Delegated legislation in India

August 02, 2019
delegated legislation in India

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This article is written by Amanat Raza, a student of faculty of law, Aligarh Muslim University. In this article article, he has discussed the concept of delegated legislation, What are its advantages, types and reasons for its growth.


In the realm of legal theory, delegated legislation is one of the most debatable issues because of its various implications. Indian democracy is said to rest on the acclaimed four pillars and these are the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and the press. These pillars are empowered by the constitution not to interfere in the matters of others. As per the Constitution, the legislative has legislative powers and the Executive has the power to execute the laws. Similarly, the Judiciary has the power to resolve dispute and to met out justice. But we have to keep in mind that there are multifarious functions that have to be performed by the Legislature in welfare states and it is not an easy task for the legislature to look after every matter.

In contrast to this increasing legislative activity, the legislatures are not able to find adequate time to legislate on every minute detail. They have limited themselves to policy matters and have left a large volume of area to the Executive to make rules to carry out the purposes of the Legislature. In such types of situation, the system of delegated legislation comes to our mind. Therefore, the need for delegation is necessary and is sought to be justified on the ground of flexibility, adaptability and speed. This delegation is also known as ‘secondary legislation’ or ‘subordinate legislation’. The Act that gives the executive the power to legislate is called the ‘Enabling Statute’ or ‘Parent Act’. The standard of rule of the majority has made authoritative controls inadequate. The term delegated legislation is hard to characterize. 

Meaning of delegated legislation

Delegation’ has been defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as an act of entrusting a person with the power or empowering him to act on behalf of that person who has given him that power or to act as his agent or representative. Delegated legislation’ means exercising of legislative power by an agent who is lower in rank to the Legislature, or who is subordinate to the Legislature. Delegated legislation, additionally alluded to as an auxiliary legislation, is an enactment made by an individual or body other than Parliament. Parliament, through an Act of Parliament, can allow someone else or some body to make enactment. An Act of Parliament makes the system of a specific or particular law and tends to contain an outline of the purpose for the Act. By delegating the legislation by Parliament to the Executive or any subordinate, it empowers different people or bodies to integrate more details to an Act of Parliament. Parliament along these lines, through essential enactment (for example an Act of Parliament), licenses others to make laws and guidelines through delegated legislation. The enactment made by authorize person must be made as per the reason set down in the Act of Parliament.

According to Sir John Salmond, “Subordinate legislation is that which proceeds from any authority other than the sovereign power.

Justice P.B Mukherjee also observed about delegated legislation that it was an expression which covered a multitude of confusion. He viewed it as an excuse for the Legislature, a shield for Executors and a provocation to the Constitutional Jurist.

According to M.P Jain, this term can be used in two senses:[1]

Delegated legislation is, referred to as Subordinate, Ancillary, Administrative legislation, and Quasi-Legislation.

History of delegated legislation in India

The historical backdrop of the delegation of power can be followed from the Charter Act of 1833 when the East India Company was recapturing political impact in India. The Charter Act of 1833 vested the administrative powers only in the hands of the Governor-General-in Council, which was an official body. He was enabled to make laws and guidelines for revoking, correcting or modifying any laws or guidelines, which were for all people regardless of their nationality. In 1935 the Government of India Ac, 1935 was passed which contained a serious plan of delegation. The report of the Committee of Ministers’ Powers was submitted and affirmed which completely settled the case for assignment of forces and appointment of enactment that was viewed as inescapable in India.

However, our Constitution depended on the separation of power; a total partition of forces was unrealistic henceforth it kept up the holiness of the tenet in the cutting edge sense. The Indian Constitution does not deny the assignment of forces. Then again there are a few arrangements where the official had been conceded with the administrative forces. For instance, the administrative forces of the President under the Indian Constitution are prominent. The problem of the delegation of legislation in India originated under the British rule when the controversy on the problem in the West was in full swing. In independent India, the conflict of settling the problem of the delegation of legislative power was prima facie to a conflict between the English and American type of solution.

