A republic of petty bureaucrats: Upendra Baxi and the pathologies of civil service jurisprudence
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The enactment of the Indian Constitution witnessed an explosion of litigation by civil servants successfully suing the state over questions of appointment, transfers, promotion and benefits. Public service law has generated a voluminous body of jurisprudence and sustained the practice of several lawyers. Upendra Baxi was the first scholar to point out that this jurisprudence poses a fundamental ‘identity crisis’ of the Indian state, where civil servants as allies of their political leaders have no hesitation riding over the rights of citizens but as adversaries come to courts attacking the political leadership for denying them their rights. This paper situates Upendra Baxi’s introduction to Justice Rama Jois’s book on service laws as the basis to understand the pathologies of power within the Indian Republic arguing that civil service litigation demonstrates both the intransigence of postcolonial state power and constructs the autonomy of the judiciary and the legal profession. Civil servants are simultaneously the arm of the state but also provide the labour of the state. To understand Baxi’s intervention, the paper argues, one has to historicize the ‘government job’ in India as a property resource and rethink the bureaucracy as simultaneously embodying the state and being a form of labour for the state.