The Central Secretariat Service (CSS) is one of the earliest organized services in the country. The origin of the service can be traced back to the year 1919, when the Imperial Secretariat Service came into being as one of the off-shoots of the Lewllyn-Smith Committee which had been set up on the eve of the introduction of the Montague Chelmsford Reforms. The Committee envisaged the Secretariat Organization in the nature of a pyramid, the apex of which was “the Secretary” and the base of the body of “Assistant Secretaries”. In March 1946, a Committee set up under the Chairmanship of Sir Richard Tottenham, diagnosed the then situation prevalent in the Secretariat as one characterized by “too few officers of the right kind and too many clerks of the wrong kind”. The Committee suggested that “to improve quality and reduce quantity, each Under Secretary’s branch should contain two sections and each section should consist of one Superintendent and three Assistants. Each Superintendent should have a smaller charge, but would be expected to do much more original work. He would not just supervise the work of number of Assistants. The Role of CSS While important structural changes have been made several times since 1919, one common thread running through all the stages of the evolution of the service, has been the role of the service in ensuring continuity of administration in the Central Secretariat which is in common parlance called “Secretariat Administration and House Keeping”. In the areas of policy making, where specialized unifunctional services are available and also in areas where these are not available, there is need at middle levels of the Government personnel who are especially trained to coordinate various expert’s opinions, ideas to present a balanced picture. Presently, these jobs are being largely handled by officers of the CSS, and it is because of this new role that the service today is different from what was originally envisaged for. There is also a need to have a strong permanent bureaucratic set up at middle levels of the Government who would be able to provide necessary continuity to its administration and policies. The ultimate objective of all Government business is to meet the citizens’ needs and to further their welfare without undue delay. At the same time, those who are accountable for the conduct of that business have to ensure that public funds are managed with utmost care and prudence. It is, therefore, necessary, in each case, to keep appropriate record not only of what has been done but also of why it was so done. The permanent bureaucratic set up should provide a delivery system for policy formulation, continuity in policy administration, monitoring & review of the implementation of policies/schemes, coherent institutional memory etc., which are germane to good governance at the Headquarters’ of the Central Government. The CSS Officers as per their duties defined in Manual of Office Procedure (MOP) and other relevant documents, are expected to perform on all counts viz. prompt action, checks on delays, linking of all relevant material including rules, precedents etc. and put up alternative solutions along with possible consequences and conclusions. The better skills in noting and drafting and in interpretation of rules and regulations by members of CSS is well-recognized. As a matter of fact, they facilitate maintaining the vital link between Parliament and the Central Secretariat, especially when it comes to handling of Parliament Questions, Assurances, Government Bills, etc. Another important area where they substantially contribute is the work relating to cadre management of various organized services, work relating to financial management and preparation of the budget of various Departments of the Central Government and litigation work of the Central Government, which are also largely being handled by the CSS officers. Thus, the CSS ensures continuity in the policies of the Government of India. The lowest functionary of the CSS i.e. Assistant, besides routine noting and submission of cases, is required to locate and collect other files or papers, information, data and material, if any, referred to in the receipt, or having a bearing on the issues raised therein, identify and examine the issues involved in the case and record a note. The section consisting of Assistant and Section Officer, while putting up a case, are required to see whether all the statements, so far as they are open to check, are correct; point out mistakes, incorrect statements, missing data or information(if any), draw attention to the statutory or customary procedure and point out the relevant law and rules; furnish other relevant data or information available in the Department; state the questions for consideration and bring out clearly the points requiring decision; draw attention to precedents; evaluate relevant data and information; and suggest, where possible, alternative courses of action for consideration. The observations of the Central Pay Commissions(CPC), two Cadre Restructuring Committees of CSS and Parliamentary Standing Committee on MHA in its 83rd Report about the role of Central Secretariat Service are as under:
*The CSS Officers at the middle and lower management levels of the administrative machinery are responsible for assisting in the formulation and monitoring implementation of policies concerning subjects, which are the main responsibility of the centre.
*The CSS ensures continuity of administration in the Central Secretariat, which is in common parlance called “Secretariat Administration and House Keeping”.
*The service is well recognized for better skills in noting and drafting and interpretation of rules and regulations.
*The lower and middle level CSS Officers skillfully coordinate, analyze and dissect the Reports of Commissions/Committees; and opinions, ideas and experiences of various experts to present a balanced view/picture on their noting after considering the programme and policy of the Govt. in office. These analysis later leads to policy formulation.
*The CSS facilitates in maintaining the vital link between Parliament and Central Secretariat, especially in handling of Parliament Questions, Assurances, Government Bills etc.
*There is substantial contribution by CSS Officers in financial management and preparation of the budget of various Departments of the Central Government and also in monitoring the plan schemes funded and contributed by Government of India but executed by States and other Implementing Agencies.
*The CSS Officers have been handling various litigation works quite effectively and protect the interests of the Central Government.
*The Service provides a set of trained personnel, who serve as carrier of the Secretariat tradition of institutional memory and bridge between the past and the present and between lower rung and top management of the Government. Such coherence facilitates exploring and establishing the best practices and techniques for future governance.
*The service personnel has been lauded for their changing role by Central Pay Commission (5th CPC):
*The CSS has undergone radical and qualitative changes and the tasks performed by it have become more complex, varied and function specific; and
*CSS Officers have revealed their potentialities for being able to perform much larger and complex tasks and have acquainted themselves as creditably as members of other services.
*In a nutshell, the service provides a strong permanent bureaucratic set up at lower and middle levels of the Central Government.