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 a 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 co-ordination, ironing out differences amongst Ministries/ Departments and evolving consensus through the instrumentality of the standing/ ad hoc Committees of Secretaries. Through this mechanism new policy initiatives are also promoted.
The Cabinet Secretariat is under the direct charge of the Prime Minister. The administrative head of the Cabinet Secretariat is the Cabinet Secretary who is also the ex officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board.
As a matter of convention the most senior civil servant is appointed as a Cabinet Secretary. He belongs to the Indian Administrative Service. The incumbent generally has a tenure of 2 to 3 years.
Before the adoption of the portfolio system in the Government of India, all governmental business was disposed of by the Governor-General-in Council (earlier name of Cabinet Secretariat), the Council functioning as a joint consultative board. As the amount and complexity of business of the Government increased, the work of the various departments was distributed amongst the members of the Council: only the more important cases were dealt with by the Governor-General or the Council collectively.
This procedure was legalised by the Councils Act of 1861, during the time of Lord Canning, leading to the introduction of the portfolio system and the inception of the Executive Council of the Governor-General. The Secretariat of the Executive Council was headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
The constitution of the Interim Government in September 1946 brought a change in the name, though little in functions, of this Office. The Executive Council's Secretariat was then designated as the Cabinet Secretariat. It seems, however, at least in retrospect, that Independence brought some change in the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat. It no longer remained concerned with only the passive work of circulating papers to Ministers and Ministries, but instead developed into an organisation for effecting co-ordination between the Ministries.
The Cabinet Secretary is the administrative head of Cabinet Secretariat and all the civil services under the constitution. Thus, he is the head of all the services. He ranks eleventh in the Table of Precedence of India.
Cabinet Secretariat has three wings: civil, military and intelligence. Under the Cabinet Secretary, there are several secretaries heading various departments, e.g., Secretary (Co-ordination) (heads the Department of Cabinet Affairs), Secretary (Performance Management) (also holds the post of chairman, National Authority, Chemical Weapons Convention), Secretary (Security) (under whom comes the Special Protection Group) and Secretary (R&AW) (heads Research and Analysis Wing; ex officio Director General of Security, under whom are the Aviation Research Centre and the Special Frontier Force). The Directorate of Public Grievances is also under the Cabinet Secretariat.