Policy formation
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This article is written by R Sai Gayatri, from the Post Graduate College of Law, Osmania University. This article talks about the role of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary in policy formulation. 

Introduction

India is the world’s largest democracy with a diversified population of 1.38 billion, thus it becomes an extremely complicated task to formulate policies that serve the purpose of all. Therefore, we must understand how the three organs of the government i.e, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary contribute to the process of policy formulation. In a democracy like ours, it becomes inevitable to avoid counters against a policy, but these disagreements can also be looked at positively as they strengthen the trial and error approach towards formulating policies. The institutions participating in policy formulation must possess the flexibility to consider the opinions given by various members. However, the changes and postponements occurring in policy formulation must not be labelled as the drawbacks of these institutions. Through this article, we will learn about the roles of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary in policy formulation.

Understanding policy formulation

In its broadest sense, policy formulation refers to the determination of such actions that will result in the outcome which suits the best interests of the people in a country. The institutions involved in policy formulation aim to create such policies which will benefit society as a whole. The policies must be constructed with clarity and must seek to achieve the desired goal of public welfare. Few examples where policy formulation is required are – environment protection, eradicating poverty, trade and economy, literacy, etc. 

Policy formulation is not an easy task, it involves complex decision-making. The institutions involved in policy formulation do not rush into their decisions. The policies are crafted with care and diligence so that while benefiting one part of the society they do not suppress other parts of it. The formulated policies may aim at the development of the country or deal with a particular issue at regional or local levels.

The principal objective of policy formulation is to recognize and analyze the possible solutions to the issues concerned. Such solutions are based upon various aspects such as their impact, the cost to be incurred, implementation resources, political requirements and societal backing. For example, eradicating poverty in India is a herculean task. It is associated with various other issues such as low literacy, economic disability caused by recession or labour market impacts, poor health and sanitation, sudden uncertain events such as the death of earning members, separation and migration due to urbanization, etc.

Fundamentals of policy formulation

The policies formulated must be precise, understandable and definite. Therefore, independent judgement must be employed while assessing the policies to render them beneficial for the people.  No ambiguity must be allowed while interpreting such policies so that unwanted issues can be avoided and the implementation is done efficiently. There must be certain reasonability behind the formation of every policy, and such policy must sustain for a long time. In absence of the said traits, a policy might invite indecisiveness about its implementation rather than providing guidance to the people.

Policies must be drafted in writing, in order to negate ambiguity. They must also be flexible enough to accept the reasonable opinions of all. This will result in solving the unique problems of every situation as required. The facts and other related data to the issue must be accrued before formulating any policy in order to facilitate proper judgement and eliminate any kind of bias. Though the policies are required to be free from ambiguity, they must not mention extremely detailed procedures. It is better for the policies to be general in nature because they are formulated with a view to providing guidance on the actions to be taken in the future.

The objective prescribed must be reflected in the policies by the institutions formulating them. Another main aspect of policy formulation is that there must be express communication about the policies and their functions. Everyone must understand the policies easily without any confusion. Subsequently, the policy will be up for perusal by various members and departments of policy formulation. It is imperative for a policy to undergo a thorough evaluation so that it is effective and efficient enough to act as a solution for the issue in concern. 

Factors affecting policy formulation

There are many factors involved in policy formulation that either result in the acceptance or rejection of a policy. The presence of such factors has a two-fold effect, on a positive note, it opens the gate for a detailed evaluation of the policies, and negatively it keeps on delaying the implementation of a policy. The following are the factors affecting policy formulation –

Financial conditions

Any policy that is to be formulated is considered on economic terms at least once. The financial conditions of a country have a great impact on policy formulation. The policies need to be drafted in such a manner that they do not pose a threat to one part of the society while benefiting the other. Also, the policymakers must bear in mind that the policies must adhere to improving society as a whole without compromising the well-being of the nation. The policies must be practical enough to prove as a solution for the concerned issue but within the economic limits provided. For example – the policies must aim to create jobs, support public investments, etc.

Public opinion

A policy might not be accepted by all members of the public. While one section might view a policy positively, the other may view it negatively. For this purpose, the policymakers must measure public priorities and needs while formulating a policy. The behaviour of the public towards a particular policy must be considered before rendering it final because, in the end, the main aim of the policy is to free the people from facing problems. In case of complexities, the policymakers can call for debates and sessions to solve the irregularities between them and the public. The policymakers must educate the public about the positive effects of policy formulation. However, no policy must be forced on any individual against the law. The policies shall be accepted on an amicable basis for the benefit of society.

