Union Public Service Commission

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC; Hindi: संघ लोक सेवा आयोग) is India’s central recruiting agency. It is responsible for appointments to and examinations for All India services and group A & group B of Central services. While Department of Personnel and Training is the central personnel agency in India.

The agency’s charter is granted by Part XIV of the Constitution of India, titled as Services Under the Union and the States.[2][3] The commission is mandated by the Constitution for appointments to the services of the Union and All India Services. It is also required to be consulted by the Government in matters relating to the appointment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary matters. The commission reports directly to the President and can advice the Government through him. Although, such advice is not binding on the Government. UPSC is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary and lately the Election Commission.

The commission is headquartered at Dholpur House, in New Delhi and functions though its own secretariat. Prof. David R. Syiemlieh is its current Chairman since 4 January 2017, and he will be retiring on 21 January 2018. He joined Union Public Service Commission as a Member on 25 June 2012.

Established on 1 October 1926 as Public Service Commission, it was later reconstituted as Federal Public Service Commission by the Government of India Act, 1935; only to be renamed as today’s Union Public Service Commission after the independence.

Constitutional status

Articles 315 to 323 of Part XIV of the constitution, titled as Services Under the Union and the States, provide for a Public Service Commission for the Union and for each state.[2][3] Accordingly, as per Art. 315, at Union level, Union Public Service Commission is envisaged by it. UPSC is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary and lately the Election Commission.[4]


As per Art. 316, the Chairman and other members of Union Public Service Commission shall be appointed by the President. In case the office of the Chairman becomes vacant his duties shall be performed by one of the other members of the Commission as the President may appoint for the purpose.[11]

Also, nearly half of the members of the Commission shall be persons who at the dates of their respective appointments have held office for at least ten years either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State. A member of a Union Public Service Commission shall hold office for a term of six years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier. Under Art 318, the President is empowered to determine number of members of the Commission and their conditions of service. Further, he can make provision with respect to the number of members of the staff of the Commission and their conditions of service too. Also, conditions of service cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.[11]

As per Art 319, a person who holds office as Chairman shall, on the expiration of his term of office, be ineligible for re-appointment to that office. But, a member other than the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission, or as the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State. Also, the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman or any other member of the Union Public Service Commission.[11]

Removal and suspension

As per Art. 317, the Chairman or any other member of a Public Service Commission shall only be removed from his office by order of the President on the ground of “misbehaviour” after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by the President, has, on inquiry reported that the Chairman or such other member ought to be removed. The President may suspend the Chairman or other member of the Commission until report of the Supreme Court is received.[11]

The President may also remove the Chairman or any other member of the commission if he/she:

  • is adjudged an insolvent; or
  • engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
  • is, in the opinion of the President, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.

If the Chairman or any other member cannot hold an office of profit or otherwise he shall be deemed to be guilty of misbehaviour.[11]


As per Art. 320, it shall be the duty of the Union Public Service Commissions to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union. It shall also assist two or more States, if requested so, in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any services.[11]

The Union Public Service Commission shall be consulted:

  • on all matters relating to
    • methods of recruitment to civil services and for civil posts
    • making appointments to civil services and posts
    • making promotions and transfers from one service to another
    • the suitability of candidates for such appointments, promotions or transfers
  • on all disciplinary matters against a civil servant serving in a civil capacity, including memorials or petitions relating to such matters.
  • on any claim by or in respect of a person who is serving or has served in a civil capacity, that any costs incurred by him in defending legal proceedings instituted against him in respect of acts done or purporting to be done in the execution of his duty should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • on any claim for the award of a pension in respect of injuries sustained by a person while serving in a civil capacity, and any question as to the amount of such award.

