Administrative Law- What is Delegated Legislation?

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June 02, 2019

The concept of “Delegated Legislation” has gained prominence in the recent times and several factors have been responsible for the spurt seen in delegated legislation in Modern India. A modern society is faced many a time with situations when sudden need is felt for legislative action. There may be threats of aggression, breakdown of law and order, strikes etc. Such situations cannot be met adequately unless the executive has standby powers. The Legislature cannot be meet at short notice and turn out legislation on the spur of the moment. It is therefore a desirable expedient to pre-arm the Government with necessary powers so as to enable it to take action at a moment’s notice by promulgating the needed rules and regulations according to the needs of the situation[1].

Salmond defines “delegated legislation” as 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”.

What are the limits of Delegated Legislation?

The delegation of legislative power is permissible only when the legislative policy is adequately laid down and the delegate is empowered to carry out the policy within the guidelines laid down by the legislature. The Judiciary has settled and reiterated in several cases that

The Judiciary has settled and reiterated in several cases that a delegate must exercise jurisdiction within the four corners if its delegation and any action beyond the permissible limits has no legal validity unless ratified by the delegator[2]. The power of sub-delegatee cannot exercise power which is not expressly by statutory provisions. The sub-delegatee must conform not only to the provisions of the regulations and the Act under which the power has been conferred but also under other relevant Parliamentary Act[3].

In the case of J.K. Industries Limited v. Union of India[4], the Supreme Court explained the limits on delegated legislation by stating that though the Legislature has wide powers of delegation, it cannot delegate uncontrolled power and the same is confined by legislative policies and guidelines.

Reasons for Delegation

The Supreme Court in the case of Agricultural Marketing Committee v. Shalimar Chemical Works Ltd., enunciated the following reasons for the growth of delegated legislation:

  1. The area for which powers are given to make delegated legislation may be technically complex, so much so that it may not be possible and may even be difficult to set out all the permutations in the Statute;
  2. The Executive may require to experiment and to find out how the original legislation was operating and therefore to fill up all other details;
  3. It gives an advantage to the Executive, in the sense that a Government with an onerous Legislative time schedule may feel tempted, to pass skeleton legislation with the details being provided by the making of rules and regulations.

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Judicial Review of Administrative Action in India


[1] MP Jain & SN Jain, Principles of Administrative Law

[2] Rasid Javed v. State of U.P., (2010) 7 SCC 781

[3] Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Retired LIC Officers Association, (2008) 3 SCC 321

[4] (2007) 13 SCC 673