The Cabinet Secretary is the leader of the Cabinet Secretariat. He sits on the right side of the Prime Minister in times of the cabinet meetings, hears all discussions and takes part in it when it becomes necessary to provide the Prime Minister and other members with some necessary information, data’s and statistics. He thus remains a silent listener in the cabinet meetings. To aid and assist him there are a number of other IAS officers who are all very experienced and senior personalities in their service record. Their efficiency is of course beyond question.
The Cabinet Secretary and his office the Cabinet Secretariat is the most significant creation of the post-independence India though in England such an organization was created as early as in 1916.
In Indian constitution itself, however, there is no reference of any post of the Cabinet Secretary. In fact, the Cabinet Secretary is the successor of the secretary of the Viceroy’s Executive Council of the British Raj. After independence, a number of the Administrative Reform Committees stressed on the importance of creating a post of cabinet secretary, and also recommended that the post of the Cabinet Secretary be created with such importance and power that he can act as the real conscience helper for the entire public administration machinery in India. The Reform committees also recommended keeping the post open for competition so that all the efficient secretaries of the Government of India could go for it. Naturally the post of cabinet secretary is the most prestigious as well as coveted one in the whole public administration process and the people retiring from such a position can easily expect to be appointed as the Governor of any state or an Ambassador of India in any foreign country.
After independence the administrative responsibility was conferred to the cabinet consisting of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and 12 other ministers and in order to perform the administrative responsibility properly the cabinet committees were entrusted with the works of making adequate and efficient co-ordinations. It was however, soon felt that the entire responsibility of making co-ordination should be given to the cabinet committee only and hence Mr. Gopal Swami Ayanger, one of the most influential members of the Administrative Reforms Committee of 1949, proposed to create a small group of efficient people, taking them from different associate departments or ministries, who will look after the work of this co-ordination. Eventually this small group of efficient bureaucrats came to be known as the Cabinet Secretariat. In order to enable the secretariat perform its function efficiently the post of a Cabinet Secretary was created in 1950 and Mr. N.R. Pillai became the first Cabinet Secretary of independent India. The Cabinet Secretary is thus the most respected and senior most IAS officer of India and he is selected in this post on the basis of both merit and experience though in England a Cabinet Secretary is selected on the basis of merit only. G. S. Ayanger had prescribed four virtues of a Cabinet Secretary—efficiency, prudence, commands and energy which still remain as the main criteria and selection in this post.
Powers and Functions
The main powers and functions of the Cabinet Secretary are as follows:
- Firstly, the Cabinet Secretary prepares the agenda of the cabinet meeting and prepares all the necessary papers, documents and statistics to be supplied at the time of the meeting and also to preserve the minutes of the cabinet meeting.
- Secondly, it is his duty to inform various and concerned ministries about the decisions taken by the cabinet in its meetings and also to report the progress of various works done in the context of such a decision of the cabinet.
- Thirdly the Cabinet Secretary prepares a monthly report on the functions and progress of different governmental departments and sends it for information to the President of India, the Vice-President of India and the members of the central council of ministers.
- Fourthly, the Cabinet Secretary is the chairman of the committee of the secretaries and presides in all its meetings.
- Fifthly, it is the duty of the Cabinet Secretary to prepare the agenda for the different committees of the cabinet and also to maintain the record and minutes of such committee meetings.
- Sixthly, the Cabinet Secretary is responsible for collecting various informations and data’s that may be required at the time of the meeting and must keep the ministers well aware of those informations and data’s. The informations and documents of which he always keeps record of are the documents of the President’s speech and messages delivered to the Parliament documents related with different laws and ordinances, the papers related with the proposals of summoning, adjourning or dissolving the Lok Sabha, papers related with the treaties and agreements with the foreign states, papers related with different enquiry committees their formation and reports etc. papers related with the conflict between or among the different departments of the government, all papers related with the question of revaluation or reconsideration of cabinet decisions and the papers which contains the subjects which the President of India or the Prime Minister of India wish to place before the cabinet meetings. As the Cabinet Secretary is the custodian of all these papers it is his duty to preserve them safely and with care.
- Seventhly, generally the cabinet takes various decisions at different times and it is the duty of the Cabinet Secretary to keep the records of those decisions and implement them properly in time. Lastly, another most important task of the cabinet secretary is to make co-ordinations among the different departments of the government of India.
From the above analysis it is evident that the Cabinet Secretary holds a key position in Indian administrative system.
The Cabinet Secretary is the principal adviser of the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the cabinet committee.
He is the leader and the supreme authority of the whole public service cadres in India.
He is the person who keeps link between the Prime Minister’s office and other department of the government.
It is he who acts as coordinator between different departments and the ministers.
He is also the link between the public servants or bureaucrats and the political world in India.
The Cabinet Secretary is the Chairman of the Central Establishment Board, the committee of secretaries on administration and the conference of the chief secretaries of the states.
He is the chief staff functionary of the Prime Minister and even some call him as the ‘ear and eye’ and the principal power of the Prime Minister.
Of course, as the Cabinet Secretary has to depend on his subordinates for performing his own allotted works, his success mainly depends on his own leadership quality, character, ability, honesty, reasoning capacity and sense of responsibility only these qualities can elevate his status in the service to such a height so as to entitle him to be regarded as the first member of the public service under the control of the central government.
The cabinet secretaries could hold their position with dignity and authority.