Cabinet Secretariat Functions in India
The cabinet Secretariat of the central government of India plays a very important role in Indian administrative system. Before independence the Viceroy’s executive council used to perform the functions of distributing and setting various executive activities to be performed by different departments of the government. The council also acted as the adviser to the Viceroy.
After independence, however, the said Viceroy’s Executive Council and its secretariat eventually extinguished and when the independent India adopted the cabinet form of government, the old Viceroy’s Executive Council’s Secretariat was reshaped and renamed as the Cabinet Secretariat.
The Cabinet Secretariat functions are under the direct control of the Prime Minister. The chief of the secretariat is the Cabinet Secretary. In addition to this there are one additional secretary, one joint secretary, two deputy secretaries, two under secretaries and a number of other subordinate staffs of different categories. Till May 1977, there were three departments under the Cabinet Secretariat—viz, department of cabinet affairs, department of personnel and administrative reforms and the department of statistics.
However, after 1977 the department of personnel and administrative reforms has been taken away from the Cabinet Secretariat and placed under the ministry of the Home Affairs. In spite of this shifting the Cabinet Secretariat is still a big department consisting of more than five hundred different category posts.
It cannot be denied that the efficiency of the Central Cabinet depends much on the efficient functioning of the Cabinet Secretariat and especially of the Cabinet Secretary. It is the duty of the Cabinet Secretary to provide with adequate informations and data’s for discussion in the cabinet, finalizing the agenda for such discussion in the cabinet, to prepare the minutes of the cabinet meetings etc. etc. Naturally if they are not done efficiently and adequately it would be difficult for the cabinet ministers including the Prime Minister to take any positive decision on any matter of administration, and eventually it may put them in trouble or even defame them. Thus, the success of the cabinet form of government in our country depends essentially on the successful functioning of this Cabinet Secretariat.
The Cabinet Secretariat has to perform different types of functions:
- It is the Cabinet Secretariat which prepares the agenda of the meetings of the cabinet.
- It is to preserve all papers related with the decisions taken by the cabinet in various matters.
- The secretariat is to collect all necessary informations as to how the various ministries and departments have practically materialized the decisions taken in the cabinet meetings.
- It is the duty of the Cabinet Secretariat to keep the President of India, the Vice-President of India and all the ministries of the government well informed about the important activities and decisions of the government of India.
- The Cabinet Secretary is the chairman of the communities of secretaries.
- It is his duty to give advices and discuss elaborately all problems of inter-departmental nature and on the matters related with the question of co-ordination among the different departments.
- On permission from the President of India and being directly ordered by the Prime Minister of India the Cabinet Secretariat finalizes the rules of business and distributes the works to be done among the different departments of the government of India.
- It is also the duty of the Cabinet Secretariat to provide with all types of secretariat assistance to the other various cabinet committees.
These are, of course, the most vital or rather compulsory works that the Cabinet Secretariat is bound to perform. Apart from these they have to consider some other functions as well. It is the duty of the Cabinet Secretariat to:
- considers the question of enacting temporary laws on the subjects having emergency nature.
- It records and discusses on matters related with the President of India’s speech in the Parliament or his message therein.
- It considers the question of adjourning the session or dissolving the Parliament.
- It considers all the matters related with the terms and conditions of all treaties and agreements signed or to be signed by the government of India.
- It also considers the matter of sending Indian delegates to the foreign countries.
- Apart from all these type of things the Cabinet Secretariat is to consider the questions of taking any decision contrary to the decisions taken earlier by the cabinet or any modification thereof.
As has been said earlier the cabinet secretariat functions under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the latter controls it absolutely. To look after the day to day function of the cabinet secretariat there is the cabinet secretary who also acts as the principal adviser of the Prime Minister. The senior most member of the Indian Civil Service cadre is appointed as the cabinet secretary. He is not only the chairman of the secretariat but is also the chairman of the higher appointment board.
As regards the organization of the Cabinet Secretariat, it can be divided into four wings:
- The Main Secretariat,
- The O and M divisions
- The Military wing and
- The Economic Wing.
Each of these wings has their respective functions. The main secretariat is responsible for the secretariat works connected with the meetings of the cabinet and its various sub-committees. The main secretariat consists of branches like the cabinet co-ordination administrative and the general section. It also makes and maintains the records of discussions and decisions of the cabinet and its various committees like the defense committee of the cabinet, the joint planning committee of the cabinet, the foreign affairs committee of the cabinet, appointment sub-committee of the cabinet, the export committee of the cabinet and the like.
The O and M division is the abbreviated form of organization and management. Its main duty is to pay “intelligent and critical attention not only to what is done but also to how it is done and at what cost in time, labor and also paying attention to the design of the machine and its working processes and not merely to its end product.”
In fact 0 and M Division sets its primary objectives as to supply the administrative machinery the required leadership of high quality and the necessary drive thereof and by dint of co-operative effort to build up a common store of information mingling it with the necessary experience and competence in 0 and M work. The division of 0 and M performs its functions through the 0 and M units set up in each ministry or department. Each of these units is under the charge of a Deputy Secretary who performs his activities as its internal 0 and M officer in addition to his normal other duties.
The military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat also performs all types of secretarial works associated with the meetings of the defence committee of the Cabinet, the defence minister’s committee, the chiefs of staff committee, the principal personal officer’s committee, the joint planning committee, the joint administrative planning committee, the joint intelligence committee, the joint training committee and the like.
Likewise the fourth wing, the economic wing is also responsible for all secretariat work of the economic, production and distribution committee of the cabinet, the committee of economic secretaries and the supply committee etc.
The Cabinet Secretariat, as has been said earlier is headed by one of the senior most bureaucrats, a civil servant of the highest rank. He is always selected for this top post on the basis of his ability, character, seniority and administrative experience. He is the first member of the central government’s public service and accordingly he is “the ex-officio President of the Committee of Secretaries set up to advice the Prime Minister and his appointment committee on selections for administrative appointments. He eventually serves as a link between the political and the administrative process of India. It is he who represents the cabinet as well as the ministries and the departments.