The Central government is amending the rules to give a fixed tenure to All India Services officers working in the states.
The move is expected to check the political executive from using transfers as an instrument to penalise bureaucrats unwilling to play along and interfering in the day-to-day working of the administration.
Last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had acknowledged the toll that frequent transfers took on the quality of governance in the states, noted his unsuccessful attempts and promised to keep working it. The proposed amendment to the IAS Cadre Rules drafted in keeping with this commitment made by the prime minister could come through in a month or so.
Consultations with the state governments - mandatory before any amendment to the central services rules - have already been completed; a majority agreed to provide for a minimum tenure for notified senior posts in the state governments. The proposed amendment to the cadre rules of IAS officers empowers the central government to determine cadre posts - posts reserved for AIS officers in the states - for which a minimum tenure would be stipulated.
This decision too would have to be taken in consultation with the state concerned but officials are quick to draw a distinction between consultation and consensus. "The Centre needs to hear them out, not go by their view," one of them said.
The changes will become applicable to officers of the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service shortly thereafter; the ministry of home affairs and environment ministry had been sounded out about the amendments.
"They too will be making similar changes in their rules once the department of personnel and training (which initiated the move) notifies the change," a senior government official said.
"Rules have the force of a law," the official added, pointing that officials can question their transfers ahead of the minimum period - likely to be fixed at two years. In such cases, the state government would have to cite reasons for the transfer rather than merely issue orders. There is also a view that a committee should vet transfer orders issued in violation of the minimum period norm.
Since state government officers will not have this protection, officials admit it would result in two categories of officers in the states.
But they suggested that it would undoubtedly put pressure on the state governments to match the Centre's move, sooner or later.