The Constitution of India comprises of more than four hundred Articles and it had not been surprised if the Constitution makers include some solution for it. But why these provisions were incorporated in the Constitution? This is because the politicians in the Constituent Assembly tended to multiply legal formulations. These issues were of minor importance on which legal formulation was made in comparison to other greater constitutional issues that were by-passed by the Assembly that were left to future accord or judicial interpretation. In the case of Queen v. Burah[2], nature and extent of Legislature power and the feasibility of its delegation was considered by the Privy Council. The Privy Council, in this case, held that Councils of Governor-General was supreme Legislature and has ample number of powers and who are entitled to transfer certain powers to provincial executors. At the time of passing of New Delhi Act of 1912, the Privy Council accepted the transfer of Legislature power to the Executive. 

Delegated legislation under the Constitution of India

Although the concept of delegated legislation was not mentioned specifically in the Indian Constitution it can be understood by interpreting Article 312 of the given Constitution. This Article gives right to the Rajya Sabha to open a new branch of All India Service with a majority of two-thirds majority vote. This means that some powers of legislation will be delegated to the new recruiter of All India Service. There are many cases through which delegated legislation under the constitution of India can be understood. These are:

D.S. Grewal v.The State of Punjab [3]

Facts: This case questions the constitutionality of All India Service Act, 1951. The appellant was appointed to All India Service and posted to the State of Punjab. He held the charge of Superintendent of Police in various districts but was reverted or return to the post of Assistant Superintendent of Police in August 1957 and was posted to Dharamsala in March in the year 1958. In the same month, he was informed that an action has been taken against him under Rule 5 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955. An enquiry committee was set up against him under the leadership of Shri K. L. Bhudiraja. He then immediately made an application under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution before the Punjab High Court challenging the constitutionality of the Act and legality of the enquiry against him. Six contentions were made by the appellant lawyer.

Judgment: K.N. Wanchu, Justice of the Supreme Court at that time, dealing with the power of delegated legislation under Article 312 of the Indian Constitution. As the case has been very serious the appellant can be removed or compulsorily dismissed from the post by the Central Government and therefore Central Government has instituted enquiry against him. There is nothing mentioned in Article 312 of the Indian Constitution that takes away the power of delegation.

Panama Refining Co. v. Rayan[4]

Facts: Section 9(c) of the National Industrial Recovery Act, 1933 authorizes the President of the United States with some powers under which he can make any order and violation of that order may lead to panel provision. The President issued the prohibition made by the above act through the executive and authorized the Security of Interior to exercise all the powers vested in the President under section 9(c) of the Act. The Security of Interior issued a regulation to accomplish the President’s order(s). The Section mentioned above was challenged on the ground that it was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power by the Congress.

Judgment: It was held by the Supreme Court of the United States that delegation of legislative power given by President is void. The court held that Congress can delegate power to the Executive only on  two conditions. Firstly, the Statute laid down these policies. Secondly, one has to establish the standards and give the administration the power of making the subordinate rule within the given limit.

Sikkim v. Surendra Sharma[5]

Facts: After Sikkim became the State of the Union Of India, the Directorate of Survey and Settlement of Government of Sikkim created and advertised for certain temporary posts. Like other people, the respondent has also applied for the post. They got selected and were appointed in different capacities. After the survey work got completed some of the employees got terminated from the job. In 1982, some of the employees, who were ‘not locals’, filed a writ petition in the High Court of Sikkim challenging the decision of the Government asking why it has fired the employees from the service on the ground that they were not locals.

Judgment: The judge held that the termination of the employees solely on the ground that he is not local is impermissible under Article 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution. It was held that all rules and legislations created under the power which is granted under sub-clause (k) of the Article 371F constituted subordinate legislation. This article was added to the Constitution through the 36th Constitutional Amendment.

Types of Delegated Legislation

Delegated legislation means giving power or authority to someone lower than his rank to make laws. So there can be many ways in which this excess of power can be given to subsidiary rank people or an Executive. These types are as follows:

  1. Delegated legislation by laws: It can be given in two ways, firstly, it can be given by laws of autonomous bodies, e.g., Corporation and secondly, it can be given by-laws of a local authority.

Reasons for growth of Delegated Legislation

Many factors are responsible for the rapid growth of delegated legislation in today’s time. Because of the radical change in the governance of a country from ‘police state’ to the ‘welfare state’ the function and the need of delegated legislation have increased. These factors and reasons for growth of delegated legislation can be seen as follows:

Therefore, we can say that there is a rapid growth of this delegated legislation and also it is necessary for a country to run smoothly.

