The Rules stipulate that the business of the Government of India shall be transacted in the Ministries, Departments, Secretariats and Offices.
The Rules provide that all business allotted to a Department shall be disposed of by, or under general or special directions of, the Minister-in-charge, subject to certain limitations where consultation is required with other departments or where cases have to be submitted to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and its Committees or the President. These Rules also provide for the constitution of the Standing Committees of the Cabinet and each Standing Committee shall consist of such Ministers as the Prime Minister may, from time to time, specify.
The Rules also provide for appointment of ad hoc Committees of Ministers for investigating and reporting to the Cabinet, and, if so authorized, for taking decisions on such matters. The Rules also stipulate that it shall be the responsibility of the Departmental Secretary, who shall be the administrative head thereof, to ensure observance of these Rules in the Department.
STRUCTURE OF THE MINISTRIES/DEPARTMENTS
A typical Ministry consists of one or more departments each under the charge of a Secretary. Usually a Cabinet Minister is in-charge of Ministry with a number of Ministers of State and/or Deputy Ministers to assist him according to the work allotted. The functioning of a ministry can usually be divided into three different levels:
(a) Political level
(b) The Secretariat level
(c) The Executive level
A. Political Head
The Minister, the Minister of State, the Deputy Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are the political officers who are in-charge of a ministry. They come to occupy their position on the strength of their place in the party and board and not by virtue of any expertise or’ technical qualifications. Broadly speaking the functions of Minister In-charge of a Department are of four kinds.
I. The Minister initiates the broad policies which the department has to follow and decides all the important policy questions which may arise in the functioning of the department.
II. The Minister exercises general supervision over the implementation of the policy by the Department.
III. The Minister bears the responsibility for the policies and the administration of his Department before the Parliament. He answers in Parliament the questions relating to his Department. He has to pilot the legislation and to represent his department before the Parliament as well as the people.
IV. One of the most important functions of the Minister is to represent his Ministry in the Cabinet. He has to keep in mind the principle of joint responsibility of the Cabinet and ensure co-ordination of his policies with those of other ministries.
The Ministers of State, the Deputy Ministers and the Parliamentary Secretaries share such of the duties of the Cabinet Minister, as he may assign to them. Usually the responsibility of some specific work is allotted to a Minister of State while the Deputy Ministers and the Parliamentary Secretaries provide general assistance to the Minister in-charge.
B. The Secretariat Organization
Immediately below the political head, there is the Secretariat organization of the Department. The function of the Secretariat is to provide to the Minister, mature and expert advice for the formulation of policies and watch over the execution of these policies when they have been formulated. The Secretariat may be called the brain centre of the administrative body directing and controlling the administrative activities. The head of the Secretariat organisation of a department is called the Secretary. For the convenient transaction of business the Department is further sub-divided into convenient units as mentioned below:
The scheme obviously suggests that the Department is sub-divided into a number of wings each headed by a joint Secretary/Additional Secretary. Each Wing is sub-divided into division each headed by a Deputy Secretary; a division into branches each headed by, an Under Secretary and a Branch into sections each headed by a Section Officer. The functions of these levels of functionaries are be described in brief.
a) Secretary: The Secretary is the administrative head of the Ministry or the Department. He is the principal adviser to the Minister on all matters of policy and administration within the ministry/department. He is fully responsible for the efficient administration of the ministry/department before the Parliamentary Committe on Public Accounts, Estimates Committee and Committee on Public Undertaking, etc. He has to keep himself informed of the functioning of the department and exercise control over his subordinates. Mr. Gopalaswamy Ayyengar suggested that the Secretary should not involve himself in too much of routine. He should be concerned more with the overall policy issues. He should co-ordinate and guide the work of his subordinates rather than do most of the work himself.
b) Special Secretary: This level does not find place in the normal hierarchy. However at times a senior officer is designated as Special Secretary and carries the rank of Secretary itself. Such an arrangement was made for short periods in the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of External Affairs. However, this is an exceptional measure and tends to distort the normal functioning of the ministry/department.
c) Additional Secretary: Originally the officer next in the hierarchy to the Secretary was the Deputy Secretary. But in course of time new levels of Joint Secretary/Additional Secretary and even the Special Secretary came into existence. Various committees have adversely commented on the interposition of these levels between the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary. The post of Additional Secretary is rather more anomalous. There is no specific unit of administration of which an Additional Secretary is to be in-charge. Sometimes, he is placed-in charge of a department and does the work of a Secretary; at other time he is placed at the head of a wing and performs the task of a Joint Secretary. Sometimes he helps the Secretary in a specific field of activity. Richard Tottentam has observed that there is no difference between the functions of a Joint Secretary and Additional Secretary to be placed in-charge of some specific area of work and relieve the Secretary to be placed in-charge of some specific area of work and relieve the Secretary of some of his burdens. In that case he may deal directly with the Minister in respect of the particular area of work allotted to him.
d) Deputy Secretary: The Deputy Secretary is an officer who acts on behalf of the Secretary. He holds charge of a secretariat division and is responsible for the disposal of the Government business dealt with under his charge. He should ordinarily be able to dispose of a large number of cases coming upto him on his own responsibility. However, after independence the post has got rather devalued and there is hardly any decision which a Deputy Secretary is now taking on his own. Most of the important cases are submitted to the Joint Secretary and not even the Joint Secretary is taking many decisions himself.
