The Doctrine of Pleasure: an Overview

This blog is inscribed by Tanya Sharma.

Civil Service is considered as the backbone of the administration and it was introduced in India during the period of British Rule. As at that time the laws of England had a great influence on the Indian laws, the Doctrine of Pleasure was introduced. It explained that a civil servant was a servant of the Crown and will be removed any time as per his wish. After the independence of India, Civil Service was given Constitutional status and the provisions of Doctrine of Pleasure were contained under Part XIV of the Indian Constitution. This doctrine is though not blindly copied; it is subjected to some modifications from that of England. The objective of this article is to check the feasibility of this doctrine in India and some landmark judgments related to it. This article also provides an overview of the Principle of Pleasure about its origin, objective and applicability. Thus, at last in the paper, critical analysis and conclusion have been provided. In the process of making this research paper, several journals, books and articles were referred and taken into consideration. The Internet has also been supported in this process. Hence, this paper is a result of Doctrinal Research Methodology.


Civil Services, considered as the backbone of the administration, were introduced in India during the period of British Rule. The laws and regulations formed were introduced in India as per the needs of the country but at the time of post-independence period; civil services were provided constitutional status.

At the time of pre-independence, when laws of England had a great influence on the Indian laws, then Doctrine of Pleasure was also introduced which held that a civil servant was a servant of the crown and will be removed any time depending upon his wish.

Thus, to strengthen the administration, the provisions were laid down in the Constitution of India to protect the interests of the civil servants along with the protection of national security and public interest. These provisions are contained under Part XIV of the Indian Constitution.

What Is ‘Doctrine Of Pleasure’ In General?

Doctrine of Pleasure, a common law rule, is a special prerogative of the British Crown. In England, the Crown is the Executive Head and the servant of the Crown holds office and can be dismissed from the service of Crown at pleasure. The tenure of the office of a civil servant can be terminated at any time without assigning any cause even if there existed any special contract between the two. The Crown is not bound by it. Thus, in the case of Union of India v SP Sharma[1], the court held that the civil servant is liable to be dismissed without notice and cannot claim damages for wrongful dismissal or immature termination service. The justification of the rule is that the Crown should not be bound to continue in public service any person whose conduct is not satisfactory.

It’s Origin

The origin of Doctrine of Pleasure can be traced back to the development of the concept of United Kingdom. In the case of Dunn v R[2], the Court of Appeal held that the term ‘Doctrine of Pleasure’ has been taken from the Latin phrase “durante bene placito” which implies “during great pleasure” or “Durante bene placito rigis” which implies “during good pleasure of the ruler”. Hence, this doctrine is necessary to be executed (held in the case of Shelton v Smith[3]). This rule was adopted in India at the time of pre-independence period by virtue of the Government of India Act, 1935 and now after independence, it has been provided constitutional status.


The main purpose of this doctrine is to inculcate the sense of security and fair play in the civil servant so that he may work and function efficiently and also give his best to the country. Lastly, the authority will not be bound to continue in public service whose conduct is not satisfactory.

Position Of This Doctrine In India

The Doctrine of Pleasure is also followed in India. As like the Crown, the President of India is the Executive Head of the Union and he has the power vested with him to remove a civil servant at any time under this doctrine. It is not blindly copied in India and is subject to some modifications from that of England. In India the provision for this doctrine is contained in Article 310 of the Indian Constitution which reads as-

“Tenure of office of people serving the Union or State-

aside from as explicitly gave by the Constitution, each individual who is a member of a defense service or of a civil service of the Union or of an All India administration or holds any post associated with defense or any civil post under the Union, holds office during the pleasure of the President, and every person who is a member of a civil service of a state or holds any civil post under a State holds office during the pleasure of the Governor of the State”.

Expressly Excluded From The Rule Of Pleasure

The Doctrine of Pleasure is subjected to constitutional limitations. Persons who are excluded from operation of pleasure doctrine includes-

  1. Supreme Court Judges (Article 124)
  2. Auditor General (Article 148)
  3. High Court Judges (Article 217, 218)
  4. Member of Public Service Commission (Article 317)
  5. Chief Election Commissioner

Procedural Safeguards

The Procedural Safeguards of Doctrine of Pleasure are laid under Article 311 of the Indian Constitution. These protections maintain the confidence of the public in civil services and assure them to carry out their duties efficiently without any fear of unjust or unlawful removal from their office under this doctrine.

  1. A civil servant cannot be dismissed or removed by a subordinate authority. In the case of Mahesh v State of Uttar Pradesh[4] and Union of India v Gurbaksh Singh[5], it was held that no member of All India Services or Civil Servant of Union or State shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.
  2. No such person shall be punished except after an inquiry, there must be a reasonable opportunity of being heard. Before 1976, right to be heard at inquiry was available at Initial Stage and Punishment Stage. But after 42ndConstitutional Amendment Act, 1976, second provision was abolished, i.e., the defaulting member will be heard at inquiry stage only.

People Entitled To Such Safeguards

  1. Members of All India Service, Civil Service of the Union, and Civil Service of the State.
  2. People holding ‘Civil Post’ under the Union or any State are also subject to such safeguards. In the case of State of Assam v Kanak Chandra Dutt[6], the Supreme Court held that Article 311(1) means post not associated with defense services or outside regular civil services.
  3. The Permanent employed civil servants and the temporarily employed civil servants are also subjected to such protections under Article 311 (held in the case of Purshottam Lal Dhingra v Union of India[7]).


As Article 311(1) provides the procedural safeguards for civil servants, Article 311(2) of the Indian Constitution provides the exceptions to it. There are mainly three exceptions to inquiry which means the appointing authority may not hold or conduct inquiry in three instances.

  1. When a civil servant is guilty of committing crime and has already convicted the same in the court of law, then, in such case, he can be removed without getting a chance of being heard.
  2. When the President or the Appointing authority is satisfied that it is no longer possible or practicable to hold inquiry. This was held in the case of Union of India & Another v Tulsiram Patel & others[8], where the court observed that for determining the impracticability of holding an enquiry, a reasonable man has to be used.
  3. When the President or the Appointing authority is satisfied that it is not expedient or logical to hold inquiry when the question is of national interest.


Doctrine of Pleasure is an essential element of law and judiciary in India plays an important role in interpreting and applying this principle in India. In the case of State of Bihar v Abdul Majid[9], the Supreme Court of India, unlike the rule of England, decided that the sub-inspector has the right to claim the arrears of the salary. Similarly in the case of Union of India v Balbir Singh[10], it was held that the court has the power to examine the satisfaction of the President or the Governor as the case may be.

Hence, the Constitutional framers were thoughtful to implement such important principle in the Constitution because the Doctrine of Pleasure holds the ground of ensuring sanctity of government offices.



[1] (2014) 6 SCC 351

[2] (1893) 6 R. 67, H.L

[3] 547 F.2d 768 (2d Cir. 1976)

[4] 1955 SCR (1) 965

[5] 1975 SCR (3) 444

[6] 1967 SCR (1) 679

[7] 1958 SCR 828

[8] 1985 AIR 1416

[9] 1954 SCR 786

[10] Civil Appeal No. 4736 of 1996

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