It shall be the duty of a Union Public Service Commission to advise on any matter referred to them; provided that the President has not made any regulations specifying the matters in which it shall not be necessary for Union Public Service Commission to be consulted.[11]


As per Art. 322, the expenses of the Union Public Service Commission, including any salaries, allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of the members or staff of the Commission, shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.[11]

Extension of functions

As per Art. 321, an Act made by Parliament may provide for the exercise of additional functions by the Union Public Service Commission w.r.t. services of the Union.[11]


As per Art. 323, it shall be the duty of the Union Commission to annually present a report to the President of the work done by the Commission. On receipt of such report, the President shall present a copy before each House of Parliament; together with a memorandum, if any, explaining the reasons where the advice of the Commission was not accepted by him.[11]

Organisational structure

The Commission consists of a chairman and other members appointed by The President of India. Usually, the Commission consists of 9 to 11 members including the chairman.[12] Every member holds office for a term of six years or until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier.

The terms and conditions of service of chairman and members of the Commission are governed by the Union Public Service Commission (Members) Regulations, 1969.[13]

The chairman and any other member of the Commission can submit his resignation at any time to the President of India. He may be removed from his office by the President of India on the ground of misbehaviour (only if an inquiry of such misbehaviour is made and upheld by Supreme Court) or if he is adjudged insolvent, or engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office, or in the opinion of the President unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.


The Commission is serviced by a Secretariat headed by a Secretary with four Additional Secretaries, a number of Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and other supporting staff.[14] The secretariat, for administrative purpose, is further divided into divisions, each undertaking a specific responsibility:[15]

  • Administration: Administers the Secretariat as well as looks after personal matters of Chairman/Members and other Officers/Staff of the Commission.[16]
  • All India Services: Recruitment to All India Services is done either by direct recruitment (through Competitive Examinations) or by promotion from the State Service. The AIS Branch handles the promotions of State Service officers to the IAS, IPS and IFS. It also handles policy matters relating to All India Services and amendments in the ‘Promotion Regulations’ of respective services.[17]
  • Appointments: It carry out appointments to central services based on Promotion(based on proposals from various Ministries/Departments/Union Territories and from certain local bodies) and by the means of Deputation and Absorption.[18]
  • Examination: It carries out merit-based selection and recommendation of candidates, through various examinations, to Group A and Group B Services of the Government of India.[19]
  • General: Primarily deals with day-to-day housekeeping works for Commission, like, arrangements and facilitation for conduction of Examinations by the UPSC, printing Annual Report etc.[20]
  • Recruitment: This branch carries out Direct Recruitment(out of the 3 possible mechanisms of : ‘direct recruitment’, ‘recruitment by promotion’ and ‘recruitment by transfer and permanent absorption’) by selection to all Group `A’ and certain Group `B’ posts of the services of the Union (including some Union Territories). These recruitment are done either by selection(interview) or through competitive examination.[21]
  • Recruitment Rules: The Commission is mandated under Art. 320 of the Constitution of India, read along the UPSC (Exemption from Consultation) Regulations, 1958, to advise on framing and amending of Recruitment and Service Rules for various Group A and Group B posts in the Government of India, and certain autonomous organizations like EPFO, ESIC, DJB, NDMC & Municipal Corporations(s) of Delhi. This Branch carries out this responsibility by facilitating the Ministries / Departments / UT Administrations / Autonomous Organisations in this regard.[22]
  • Services I: Handles disciplinary cases received from various Ministries/Departments and State Governments for advice of the Commission, as required under Article 320 (3)(c).
  • Services II: Handles all other cases that ‘Services I’ branch doesn’t. It compiles the Annual Report. Also, it coordinates visits of foreign delegations, correspondence with foreign countries and hosting of international events concerning Public Service Commissions, including the SAARC Member States.

Present members

As of 28 June 2017, the commission has 9 members including the chairman, who are:[23]

  • David R. Syiemlieh (Chairman)
  • Vinay Mittal
  • Chhatar Singh
  • Arvind Saxena
  • Pradeep Kumar Joshi (Dr.)
  • Bhim Sain Bassi
  • A.S. Bhonsle
  • Sujata Mehta
  • Manoj Soni (Dr.)