e) Under Secretary: Under Secretary is an officer in-charge of a branch and exercises control both in regard to the discharge of business and the maintenance of discipline. He should normally initiate action on inward communication. He should be able to dispose of minor cases on his own and send more important cases to the Deputy Secretary in such a form that in ordinary course the Deputy Secretary should be able to deal with the case briefly. He is supposed to be a link between the office and the senior officers of the Ministry.
f) Section Officers: The Superintendents who are in-charge of sections are called Section Officers. A Section Officer has to supervise the work of his staff in his Section. He is also responsible for handling important cases himself. He distributes the work amongst the staff, trains and advises them in the discharge of their duties. He is also supposed to co-ordinate the work of different functionaries in his section and ensure prompt and efficient disposal of work. His other functions include adoption of proper methods of processing of cases, timely submission of arrears statements and other periodical reports, proper maintenance of section diary, file register, Assistants’ diaries and other necessary registers. He is also to ensure strict compliance with instructions regarding treatment of secret papers.
g) Assistants/UDC’s: An Assistant works under the orders of the Section Officer and is responsible for the work entrusted to him. Each Assistant is allotted a number of subjects whose cases he is to deal with. Selected Assistants may be authorized to submit cases directly to the Branch Officers. UDCs perform functions similar to those of the Assistant except that they are not ordinarily required to deal with cases which are of important nature. These functionaries are ordinarily entrusted with the work of a routine nature. For example, registration of papers, maintenance of circulars and other registers, indexing, recording, preparation of arrears statements, typing, comparing and dispatch, etc.
Functions of the Secretariat
In brief, the secretariat performs the following functions:
(i) It helps the Minister. It gets the feedback from the field agencies about the execution of the policies decided by the Minister. On the basis of analysis of the feedback data, the secretariat advises the minister either to adopt some new policies or to modify the existing ones.
(ii) Our democratic system of government is based on the Rule of Law. Many of the policies are expressed in terms of new legislation. While the legislative function of enacting the law vests with the Parliament, someone has to draft the law and place it before the Parliament. The secretariat assists the Minister in preparing the draft legislation.
(iii) Sectoral Planning and Programme Foundation- the plans for different sectors of the Government are prepared and placed before the Minister by the Secretariat. They have also to translate these plans into various implementable programmes. This is one of the very important functions of the Secretariat and is of great consequence in giving policy guidance to the field agencies.
(iv) Financial Control-
(a) Budgeting and control of expenditure in respect of activities of the Ministries/Departments; and
(b) According or securing administrative and financial approval to operational programmes and plans and their subsequent modifications.
(v) Supervision and Control- The secretariat has to exercise the necessary supervision and control over the execution of the policies and programmes by the executive departments or semi – autonomous field agencies. While they have to desist from interfering in the day-to-day working of these field organizations, the secretariat has to evaluate their performance and their working results with a view to advising the Minister in respect of further policy formulation.
(vi) Co-ordination and interpretation of policies-assisting other branches of the government and maintaining contact with the State Governments.
(vii) Initiating measures to develop greater personnel and organizational competence both in the Ministries/ Departments and its executive agencies. The Secretariat has to see that proper policies of recruitment, training, etc. of personnel at all levels are evolved so that adequate number of personnel of proper qualifications and experience are available at all times to man the various positions in the Secretariat as well as in the field formulations
(viii) Assisting the Minister in the discharge of his parliamentary responsibilities. The Secretariat has to prepare replies to the parliamentary questions, call-attention notice, adjournment motions, etc., which have to be replied to by the Minister. They have also to advise the Minister with regard to various policy statements and interventions in the debates in the Parliament.
Each Department may have one or more attached or subordinate offices. The roles of these offices are:
Attached and Subordinate offices –
(1) Where the execution of the policies of the government requires decentralisation of executive action and/or direction, a department may have under it executive agencies called ‘Attached’ and ‘Subordinate’ offices.
(2) Attached offices are generally responsible for providing executive direction required in the implementation of the policies laid down by the department to which they are attached. They also serve as repository of technical information and advise the department on technical aspects of question dealt with by them.
(3) Subordinate offices generally function as field establishments or as agencies responsible for the detailed execution of the policies of government. They function under the direction of an attached office, or where the volume of executive direction involved is not considerable, directly under a department. In the latter case, they assist the departments concerned in handling technical matters in their respective fields of specialisation.”
C. The Executive Organisation
The Secretariat, as we have seen, is responsible for discharging the policy making functions of the Government. Below the secretariat there is, in most of the departments, the executive organisation with a head of its own known as the Head of the Department. The Head of the Secretariat Organisation i.e. Secretary is not technically speaking the Head of the Secretariat Organisation. The Secretary is the Chief Advisor to the Government in the formulation of policies. Primarily his duties are in the nature of ‘staff’ rather than ‘line’ work. The executive organisation is the ‘line’ machinery of the department/ministry and is also often termed (rather confusingly) as a department with its own head who is officially styled as the Head of the Department. Such executive head is designated differently in different departments. Usually he is called Director or Director-General but there are also designations such as Inspector General, Advisor, Commissioner, etc.