Concept of Delegated legislation


Definition: Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘Delegation’ as ‘the act of entrusting another with authority or empowering another to act as an agent or representative’. E.g. Delegation of Contractual Duties.

Subordinate Legislation’ has been defined as:

Legislation that derives from any authority other than the Sovereign Power in a state and that depends for its continued existence and validity on some superior or supreme authority.

Salmond defines – “Subordinate legislation is that which proceeds from any authority other than the sovereign power, and is therefore dependent for its continued existence and validity on some superior or supreme authority.”

Delegated legislation is, at times, referred to as “Ancillary”, “Subordinate”, Administrative Legislation or as Quasi-Legislation”. Delegated legislation is a technique to relieve pressure on legislature’s time so that it can concentrate on principles and formulation of policies.


Essential characteristics of Delegated Legislation:

· The rules should contain short titles, explanatory notes, reference to earlier amendments, etc. for clear understanding.

·     No extra-ordinary delay shall occur in making the subordinate legislation.

·   The administrative authority should not travel beyond the powers given in Parent Act.

·      Essential legislative functions cannot be delegated.

·      Sub-delegation (Delegatus non potest delegare) is not encouraged.

·    General rules should not be framed with retrospective operation, unless and until the parent Act instructs to do so.

·       Discriminatory and arbitrary rules should not be framed.

·       Wide and sufficient publicity shall be given so that general public can know it.

·   In appropriate cases, consultation also shall be made for more effectiveness and efficiency.

·   The Sub-ordinate authorities should not use rigid, crux and technical language while preparing the rules, which may cause difficulty to understand by general public.

·      The final authority of interpretation of the subordinate rules is vested to Parliament and Courts. But the administrative authorities are not empowered and authorised to interpret the statutes.

·        A tax or financial levy should not be imposed by rules.

·        Wherever it is necessary, the explanatory notes shall be given.

·        Public interest must be kept in view while delegating the powers, etc.


History of Delegated Leislation in India:

a. Pre – constitutional Position:

The history of delegation of powers can be traced from the charter stage of 1833 when the East India Company was regaining political influence in India. The of 1833 vested the legislative powers exclusively in Governor – General – in council, which was an executive body. He was empowered to make laws and regulations for repealing, amending or altering any laws or regulations, which were in force for all persons irrespective of their nationality. In 1935 the Government of India Ac, 1935 was passed which contained an intensive scheme of delegation. The report of the committee on ministers’ powers was submitted and approved which fully established the case for delegation of powers and delegation of legislation was regarded as inevitable in India.

b. Present Position:

Though, our constitution was based on the principal of separation of powers, a complete separation of powers was not possible hence it maintained the sanctity of the doctrine in the modern sense. The Indian Constitution does not prohibit the delegation of powers. On the other hand there are several provisions where the executive has been granted the legislative powers. For example the legislative powers of the president under the Indian Constitution are conspicuous. Under Article 123 the president has the power to promulgate the ordinances and unrestricted power to frame regulations for peace progress and good government of the union territory under Article 240. The Supreme Court of India has also upheld the delegation of legislative powers by the legislative to the legislative to the executive in the case of Raj Narayan Singh v. Chairman Patna Administration Committee


Growth of Delegation of Power and it’s Reason:

Many factors are responsible for the rapid growth of delegated legislation in every modern democratic state. The traditional theory of ‘laissez faire’ has been given up by every state and the old ‘police state’ has now become a ‘welfare state’. Because of this radical change in the philosophy as to role to be played by the state, their functions have increase. Consequently, delegated legislation has become essential and inevitable.


Some of the reasons of the growth of the Delegation of Powers are as follows:

1. Pressure upon Parliamentary Time:

As a result of the expanding horizons of the state activity, the bulk of legislation is so great that it is not possible for the legislation to devote sufficient time to discuss all the matters in detail. Hence there is need for a delegation of power.

2. Technicality:

Sometimes, the subject – matter on which legislation is required is so technical in nature that the legislator, being himself a common man, cannot be expected to appreciate and legislate on the same, and the assistance of experts may be required. Hence,  this lead to the growth of delegation of power.

3. Flexibility:

At the time of passing any legislative enactment, it is impossible to foresee all the contingencies, and some provision is required to be made for these unforeseen situations demanding exigent action. Hence there is a need for flexibility which leads to the growth of delegation of power.

4. Experiment:

The practice of delegated legislation enables the executive to experiment. The method permits rapid utilization of experience and implementation of necessary changes.

5. Emergency:

In the time of emergency, quick action is required to be taken. The legislative process is not equipped to provide for urgent solution to meet the situation. Hence there is need for delegation of power.


Delegation Legislation : Position under Constitution of India

The Legislature is quite competent to delegate to other authorities. To frame the rules to carry out the law made by it. In D. S. Gerewal v. The State of Punjab, K.N. Wanchoo, the then justice of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dealt in detail the powers of delegated legislation under the Article 312 of Indian Constitution. He observed: "There is nothing in the words of Article 312 which takes away the usual power of delegation, which ordinarily resides in the legislature. The words "Parliament may by law provide" in Article 312 should not be read to mean that there is no scope for delegation in law made under Article312…." In the England, the parliament being supreme can delegated any amount of powers because there is no restriction. On the other hand in America, like India, the Congress does not possess uncontrolled and unlimited powers of delegation.

In Panama Refining Co. v. Rayans, the supreme court of the United States had held that the Congress can delegate legislative powers to the Executive subject to the condition that it lays down the policies and establishes standards while leaving to the administrative authorities the making of subordinate rules within the prescribed limits. 4 Art. 13 (3) Defines law and it Includes ordinance, order, byelaw, rule, regulation & notification having the force of law.

In Sikkim v. Surendra Sharma- it is held that ‘All Laws in force’ in sub clause (k) of Art. 371 F includes subordinate legislation. Salmond defines law as that which proceeds from any authority other than the Sovereign power & is therefore, dependent for its continued existence & validity on some superior or supreme authority.