List of all chairmen

Following is the list of chairmen of UPSC

List of UPSC Chairmen (since inception)
Chairman Term Background
From To
Sir Ross Barker October 1926 August 1932
Sir David Petrie August 1932 1936
Sir Eyre Gorden 1937 1942
Sir F. W. Robertson 1942 1947
H. K. Kripalani April 1947 January 1949
R. N. Banerjee January 1949 May 1955
N. Govindarajan May 1955 December 1955
V. S. Hejmadi December 1955 December 1961
B. N. Jha December 1961 February 1967
K. R. Damle April 1967 March 1971
R.C.S. Sarkar May 1971 February 1973 Academician
A. R. Kidwai February 1973 February 1979
M. L. Shahare February 1979 February 1985
H. K. L. Capoor February 1985 March 1990
J. P. Gupta March 1990 June 1992
R. M. Bathew (Kharbuli) September 1992 August 1996
S. J. S. Chhatwal August 1996 September 1996
J. M. Qureshi September 1996 December 1998
Lt. Gen. Surinder Nath December 1998 June 2002
P. C. Hota June 2002 September 2003
Mata Prasad September 2003 January 2005 Indian Administrative Service of 1962 Batch
S. R. Hashim January 2005 April 2006
D. P. Agrawal August 2008 August 2014 Academician
Rajni Razdan August 2014[26] November 2014 Indian Administrative Service Officer of 1973 Batch
Deepak Gupta November 2014 September 2016
Alka Sirohi September 21, 2016 January 3, 2017
David R. Syiemlieh January 4, 2017 today Academician


As mentioned in Article 320 of the Constitution of India, the Commission shall be consulted on all matters relating to recruitment to civil services and posts in India. The Commission carries out its functions through the Secretariat, further divided in divisions. Details and work of each division is mentions above in the ‘Secretariat’ section of this article. In a nutshell, the Commission perform following tasks:[27]

  • Conduct examinations for appointment to the services of the Union.
  • Recruitment (Direct) by selection through interviews.
  • Appointment of Department officers on promotion, deputation and through absorption.
  • Framing and amendment of Recruitment Rules for various services and posts under the Government.
  • Disciplinary cases relating to different Civil Services.
  • On any matter referred to the UPSC, they can directly Advice the Government by the President of India.


UPSC is India’s central recruiting agency. It is mandated by the Constitution of India for recruitment to Central and All India Services of the Republic of India. It carries out this task through 4 modes:[9]

  1. Direct Recruitment
  2. Promotion
  3. Deputation/absorption
  4. Composite Method (Deputation + Promotion)

Direct recruitment

Conducted broadly by following two methods-[21][9]

  • Competitive Examination
  • Selection

Candidates can apply for these exams and interviews through a separate portal which is the only means(offline) for applying to these posts.

Competitive examinations

The Commission conducts examinations on biannual/annual/biennial basis throughout India for appointment to various Civil/Defence services/posts. The notifications for these examinations are published in the Gazette of India and Employment News/Rozgar Samachar. A shorter version of notification is also published in major Indian newspapers including regional language newspapers. Copies of the notifications are also sent to all Employment Exchanges and Universities, etc

UPSC conducts following examinations:[28][29]

  • Civil Services Examination (CSE)
  • Engineering Services Examination (ESE)
  • Combined Medical Services Examination (CMSE)
  • Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE)
  • National Defence Academy Examination (NDA)
  • Naval Academy Examination
  • Special Class Railway Apprentice (SCRA)
  • Indian Forest Service Examination
  • Indian Economic Service Examination
  • Indian Statistical Service Examination
  • Combined Geo-scientist and Geologist Examination
  • Central Armed Police Forces (Assistant Commandant) Examination (CAPF)
  • Section Officers/Stenographers (Grade-B/Grade-I) Departmental Competitive Examination

The examinations conducted for Civil Services have a success rate of 0.1%–0.3%.


The Commission has the responsibility of direct recruitment at various levels by the method of “selection” to Group “A” Posts and selected Group “B” Posts in the Central Government.

Vacancies are advertised in Employment News, and other major newspapers of India. Applicants are then short-listed through computerized ‘Preliminary Scrutiny’ software via a rational criteria. Higher qualifications and experience than that is prescribed in the notification may be the criteria. The short-listed candidates are then called for an interview. In case of a large number of candidates apply for a post or if it is not quite possible to short-list candidates on the basis of qualifications and/or experience, a ‘Recruitment Test’ may be conducted to shortlist the candidates.