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Constitutionality of delegated legislation

It basically means the limits that are permissible within a Constitution of a country through which Legislature with all his right can delegate its power of rule making to other agencies of administration. The aim of extending the power of the government is to handle socio-economic problem.

Another philosopher, Montesquieu has given the concept of ‘Separation of Powers’. According to Montesquieu, one person cannot exercise all the three powers of the government i.e., the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive. The Legislature should make laws and should not enforce or administer it. Similarly Executive should not interfere in the work of Judiciary and Legislature and Judiciary should be free from Executive and Legislature. All should do their work separately. In America, the power to make legislation has been given to the Congress, executive powers given to the President of the USA, and the judiciary power of the United States is vested in the hands of Supreme Court and also it might be given to lower court from time to time on the ordain of the Congress.

Due to the adoption of separation of power by the United States, the legislative power can be vested only in the hand of Congress and no organs of the government. Further, it has argued that the power to the Congress itself has been delegated by the American Constitution so it cannot further delegate its power. In case of Field v. Clarke,[7] it has been observed by the Supreme Court of America that the power entrusted to one department should only be exercised by that department without interfering in the power or area of another person. But in some other cases of Supreme Court of America, it was observed that in non-legislative power such as rule-making power or quasi-legislative powers can be delegated by Legislature to the Executive. In Wagman v. Southard,[8] Chief Justice Marshall observed that the line has been not drawn between those subjects which were important and, therefore, regulated by the Legislature itself and those subjects of lower interest which were given to the Executive for filling the details in the structure of that legislation.

So to conclude about the delegated legislation in America it can be said that it has not been accepted in principle but in practice, the Legislature has entrusted the power of law-making to the Executive.

Sir Cecil Carr has also observed that the truth is that if the parliament is not willing to delegate the law-making power, the Parliament is unable to provide quality and kind of legislation the modern public wants.

The Privy Council has stated that it is better to take help from the subordinate agency in framing the rules and regulations that are going to be the part of the law and giving another body the essential legislative features that has only given to the Legislature through the Constitution. He also stated about the essential legislative function that included in determining the legislation policy.

In King v. Benori Lal Sharma, Condition legislative was again applied by the Privy Council, the same as in the case of Queen v. Burah. In this case the validity of the Emergency Ordinance given by Governor-General of India was challenged inter alia. It was challenged on the ground that he is taking the power of the Provincial Government. He was setting up special criminal courts for particular kind of offences but for the settling of any court, power has been given only to the Provincial Government. The judicial committee held that this is not delegated legislation. Privy Council also held that it is an example of an uncommon legislative power by which the local application of the provision of State determined by the local administrative body when it is necessary.

In the case of Raj Narain Singh v. Chairman, Patna Administration Committee Air,[9] the Supreme Court of India upheld the delegation of power given to the executive by the legislature.

Lachmi Narain v. Union of India[10]

Facts: The Central Government exercising the power that it has got from Section 2 of the Part State (Laws) Act, 1950, which extended the Bengal Finances (Sales Tax) Act, 1941 to the Part State of Delhi with certain modification in Section 6 through a notification. By various notifications, the granted sales tax on various commodities was exempted but subsequently, the exemption was withdrawn by another notification. Dealers who are indulging in those commodities, challenges the validity of that withdrawal.

Judgment: It was held in this case that the notification issued by the Central Government is beyond its power conferred on it by Section 2 of the Union Territories (Laws) Act,1950 and in consequence of any type of notification issued by the Central Government is invalid and ineffective.

Advantages of delegated legislation

There are many advantages of delegated legislation as it is essential for a democratic country to flourish or make laws according to its public. These advantages are as follows:

Judicial control over delegated legislation

The delegated legislation can be challenged in India in the courts of law as being unconstitutional, excessive and arbitrary. It can be controlled by the Judiciary on two grounds i.e., firstly, it should be on the ground of substantial ultra vires and secondly, it should be on the ground of procedural ultra vires. The criteria on which the law made by the executive can be considered as void and null by the court is that it should not be considered inconsistent by the constitution or ultra vires the parent act from which it has got the power of making law. The power of examining the delegated legislation in India has been given to the Supreme Court and the High Court and they play an active role in controlling the delegated legislation.

