Officer on Special Duty

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Officer on Special Duty (abbreviated as OSD) is an officer in the civil services of the Indian subcontinent.


An officer on Special Duty is an officer in the Indian civil service of the status between a secretary and an undersecretary in the Government of India.

The practice dates back to the British colonial rule in India, and was explained to the Central Legislative Assembly by a government spokesman in 1931 as follows:[1]

"There are two principal criteria in appointing an OSD in the civil services -

  1. When an officer by his appointment brings far greater economic benefit to the government than that spent in his appointment
  2. When there is an obligation on the government to take a certain action for the benefit of the larger good" [2]

It is also sometimes used as a training post for a future higher level posting. For example, when Raghuram Rajan served as OSD in Union Finance Ministry before beginning the appointment for RBI Governor and also when S. Ranganathan was appointed the Comptroller and Auditor General, he was first appointed as an OSD to understudy the outgoing CAG A.K. Roy and subsequently given charge.

Pakistan and Bangladesh[edit]

It refers to a government officer without duties in Pakistan and Bangladesh.[3] They may be the officers awaiting posting orders or the demoted officers. These officers report to the secretariat where they do nothing but sign their attendance.[4] It implies that the government does not have any suitable post for the officer or their services are no more required (when demoted). These officers are paid full salaries.[5][6] It is considered to be a stigma when an officer is designated as the OSD.[7] The practice finds its origin in the British Raj when to be an officer on special duty was the status of honour.


  1. ^ "Legislative Assembly Debates". Parliament of British India. II (2): 1132. 23 February 1931.
  2. ^ S.R., Maheshwari (2003). Indian Administration (6th ed.). New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited. ISBN 812501988X.
  3. ^ "Promotions and OSD". The Daily Star. 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
  4. ^ "How does an OSD spend his day?". Dhaka Tribune. 2017-12-24. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  5. ^ "Sidelined? Several high-ranking officers working as OSDs - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 2016-09-17. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
  6. ^ "Number of high-ranking OSDs rises to 44". Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  7. ^ Newspaper, the (2012-06-26). "Officers on special duty". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2017-11-11.