T. S. R. Subramanian and others v. Union of India and others (2013) – Civil Service Reforms

T. S. R. Subramanian & Ors. versus Union of India and Ors. was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India. The Court ruled that civil servants were not bound to follow oral directives. The case began with a public interest civil writ petition filed before the Supreme Court of India and was decided in October 2013.

This topic of “T. S. R. Subramanian and others v. Union of India and others (2013) – Civil Service Reforms” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Background of the Case:

  • The case was filed as a public interest civil writ petition by retired top civil servants from IAS and IPS among others
  • They sought mandatory court injunctions to support the independence of the various Indian civil services and their freedom from political interference
  • They wanted the Indian Central and state governments to implement the recommendations made by several commissions of review

Issues before court:

  • The petitioners wanted oral instructions given by politicians to civil servants to be recorded in writing
  • They also wanted senior civil service appointments to be made for a fixed term and civil services boards to be established to advise on postings
  • Politicians in state government were seen to have been transferring civil servants repeatedly

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  • Officers of the IAS, other All India Services, and other civil servants were not bound to follow oral directives as they “undermine credibility”
  • Establishment of a Civil Services Board (CSB), headed by the Cabinet Secretary at the national level and chief secretaries at the state level, to recommend transfers and postings of All India Services (the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Forest Service, and the Indian Police Service) officers


  • The supreme court decision received a mostly-positive reaction and was considered a “major reform”
  • The ruling would check arbitrary transfers and suspensions
  • It will help in good governance across the country

This article is part of the series “Landmark Judgements that Shaped India” under the Indian Polity Notes & Prelims Sureshots. We aim to make the articles comprehensive while leaving out unnecessary information from the UPSC perspective. If you think this article is useful, please provide your feedback in the comments section below.

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