Delegated legislation & reasons for its growth

Delegated legislation & reasons for its growth

One of the advances in the realm of administrative process made during these days is that apart from ‘pure’ administrative function, the executive performs legislative function as well. Due to a number of reasons, there is rapid growth of administrative legislation. According to the traditional theory, the function of the executive is to administer the law enacted by the legislature, and in the ideal State, the legislative power must be exercised exclusively by the legislators who are directly responsible to the electorate. But, in truth, apart from ‘pure’ administrative functions, the executive performs many legislative and judicial functions also. It has, therefore, been rightly said that the delegated legislation is so multitudinous that a statute book would not only be incomplete but misleading unless it be read along with delegated legislation which amplifies and supplements the law of the land.

It is very difficult to give any precise definition of the expression ‘delegated legislation. ‘It is equally difficult to state with certainty the scope of such delegated legislation. According to Salmond, legislation is either supreme or subordinate. Whereas the former proceeds from sovereign or supreme power, the latter flow from any authority other than the sovereign power, and is, therefore, dependent for its existence and continuance on superior or supreme authority. Delegated legislation thus is a legislation made by a body or person other than the Sovereign in Parliament by virtue of powers conferred by such sovereign under the statute.

A simple meaning of the expression ‘delegated legislation’ may be given as: ‘When the function of legislation is entrusted to organs other than the legislature by the legislature itself, the legislation made by such organs is called delegated legislation.’


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 the role to be played by the State, its functions have increased. Consequently, delegated legislation has become essential and inevitable. The various reasons for the growth of Delegated Legislation are as follows:-

  • Pressure upon Parliamentary Time: – As a result of the expanding horizons of State activity, the bulk of legislation is so great that it is not possible for the legislature to devote sufficient time to discuss all the matters in detail. Therefore, legislature formulates the general policy and empowers the executive to fill in the details by issuing necessary rules, regulations, bye-laws, etc. In the words of Sir Cecil Carr, delegated legislation is “a growing child called upon to relieve the parent of the strain of overwork and capable of attending to minor matters, while the parent manages the main business.”
  • 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. Members of Parliament may be the best politicians but they are not experts to deal with highly technical matters which are required to handle by experts. Here the legislative power may be conferred on expert to deal with the technical problems, e.g. gas, atomic energy, drugs, electricity, etc.
  • 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. A legislative amendment is a slow and cumbersome process, but by the device of delegated legislation, the executive can meet the situation expeditiously, e.g. bank-rate, police regulation export and import, foreign exchange, etc.For that purpose, in many statutes, a ‘removal of difficulty’ clause is found empowering the administration overcome difficulties by exercising delegated power.
  • Experiment: – The practice of delegated legislation enables the executive to experiment. This method permits rapid utilization of experience and implementation of necessary changes in application of the provisions in the light of such experience, e.g. in road traffic matters, an experiment may be conducted and in the light of its application necessary changes could be made. Delegated legislation thus allows employment and application of past experience.
  • Emergency: – In times of emergency, quick action is required to be taken. The legislative process is not equipped to provide for urgent solution to meet the situation. Delegated legislation is the only convenient remedy. Therefore, in times of war and other national emergencies, such as aggression, breakdown of law and order, strike, ‘bandh’, etc. the executive is vested with special and extremely wide powers to deal with the situation. There was substantial growth of delegated legislation during the two World Wars. Similarly, in situation of epidemics, floods, inflation, economic depression, etc. immediate remedial actions are necessary which may not be possible by lengthy legislative process and delegated legislation is the only convenient remedy.
  • Complexity of Modern Administration: – The complexity of modem administration and the expansion of the functions of the State to the economic and social sphere have rendered it necessary to resort to new forms of legislation and to give wide powers to various authorities on suitable occasions. By resorting to traditional legislative process, the entire object may be frustrated by vested interests and the goal of control and regulation over private trade and business may not be achieved at all.

The practice of empowering the executive to make subordinate legislation within the prescribed sphere has evolved out of practical necessity and pragmatic needs of the modem welfare State.

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