These candidates are subjected to ‘Interview Boards’ which are presided over by Members of the Commission, assisted by eminent experts drawn from fields for which recruitment is being done.

Finally, the Commission approves the Interview-Board’s Report and recommendation is sent to the concerned Ministry/Department that had sought candidates for the concerned post(s).[9][21]


The Chairman or a Member of the Commission presides over the Departmental Promotion Committee Meetings for carrying out following promotions:

  • From Group “B” to Group “A”
  • From one grade to another within Group “A”, where promotion is to be made by Selection.

The Commission also performs promotions from State Civil/Police/Forest Services to All India Services through a “Selection Committee” presided over by the Chairman or a Member of the Commission in terms of the respective “IAS/IPS/IFS/Promotion Regulations” and selection of Non-State Civil Service Officers for appointment to the IAS under “IAS(Appointment by Selection) Regulations, 1997”.[9][17]


The Recruitment Rules for a number of posts provide for appointment by Deputation (including short term contract) and Absorption. If the post under consideration consists of Central and State Government officers, prior consultation with the Commission is required for selection of the officer. If the post under consideration consists of not only Central/State Government officers, but also include officers from non-Government Institutions, the selection shall be made in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission only. [9][18]


In November 2016, UPSC opened a museum for showcasing its possession of archival material including original pamphlets, documents, reports and various other records.[30][31] The 1st section displays various artifacts related to early administration in ancient and medieval India, and phases of growth of administration in modern India. It also provides information regarding civil services in China, USA, France, Japan and Bhutan. The 2nd section displays artifacts related to UPSC itself and the various examinations it had conducted. The 3rd section displays various reports of various committees appointed for suggesting improvements to quality of UPSC and Civil Services in India.[30][32]

The museum is located in the premises of UPSC Dholpur House and is open 10 am – 2 pm (Monday to Saturday). Entry is free and photography is allowed inside it.[32][31]


Although the commission is granted its charter by Constitution itself, its scope is limited in following matters:[33]

  • It cannot be consulted while making reservations of appointments to services or posts in favour of backward classes(SC-ST and others).
  • It shall not be consulted for selection for chairmanships or memberships of commissions or tribunals, and posts of highest diplomatic nature.
  • Almost all of group C and group D central services are fulfilled by the Staff Selection Commission, and not UPSC.
  • It is not consulted in the case of temporary selection or officiating appointment to a post if the person appointed is not likely to hold the post for more than one year.

As per Art 320, the president can also regulate or limit jurisdiction of UPSC w.r.t. any post, service or other matter relating to Central and All India Services. But all such regulations by the president shall be presented before Parliament within 14 days, and the parliament may amend or repeal them.[33]

The Supreme Court has too held that if the government fails to consult UPSC in the matters ascribed under Art 320, does not invalidate the decision of the government. Thus rendering this provision of constitution as only advisory and not binding.[34] Nonetheless, the government still remains answerable to parliament for deviating from the advice of the commission; thereby checking indiscriminate use of this provision by the government.[33][34]

With the formation of Department of Personnel and Training, UPSC is no longer concerned with the classification of services, pay and service conditions, cadre management, training etc, limiting its role to that of a recruiting agency. The formation of Central Vigilance Commission in 1964 also affected role of UPSC in disciplinary matters.


Transparency and public oversight

UPSC, along with other State Public Service Commissions, has came under public criticism for lack of transparency and accountability in its recruitment procedures. UPSC never discloses answer sheets and marking scheme for the examinations and interviews conducted by it.

Gender issue in application form

While the notification of UPSC claims “Government strives to have a workforce which reflects gender balance and women candidates are encouraged to apply”,[37] the application form available online doesn’t have the option for “others” under the category of sex. This was highlighted through an RTI appeal filed by a Madurai-based 23-year-transgender, Swapna.

Transgender Swapna and the gender activist Gopi Shankar from Srishti Madurai staged the protest in Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank Exams. Later, Swapna successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a woman candidate.