On 10th October 1949, K.M. Munshi, member of the Drafting Committee, moved Draft Article 283-A in the Constituent Assembly for its approval. The Article provided for members of the civil service of the Crown who held positions in the British Indian government to continue working under the Government of Independent India under conditions (pay, leave, benefits, protections) of service that they enjoyed in the previous government. The Draft Article operationalizes Section 10 of the Indian Independence Act 1947 and is one of the terms on which power was transferred from the British.
The majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly who took part in the debate around Draft Article 238-A were opposed to the provision. Mahavir Tyagi wanted no such commitment to be made as he saw the Draft Article to be a potential liability that would put constraints on future parliaments to regulate the civil services. R.K. Sidhva and M.A. Ayyangar preferred this provision to be introduced as an Act of parliament rather than a constitutional provision – thereby allowing future parliaments greater flexibility. Rohini Kumar and Dr P.S. Deshmukh reminded the Constituent Assembly about India’s weak financial position which may require the civil service to voluntarily or otherwise take a pay cut - a measure that Draft Article 238-A will not allow. Shibban Lal Saxena opposed the Draft Article as he believed that civil servants who were part of the British Administration would be treated differently from civil servants recruited after 15 August 1947.Most members who opposed the provision questioned the loyalty of the civil service – who they believed played a critical role in the propagation and maintenance of British rule in India.
Some members ended their speeches by reluctantly accepting the Draft Article as they acknowledged it to be an obligation that was part of the agreement between leaders of the freedom movement and the British while negotiating terms of the transfer of power. Brajeshwar Prasad emphasised the duty of the Indian government to honour the agreement made with the British. Not doing so, he argued, would bode badly for Indian politics. He questioned those members of the Constituent Assembly who opposed the amendment -
“..The objection of some of the Members in this House that this article should not be incorporated in the Constitution gives rise to a suspicion in my mind. What is it at the back of their minds? Why is it that they are opposing this article? Do they want to honour their pledged word or not? A nation that sacrifices vital principles, that does not stand by its pledged word, has no future in politics. We have given our pledged word to certain authorities that existence before the transference of power…”
He also rejected arguments that called for the Draft Article to be a law enacted by parliament instead of a constitutional provision. He did not have faith in the adult franchise and the kind of people that would end up being elected. He argued that as a constitutional provision, Draft Article 283-A would be harder to amend and will protect the civil service from extremists and radical ideologues who may get elected to parliament.
The most passionate defence of the provision and the civil service as a whole was mounted by Sardar Patel. He asked the members who opposed the Draft Article about their lack of protest on the issue when the terms of transfer of power were being drawn up – the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947 were not discussed in secret.
He was livid with members of the Assembly who questioned the loyalty of the civil service and reminded them hat it was because of the loyalty and patriotism of the civil service that the union of India did not collapse during 1946-49. He further reminded the Constituent Assembly that the political functioning of government was impossible without the assistance of the civil service.
Patel’s speech convinced members of the Constituent Assembly. A majority of the Constituent Assembly voted for the inclusion of Draft Article 283-A into the Constitution of India. Draft Article 283 – A, in its final form, became Article 314 of the adopted Constitution of India, 1950.
However, 21 years later, Parliament through the 28th amendment, repealed Article 314 to remove what it believed were undue benefits given to acertain section of the civil service (those who served under the British). This was similar to the argument put forward by Shibban Lal Saxena in the Constituent Assembly who wanted all civil servants to be on an equal footing.