Political parties

Our country being a democratic polity invites various political parties to freely and openly put forward their contentions regarding the welfare of the public. These political parties try to help the public through policy formulation too. But in some situations, these political parties follow certain ideologies that favour a certain group of the society a bit more than usual. This bias may lead to serious outcomes such as riots and protests. It is often seen that a policy that is politically influenced ends up being more of a compromise than a solution for the problems faced by the public.

Investigation and research

Every policy that is in the process of being formulated is based upon the research data and investigative findings. Even when a problem is evident enough, it is mandatory to go through the precise information to assess the depth and complication of an issue being faced by the public. The policymakers must be satisfied that there is a need for formulating a particular policy based on the data and information provided to them. Only then the process of policy formulation must start. Creating a policy based on investigation and research not only establishes that the policy will be effective in eradicating problems but also ensures that there is no discrepancy.  

Role of the legislature in policy formulation

The legislature is an important organ that is involved in policy formulation. The Parliament of India is the main body that formulates laws and policies by providing legitimate reasoning for such decisions. It acts as a medium for the public to debate on the issues and their respective policies. The parliament is the apex body when it comes to finalizing a policy by the virtue of its elected members, who draw their powers from the Indian Constitution. However, the legislature only has advisory power, it cannot obstruct any policy. The legislature is free to criticize any policy, but cannot command it. Therefore, the legislature can examine the proposals of every policy introduced by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers, but it is incapable of taking the lead on its own.

The Indian Parliament must be considered as a constitutional tool that validates the decisions of the government more than a policy formulation body. A policy will be accepted or rejected in the parliament based on the decisions of the parliamentary groups. Therefore, the fate of a policy most certainly is based upon the decisions of the elected members in the Parliament. It cannot be assumed that every member of the Parliament is well-versed with the subject of a particular policy in question, therefore the powers must be distributed to different committees. This not only provides a detailed evaluation of the policy but also employs required expertise in taking decisions regarding the policy. Thus, it can be said that, though the legislature is an important organ of the government, it plays a minor role in policy formulation. 

Role of the executive in policy formulation

The executive is the second most powerful organ of the government. Its functions revolve around the implementation of laws and policies. Policy formulation and development strategies are the two main tasks that the executive is concerned with as they promote the welfare of the people. The executive comprises the following –

Cabinet

The executive has the power to decide which policy shall be introduced before the Parliament. In our country, the real executive is the Council of Ministers that includes the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, Deputy Ministers and Ministers of States. Therefore, the Cabinet is the most important policy formulation organ of the government.

Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers

The Indian Constitution provides for a Council of Ministers, where the Prime Minister aids and advises the President. The Indian Government is a parliamentary form of government, thus the President is merely a nominal head; the real power lies with the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers. Therefore, the Prime Minister holds a very strong position in the formulation of policies.

Secretariats

Various Secretariats of the ministries and departments aid the government in carrying out its parliamentary functions. The political heads are known as ministers, and the administrative heads of the departments and ministries are known as Secretaries. Each ministry is allotted to a minister and each department is allotted to a secretary to aid such ministers with policy formulation and related administration. The inception of the government policies takes place at the Central Secretariat. To provide for the policy formulation procedure, policy planning units are established in certain ministries and departments. 

Bureaucrats

The civil servants in India exercise extensive power over policy formulation. They constitute the administrative wing of the government that has detailed knowledge and expertise on the subjects it deals with. Thus, the policies formulated under the aegis of bureaucrats undergo various levels of administrative, financial and other related checks. The possible outcomes of the policies are assessed along with solutions for the problems that might occur as a result of the policy’s implementation.

Role of judiciary in policy formulation

The judiciary through its power of judicial decisions and judicial review significantly influences public policies. The Apex Court has played a major role in the formulation of various policies that dealt with economic and social issues in the country. Earlier, the judiciary did not intervene much in the policymaking processes of the legislature, however, to examine whether the policies being formulated adhere to the principles established by law or not the judiciary participates in the policy formulation process. Few examples – where the judiciary has taken part in policy formulation are social and economic welfare, ownership of property, gender equality and equal protection of the law. Therefore, it can be said that the judiciary plays a significant role in policy formulation. 

Conclusion

Policy formulation refers to the determination of such actions that will result in the outcome which suits the best interests of the people in a country. The institutions involved in policy formulation aim to create such policies which will benefit society as a whole. The three organs of the government i.e, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary play a significant role in policy formulation though at different levels with different approaches. It is important to have healthy governmental mechanisms to introduce robust policies for the development of society as a whole. 

References 


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