What are the main functions of the Chief Secretary? What are recent arguments against the post of Chief Secretary? Is this office now obsolete?

The post of Chief Secretary is the senior-most position held in the civil services of the states and union territories of India. The chief secretary discharges vital functions which Include:

  • Adviser to the CM: Chief- Secretary acts as an advisor to the CM. Being head of the permanent executive branch he strives for a sound administration.
  • Secretary to the Cabinet: Chief-Secretary acts as a secretary to the state cabinet. Chief Secretary is the administrative head of the cabinet secretariat and attends the meeting of the cabinet and its sub-committees.
  • Head of State Cabinet Secretariat: State Cabinet Secretariat whose functions include Secretarial assistance, implementation of decisions, policy coordi­nation and providing information is headed by Chief-Secretary.
  • Head of Civil Services: Chief- Secretary acts as the head of the state civil services. Important cases pertaining to appoint­ments, transfers and promotion of senior state civil servants go to his/her desk.
  • Coordinator of Civil Service Efforts: Chief Secretary ensures inter departmental coordination. Chief Secretary advises the secretaries on inter departmental difficulties. He is the chairman of coordination committees which are set up for resolving inter-departmental disputes.
  • Residual Legatee: The chief secretary also acts as the residual legatee, that is, he looks after all those matters which do not fall within the purview of other secretaries.

Of late there are various arguments which are raising questions over the need of the office of chief-secretary

  • Emergence of extra-constitutional offices like advisor to CM who is discharging most of the functions of the Chief-Secretary.
  • Politicization of the office: Often there is change of chief-secretary with the change in the government. This has led to politicization of the office and losing its neutrality.
  • Minister’s personality: Many capable and educated are taking over as ministries and with increasing digital avenues of communication, the ministries and CM can do the task of coordination themselves.

But it would be like stretching the arguments too much to say that the office of chief-secretary has become obsolete and redundant. The office of chief-secretary is as vital as it was decades before. It’s time for those occupying the office to uphold the honor and dignity of the office so that it is not reduced to a Show piece.

Question for UPSC Mains:
What are the main functions of the Chief Secretary? What are recent arguments against the post of Chief Secretary? Is this office now obsolete?

Published: March 5, 2018 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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