Judicial control over delegated legislative is exercise at the following two levels:

  1. Challenging the delegation as unconstitutional
  2. Improperly exercise of Statutory power.

No delegated legislation can survive clashing with the provisions granting Fundamental Rights. If any Acts violate the fundamental rights then the rules, regulations, and by-laws framed under it cannot survive. In India as well as in America the judicial control over the delegated legislation is based on the doctrine of ultra vires. Also, there are various methods through which judiciary in America exercises control over delegated legislation. 

The two main approaches taken by the judiciary in America for justifying the delegation of legislative power to the executive are:

  1. Filling up the details approach.
  2. Intelligible principle approach.

In the first approach, the Congress should lay down the standard policy for the guidance of executives and the executives have to fill the further details and carry out the policy of legislation according to the standard laid down by the Congress.

In the second approach, the court will review the delegated legislation if ultra vires the enabling statutes or it is not in accordance with the provisions mentioned in enabling statutes.

Cases that illustrate the Judicial control over the executives

Effectiveness of Parliamentary control over delegated legislation

It is on the parliament to confer on anyone its power of legislation whom it likes, but at the same time, it has to see that if the power that has been conferred to the person is using that power for the public or not. If that person is misusing that power the Parliament can take that power back. It must ensure that there should be no misuse of that conferred power.

In Avinder Singh v. State of Punjab, Krishna Iyer J. appropriately expressed that parliamentary authority over designated enactment should be a living continuity as a protected need. The authoritative command over the organization in parliamentary nations like India is more hypothetical than practical. In truth, the control of the Parliament is not that much effective as it needs to be.

Jain and Jain stated about the control of the legislature over the delegated legislation that “It is the function of the legislature to legislate in a parliamentary democracy. If it seeks to delegate its legislative powers to the government due to a few motives, it is not the right of the legislature, but additionally its duty, as predominant, to look how its agent i.e. the executive carries out or maintain the company entrusted to it.”[14] Since it is the legislature which delegates legislative power to the executive, so it is its primary duty to check whether the entrusted the power is working properly or not and also it has power to supervise and control the actual exercise of this power. In the U.S.A., the government is not responsible to the Legislature and Congressional control of delegated regulation is in most cases indirect. However, the Congress can also direct administrative groups to put up the periodical and unique reports or to give an account of their activities. In the USA, Congress has no effective control over delegated regulation due to the fact the President of the USA is not accountable to the Legislature.

However, in India, there is a Parliamentary form of Government and the Prime Minister is accountable to the Legislature. So in India Parliament can exercise direct control over the Government. In India committees regarding control of delegated rules are formulated through Parliament for both houses every year. The principal characteristic of each committee is to scrutinize the statutory regulations, to make legal guidelines for the public, etc. made with the aid of any administrative frame and reports to the residence whether or not the delegated power has been exercised nicely within the limits provided underneath the Parent Act or the Constitution. However, in America no such type of powers are given to Legislature and also Legislature has no power to exercise direct control over delegated legislation made by the Executive. So it is essential to keep concord between Legislature and Executive in a democratic society and also there needs to be a powerful system of management of the Legislature over the Executive so that government cannot misuse their powers while making delegated rules.

Case laws

Facts: In this case, under the authority of the Local Government Act 1888, the Kent County Council made a by-laws. This law states that nobody could play music or sing a song within 50 yards of dwelling house in public place or highway after being requested to stop by a constable. The claimant was singing a hymn within 50 yards of the dwelling house and had refused to stop after the constable had told him to do so. He was given a penalty. He sought for judicial review to declare that the by-law was void.

Judgment: Lord Russell CJ, giving the courts leading judgment, held the by-law became valid on the ground that it becomes no longer unreasonable, due to the fact that it does not have a discriminatory impact on the population.

Facts: Section 3 and 4 of the Central Province and Berar Regulation of Manufacture of Beedis Act, 1948 grants power to the Deputy Commissioner to fix the period of agriculture season with respect to a certain village where the Act applies. The Deputy Commissioner has the power to prohibit the manufacturing of bidis and no person is authorized to manufacture bidis.

On 13th June 1950, an order was issued via the Deputy Commissioner of Sagar prohibiting the people in certain villages to manufacture bidis. When the case is dealt by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the period cited within the order expired and another order covering the agricultural period from 8th October 1950 to 18th November 1950 was issued and the same order was questioned in the present case. Does the question arise whether the impugned Act is falling within the saving clause or excess of its provisions?

