A notice by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) said that starting this year, students who cleared preliminary exams and moved to the next stage would have to take a test of their English skills. The test would be worth 100 marks, and the result would count towards the candidate's overall score.
The UPSC also said students taking the 'mains' (those who've cleared the prelim stage) would no longer be allowed to take their exams in a regional language unless it was the main language of instruction in the school they graduated from. Currently, many aspirants who come from 'English-medium' schools prefer to take the exams in a regional language they are more comfortable with.
The new rules dictated that unless there are at least 25 candidates opting for a particular language, students would have to answer exams in either English or Hindi, which most states say is discriminatory and unfair.
The changes had been attacked by the chief ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu - Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and J Jayalalitha. (Read more) They had written to the Prime Minister, asking him to reverse the decision.
Critics had argued that the change will hurt the chances of candidates who come from families that have limited financial means and do not send their children to schools where English is the language of instruction.
Angry politicians from parties like the DMK and Samajwadi Party attacked the government in parliament today.
Dharmendra Yadav of the Samajwadi Party said "Angrezi me kaam na hoga. Phir se desh ghulaam na hoga" ("There will be no work in English. The country will not be enslaved again)."
Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar branded the new rules "a conspiracy" to ensure that children from backward castes do not succeed in the civil services exams despite being strong and deserving candidates.
Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal(United) wanted the head of the UPSC to be sacked for "marginalising regional languages and promoting English."
After an hour-long debate, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said the new proposal will not be implemented.