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Modern History / British Administration

Indian Civil Services History during British Rule

The history of Indian civil services dates back to the year 1786 in which it was introduced by Lord Cornwallis. Previously, mercantile service was there for recruiting the employees and it got highly corrupted. In civil services, two services were introduced, namely (i) Covenanted Service (by an agreement) and (ii) Non Covenanted Service (No agreement). Covenanted servants were given most crucial positions.

History of Indian Civil Services

  • In 1861, the Parliament of Britain passed the Indian Civil Services Act. In this Act, the designation of Covenanted services was replaced by Indian Civil Services.

  • Official policy of the British regarding civil services was to De-Indianise the Civil services. In this regard, Cornwallis remarked that every Indian is corrupt.

  • Initially, the civil servants were nominated by Court of Directors up to 1853. The Charter Act, 1853 introduced competitive exams in India.

  • To prevent Indians from entering the civil services

    • Latin and Greek papers were introduced as compulsory papers.

    • Reduced the upper age limit from time to time. In 1859, the upper age limit was 23, in 1860, it was reduced to 22 and in 1866, it was further reduced to 21. In 1878, Governor General Lytton (an anti-Indian) further reduced it to 19.

    • The Centre of examination was kept in London.

  • The following famous Indians were selected for the Civil Services in the initial stages

    • First Indian to be selected for ICS (Indian Civil Service) in 1863 was Satyendranath Tagore, who is the brother of Rabindranath Tagore.

    • In 1869, Surendranath Banerjee (later got dismissed from service and who later joined Congress) and Romesh Chandra Dutt (who after retirement joined the Congress Party) were selected.

    • In 1919, Subhas Chandra Bose was selected. In 1920, when he was a probationary officer, left ICS and joined Congress.

  • In 1800, Lord Wellesley started a college called Fort William college in Calcutta to train the civil servants. In 1806, the East India Company started a college at Haileybury to train civil servants.

British Committees on Civil Services in India

  • Aitchison Commission (1886)

    • It was established under the Governor General Dufferin.

    • It recommended that ICS examination shall be conducted in London only and for other services it can be conducted simultaneously in India and London.

    • It recommended the upper age limit should be 23. In 1892, the upper age limit was increased to 23.
  • Viscount Lee Commission (1924)

    • It was established under the Governor General Lord Reading.

    • It recommended that 50% of civil services shall be given to Indians.

    • It recommended for the creation of Public Service Commission (PSC). In 1926, Public Service Commission was created in Delhi. In 1935, it was renamed as Federal Public Service Commission. In 1935, State PSCs were created.


  1. Which Commission recommended for establishment of Public Service Commission for recruiting to Indian civil services?

    1. Aitchison Commission

    2. Islington Commission

    3. Raleigh Commission

    4. Lee Commission


    Ans: D

  2. Who was the first Indian to get selected in ICS (Indian Civil Services) in British India?

    1. Sarat Kumar Ghosh

    2. Surendranath Banerjee

    3. Subhas Chandra Bose

    4. Satyendra Nath Tagore


    Ans: D