Judgment: It has been held in this case that prohibition of making bidis in the agriculture season by the Deputy Commissioner is violative of Article 19 1(g) of the Indian Constitution.

Criticism on delegated legislation

Following are the criticism of delegated legislation:

  1. Delegated legislation results in overlapping of functioning  as the delegated authorities get work to amend the legislation that is the function of the legislators.
  2. It has been a matter of question that if the Legislature control has come down after the arrival of the delegated legislation.
  3. Unelected people cannot make much delegated legislation as it would be against the spirit of democracy.
  4. After getting too much power from the Legislature, the Executive has encroached upon the domain of legislature by making rules and regulations.
  5. The enactment subject that was appointed to less Parliamentary scrutiny than essential enactment. Parliament, along these lines, has an absence of authority over appointed enactment, and this can prompt irregularities in laws. Appointed enactment, in this way, can possibly be utilized in manners which Parliament had not foreseen when it was given the power through the Act of Parliament.
  6. Delegated legislation makes laws without much discussion. So, it may or may not be better for the public.
  7. Designated legislation by and large experiences an absence of exposure. Since the law made by a statutory authority not informed to general society. Then again, the laws of the Parliament are generally broadcasted. The purpose of the absence of exposure is the enormous degree of enactment that is being assigned. There has likewise been concern communicated that an excess of law is made through appointed enactment.
  8. It can possibly be misused for political gain. The executive makes law according to what the political parties. Hence, it results in the misuse of the legislation made by the Executive by the ruling party.
  9. Executives become too powerful as it already has the power of executing any laws and legislation and now the Legislature is delegating its legislative power to the Executive. So, both the power are in the hands of the executives now he can use this power in whatever way he wants to use it.
  10. It is against the theory of the power of separation which has been given by the famous political thinker Montesquieu.


Delegated or subordinate legislation means rules of law made under the skilled person of the Act of Parliament. In spite of the fact that lawmaking is within the capacity of the lawmaking body, it might, by a resolution, delegate its capacity to different bodies or people. The resolution which delegates such power is known as the Enabling Act. By Enabling Act the council sets out the wide rules and nitty-gritty principles are instituted by the delegated authority.

If in India the control of Parliament over the delegated legislation has to be made a living continuity, then it is important that the job of the advisory groups of the Parliament must be fortified and a different law like the Statutory Instruments Act, accommodating uniform standards of laying and production, must be passed. The board of trustees might be enhanced by a specific authority body to make the watchfulness of assigned enactment progressively successful. Other than the different measures mentioned above, it should be taken to reinforce the control of Parliament over designated enactment. The tenets and standards created by the Legal Executive should be connected by the necessities of the advanced age. In spite of the fact that there are no express arrangements in the Constitution of India to allow the appointment of authoritative power, the legal pattern saw in regard of assigned enactment is as per the aim of establishing fathers our Constitution whose principal concern was the flexibility of the Constitution with changing needs of the time. If you want to make certain that the power of delegated law in the arms of the government is not misuse, it is vital to adopt powerful modes of control as applicable in the USA which India has now not integrated yet. 


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43951254?read-now=1&seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents
  2. Queen v. Burah,  [1878] UKPC 26
  3. D.S. Grewal v.The State of Punjab, 1959 AIR 512
  4. Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388
  5. State Of Sikkim vs Surendra Prasad Sharma, 1994 AIR 2342
  6. https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/practice_procedure/book13.asp
  7. Field v. Clarke, 143 U.S. 649 (1892)
  8. Wagman v. Southard, 23 U.S. 10 Wheat. 1 1 (1825)
  9. Raj Narain Singh v. Chairman, Patna Administration Committee Air, 1954 AIR 569
  10. Lachmi Narain v. Union of India, Air 1976 Sc 714
  11. Kruse v. johnson, [1898] 2 QB 91
  12. In Re The Delhi Laws Act, 1951 AIR 332
  13. Chintaman Rao and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1951 AIR 118
  14. Jain, M.P. & Jain, S.N.; (2007) Principles of Administrative Law, 6th Ed., Vol. II, Wadhwa Nagpur.

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