IAS is a competitive civil service exam that helps a nation be administered and run by the right people. The steel frame for IAS was created back in the 19th century during the times of the East India Company. It has been deeply etched in the running of India since then. The civil service has gone through a lot of changes throughout British rule and post-independence.

Every IAS aspirant must know the history of civil services. It is not just a study material, but a part of the history of our nation, which is mandatory for civil services students to behold.

The civil services were earlier known as ICS (Indian Civil Service). ICS was officially known as the Imperial Civil Service under British rule. It was later renamed IAS (Indian Administrative Service). There’s a lot of history before, between and after the name replacement. This article will give the civil service aspirants a brief explanation of what ICS and IAS are, how the civil services began, and the changes it went through overtime.

Civil Service in Ancient India

India was the land of Kings and Queens, and those mighty rulers knew how to conquer and run a nation. The imprints of civil services in India can be traced back to the ancient days of India.

In the book Kautilya Arthashastra, written by Chanakya, it is mentioned that the Mauryan empire had a centralised bureaucracy/civil service that administered the empire’s taxation. A similar system for governing was witnessed in the Gupta period.

Mughals had also created a bureaucratic system to govern the administration. It was called Mansabdari. The ranking of the officers under the Mansabdari system was derived according to the number of troops they commanded.

The system had no clear distinction between civilian officials and military officials until the rule of East India Company. In ancient times, the payment of the officials was sometimes paid in cash or sometimes in-kind payments like land grants.

Also Read: How is Public Administration as Optional in the UPSC Mains? Is Opting for it Beneficial?

Civil Service under East India Company

East India Company had come to India for commercial purposes, but later, the events unfolded strangely. After the East India Company won the Battle of Plassey and Buxar and acquired their territory, the company felt the need to instil civil services.

The Governor-General of Bengal at that time, Warren Hastings, created the post of District Collector who had the responsibility of collecting land revenues. Soon after the post was created, the officials witnessed misuse of power and corruption, and the post was abolished.

The Basis of Civil Services

Then came the Covenanted Civil Services (CCS) and the Uncovenanted Civil Services (UCS). These systems were the basis of what we know as IAS and were introduced by Charles Cornwallis. Lord Cornwallis is considered the father of civil services in India.

The Covenanted Civil Services comprised higher civil services, and it was exclusively for Europeans who were paid a higher salary. The Uncovenanted Civil Services was lower civil services, and it was mostly composed of native-born Indians and some Europeans. The salary was less than Covenanted Civil Services.

Charter Act of 1833

The Charter Act of 1833 gave the guidelines for selecting the aspirants. They should be selected based on merit and not based on colour, race, and religion. The Charter Act of 1853 was vocal to recruit civil servants based on open competitive examination. The Macaulay Committee recommended the same. In the year 1855, the first competitive exams were conducted.

Civil Service under the British Rule

After the revolt of 1857 and after introducing the Government of India Act, 1858, the higher civil service of India was renamed as Indian Civil Service. The Indian Civil Services Act of 1861 stated that a certain number of seats should be reserved under the Government of India for the individuals who have been a resident of India for 7 years or more. Satyendranath Tagore was the first Indian to be selected in the Indian Civil Services in 1864, followed by 4 other Indians in the coming year.

To make changes in the civil services, Lord Dufferin appointed the Aitchison Committee. The committee changed the civil services from Covenanted and Uncovenanted to Imperial, Provincial, and Subordinate.

In 1912, the Islington Commission recommended filling the 25% of higher posts by Indians and said that recruitment for the higher posts should be done partly in India and partly in England. So from the year 1922, civil services exams were held in India.

Public Service Commission Establishment

In 1923, the Viscount Lee Commission recommended setting a public service commission to recruit civil servants by conducting examinations. The public service commission was established in 1926.

By the year 1934, seven All India Services came into existence, including the Indian Political Service, Indian Police, Indian Forest Service, etc. In 1935, the Government of India Act made a Federal Public Service Commission to give more power to the commission. Post-independence, this commission became the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

Civil Service Post Independence

The Indian Civil Services (ICS) was replaced by Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in 1947. It wouldn’t have been possible if India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel hadn’t stood his ground for the staying of civil services. Due to his remarkable contribution in shaping the civil services post-independence, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is called the ‘Patron Saint’ of IAS.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel helped the nation establish an institution that has produced many great officers capable of handling different national administrations. Unfortunately, Sardar Vallabhbai Patel met his demise on 15 December 1950. Almost a year later, in October 1951, the Parliament passed the All India Service Act, which laid the foundation rules for the conditions of recruitment and service.

Three-stage Selection Process

UPSC holds the power to conduct the civil service examinations and select the candidates for civil servant posts. In 1976, the Kothari Commission recommended a three-stage selection process. The first would be a preliminary examination. It would be an objective-based exam with one Optional and General Studies paper. The second would be a subjective type main examination with 9 papers. The third and final stage would be a personality test.

In 1989, the Satish Chandra Committee recommended introducing an Essay paper and recommended putting more weight on the personality test interview. The Hota Commission in 2004 suggested introducing an aptitude paper in the preliminary examination.

Also Read: What Qualification is Required for IAS? What Rank is Required for IAS?


The civil services examination in India is of utmost importance. Lacs of aspirants apply for the civil service competitive examinations every year. The article above laid out all the distinctions for those wanting to compare ICS and IAS. For those wondering the difference between ICS and IAS, IAS is merely an evolved version of ICS. To not miss on any part of the history, join now with UPSC Pathshala, and learn with passion. You can also opt for our free demo classes and learn in real-time.

Content Protection by DMCA.com
In Which Year ICS was Replaced by IAS? Are these Two Any Different? All You Need to Know!
Article Name
In Which Year ICS was Replaced by IAS? Are these Two Any Different? All You Need to Know!
Is there a difference between ICS and IAS? In which year ICS was replaced by IAS? Uncover the history by reading this article to find the evolution over the years.
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo

About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

View All Articles