The result of Civil Services Examination 2019 has, once again, become the subject of controversy. On 4 August 2020, when the Union Public Service Commission declared final result, recommending “829 candidates in order of merit for appointment to IAS, IPS, IFS and Central Services Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’ against 927 vacancies”, criticism emerged over non-declaration of a complete list of selected candidates and making of reserved, or waiting list of candidates. The UPSC issued clarifications, justifying its action. The commission has said that its policy is in favour of reserved category candidates — SCs, STs and OBCs.
Now, the UPSC has made recommendation of 89 candidates, which include 73 General, 14 OBC, 1 EWS and 1 SC, for filling up the remaining vacancies. This has not only added fresh fuel to the controversy but is now also surrounded by disinformation and sexism — the name of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s daughter Anjali Birla also figures in the recommended candidates’ list. People on social media have been sharing her pictures with sexist remarks on her dressing sense and spreading disinformation claiming that she has been selected without appearing in the examination.
I analyse the controversy surrounding the Civil Services Examination 2019 result by looking into its genesis and examine the UPSC’s claim that its policy of declaring the result (recommending some names separately) is beneficial for the reserved category candidates. I also trace the logic of a waiting list and whom does it benefit, and look into the other possible solutions of this controversy.
The genesis of the controversy
The genesis of the present controversy can be traced back to the amendment of Civil Service Examination Rules (vide notification dated 4.12.2004). The amendment was made to enable candidates of reserved categories to exercise their choice of Services. But it was challenged in the Supreme Court, and a constitutional bench of the apex court led by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan upheld the amendments in the Union of India verses Ramesh Ram and Others (May 07, 2010). The reading of this judgment gives a clear picture about the controversy around preparation/declaration of Civil Services Examination results.
The Rule 16 of Civil Services Rules lays down the manner of selection, preparation of merit list and selection of candidates. Rule 16(1) states that “after interview, the candidates will be arranged by the Commission in the order of merit as disclosed by the aggregate marks finally awarded to each candidate in the Main Examination. Thereafter, the Commission shall, for the purpose of recommending candidates against unreserved vacancies, fix a general qualifying mark with reference to the number of unreserved vacancies to be filled up on the basis of the Main Examination. For the purpose of recommending Reserved Category candidates belonging to SCs, STs & OBCs against reserved vacancies, the Commission may relax the general qualifying standard with reference to number of reserved vacancies to be filled up in each of these categories on the basis of the Main Examination. Provided that the candidates belonging to the SCs, STs & OBCs who have not availed themselves of any of the concessions or relaxations in the eligibility or the selection criteria, at any stage of the examination and who after taking into account the general qualifying standards are found fit for recommendation by the Commission shall not be recommended against the vacancies reserved for SCs, STs & OBCs”.
Rule 16(1) clearly stipulates that candidates of reserved category who have scored marks above the general qualifying standard shall be recommended in the general category if such candidates have not availed concession/relaxation in (1) age, (2) minimum educational qualification, (3) number of attempts, and (4) qualifying marks at any stage of examination. Although this rule enables candidates of reserved categories to qualify in the general category, it also creates problems in Service allotment because there is a possibility that such candidates would not be able to get higher services while being in the general category. And hence, for the purpose of service allotment to such candidates, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) made the amendment in the Civil Services Examination Rules and added rule 16 (2), which provides that “while making service allocation, the candidates belonging to SCs, STs & OBCs recommended against unreserved vacancies may be adjusted against reserved vacancies by the Govt. if by this process they get a service of higher choice in the order of their preference”.
Individual rights versus community interest
The rule 16(1) of Civil Services Examination enables candidates of reserved category to qualify in general category but its outcome could also lead to allotment of lower Services. However, rule 16 (2) gives right to such candidates to claim a seat in the reserved category, which would enable them to get ‘good’ Service. Therefore, Rule 16(2) is beneficial for those reserved category candidates, who qualify in the general category, in getting their preferred choice of Services. But their exercise of the choice to move from general category to reserved category creates vacancy in the general list and could lead to higher numbers in the reserved categories, which is not permissible because the number of vacancies in each category gets fixed at the time of exam advertisement. To avoid this problem, the UPSC has invented the strategy of waiting list.
The process of shifting of SC, ST and OBC candidates qualified in general/open category to their respective categories is actually fixing them in the reserved categories. This reduces overall number of reserved category candidates in Civil Services, and hence this exercise is harmful for the overall community interest of reserved categories. However, not allowing reserved category candidates qualified in the general category to claim ‘good’ Services in the reserved category would amount to punishing them for their hard work, because other candidates of reserved category might get higher Services despite scoring low marks. Our Constitution prioritises individual rights over community interest, that is why the Supreme Court upheld the amendment rules as it protects individual rights.
The rationale behind waiting list
The moving of SC, ST and OBC candidates from general category to reserved category in pursuit of ‘better’ Services creates vacancy in the general category. Since the reverse hardly happens, seats do not get generated in reserved categories. The only way through which seats can be generated in the reserved category is when somebody opts not to join the Civil Services. Some candidates of general category and reserved category prefer not to join because they are already serving in the Civil Service but have appeared again in hope of getting better Service but have not got the same, or have been selected in the better administrative service of any state public service commission.
The movement of SC, ST and OBC candidates from general category to reserved category can throw out lower rank holder candidates from reserved category. To avoid such a situation, the Commission does not declare the result for all vacancies at one go and instead waits before announcing the second list. This delay helps UPSC in enabling reserved category candidates qualified in the general category in getting their desired Service from reserved seats and saves possibility of facing litigation from candidates who might be thrown out of the final selection. In the waiting list, the Commission keeps mostly candidates of general category, because a large number of vacancies would arise in this category only. This might be the reason why no ST and just one SC candidate figure in the recently recommended waiting list.
An alternative solution needs to be explored. One of them could be disaggregating Services from having a common exam. There could be a separate exam for each Civil Service or Services can be regrouped. Another solution could be not allotting Services purely on the basis of Civil Services Examination but also on scores earned in training. This idea has been mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is under deliberation.
Arvind Kumar @arvind_kumar is PhD Scholar, Department of Politics & IR, Royal Holloway, University of London. Views are personal.