The Cabinet Secretariat is under the direct charge of the Prime Minister. The administrative head of the Secretariat is the Cabinet Secretary who is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board. In the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 "Cabinet Secretariat" finds a place in the First Schedule to the Rules. The subjects allotted to this Secretariat are:-
- Secretarial assistance to Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.
- Rules of Business.
The Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for the administration of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961 and the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961, facilitating smooth transaction of business in Ministries/Departments of the Government by ensuring adherence to these rules. The Secretariat assists in decision-making in Government by ensuring Inter-Ministerial coordination, ironing out differences amongst Ministries/Departments and evolving consensus through the instrumentality of the standing/adhoc Committees of Secretaries. Through this mechanism new policy initiatives are also promoted.
The Cabinet Secretariat ensures that the President, the Vice President and Ministers are kept informed of the major activities of all Ministries/Departments by means of monthly summary of their activities. Management of major crisis situations in the country and coordinating activities of various Ministries in such a situation is also one of the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat.
Support to Cabinet Committees
The secretarial assistance provided by Cabinet Secretariat to the Cabinet and Cabinet committees, includes
- Convening of the meetings of the Cabinet on the orders of the Prime Minister.
- Preparation and circulation of the agenda.
- Circulating papers related to the cases on the agenda.
- Preparing a record of discussions taken.
- Circulation of the record after obtaining the approval of the Prime Minister.
- Watching implementation of the decisions taken by the Cabinet.
The Cabinet Secretariat is the custodian of the papers of the Cabinet meetings.
Promotion of Inter-Ministerial Coordination
Among the inter-Ministerial matters, the coordination is required for:
- Removing difficulties.
- Removing differences.
- Overcoming delays.
- Coordination in administrative action.
- Coordination of policies.
While each Ministry is responsible for acting on its own for expeditious implementation of Government policies, plans and programmes, where inter-Ministerial cooperation is involved, they often seek the assistance of the Cabinet Secretariat. The inter-Ministerial problems are dealt with in the meetings of the Committees of Secretaries (COS). Committees are constituted for discussing specific matters and proposals emanating from various Secretaries to the Government and meetings are held under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary. These committees have been able to break bottlenecks or secure mutually supporting inter-Ministerial action.
The discussions of the COS takes place on the basis of a paper formulated by the principal Department concerned and the Department with a different point of view, if any, providing a supplementary note. The decisions or recommendations of the COS are unanimous. These proceedings are also circulated to and are followed up by the departments. There are other important functions which it discharges, viz.
- Promoting new policy initiatives.
The Cabinet Secretariat is seen as a useful mechanism by the departments for promoting inter-Ministerial coordination since the Cabinet Secretary is also the head of the civil services. The Secretaries felt it necessary to keep the Cabinet Secretary informed of developments from time to time. The Transaction of Business Rules also requires them to keep the Cabinet Secretary informed of developments from time to time, especially if there are any departures from these rules.