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Judicial Control Over Delegated Legislation

This article examines the principle of delegation. legislation and its control. Delegation is the process by which legislative authority is transferred from the legislature to the executive branch or other entities. This transfer of authority enables the creation of laws and regulations that effectively address specific and technical challenges.

However, concerns about possible abuse of this authority and the lack of democratic accountability in the process arise. The main benefit is that it allows the state government to amend laws as needed without waiting for the new act to be passed by Parliament. If there is a requirement, then sanctions can be changed by delegated legislation as technology evolves.

It is believed that when such authority is delegated by the Parliament to any person or authority, such person or authority is able to provide more detail to the Parliament's act. Thus, delegated legislation must be legitimate and accountable, necessitating strong control systems.

Control Mechanism
There are numerous reasons for instituting a control mechanism for delegated legislation, including the following: it ensures transparency and accountability in the legislative process. Delegated legislation delegated significant authority to executive or subordinate agencies to implement laws without the involvement of the legislature. Without adequate checks and balances, these authorities may abuse the authority bestowed upon them.

The implementation of control mechanisms, such as parliamentary control or judicial review, allows for a check on these powers, ensuring that the delegated law stays within the limits of its authority and serves the public good.

Control mechanisms act as safeguards to ensure that the delegated law does not violate any individual's rights and freedoms or exceeds the scope of its original purpose. This mechanism aids in the preservation of the rule of law.

Judicial Control Over Delegated Legislation
The need to delegate diverse discretionary powers to the administration necessitates the development of procedures to control their usage in order to prevent abuse. Montesquieu is generally credited with devising a system of checks and balances based on a broad division of governmental functions into three categories: legislative functions, which concern the making of laws, administrative functions, which concern the execution of laws, and judicial functions, which concern the application of laws after facts have been correctly ascertained. To avoid misuse or non-exercise of power by the government or executive organ, judicial control of administrative power is essential.

Although there are no particular provisions in the Indian Constitution containing this unbending separation of powers on the American model, it is widely believed that such a separation of functions exists in our Constitution in a broad sense[1]. One of the fundamental rules that our judiciary must follow while exerting control is that it must never consider the decision's merits but must instead judge on its legality. The judiciary will have to interfere in the exercise of discretionary authority for judicial control administrative discretion on a variety of grounds[2].

Among these grounds are:
  1. Abuse of discretionary power: When authority is given discretionary power, it must be exercised in line with the law. As he phrased it, "when the mode of exercising a valid power is improper or unreasonable, there is an abuse of power." Certain circumstances can be used to infer misuse or excess of discretionary power. Acting without jurisdiction, exceeding jurisdiction, arbitrary action, mala fide actions, wrong purpose, unreasonableness, non-observance of natural justice norms, and so on are examples.
  2. Non-exercise of discretion: Administrative discretion is subject to judicial oversight because it is not exercised.
    1. When the authority delegated authority to a subordinate without legal authorization, or
    2. When someone acts on the orders of superiors without statutory authority.
  3. When a statute bestows discretionary power on an administrative authority but does not specifically provide delegation of such power, discretion must be exercised only by the authority given with such power. Any subsequent delegation of such power to a subordinate or other authority will be a blatant violation of the principle, delegatus non protest delegare, which states that a delegatee cannot delegate further. The House of Lords overturned a registered dock worker's dismissal in Vine v. National Dock Labour Board[3] on the grounds that, rather than deciding the case itself, the Dock Labour Board on which the power was conferred had instead delegated the entire subject to a disciplinary committee.
Delegated legislation may be declared invalid for any of the following reasons[4]:
  1. The enabling Act is unconstitutional: Any statute that violates the Constitution is unconstitutional. The constitutional restriction that has thus been violated may impact the Legislature's competence to make such law or may simply function as a check on the power that is within its competence. There is a limit to how far delegation can go. Legislative essential powers shall not be ceded.
  2. Subordinate law in violation of the Constitution: In some cases, the enabling Act may not be in violation of the Constitution, but the subordinate legislation may be. Principles governing the constitutional legitimacy of legislation originating in Parliament will likewise apply in establishing the validity of a subordinate law. The Act is not to be rejected if a rule created under the enabling Act is determined to be ultra vires because it violates constitutional provisions. Only the violating regulation will be repealed[5].
  3. Infringement of the delegating Act by subordinate legislation: The limits of delegation limit the delegated power. If the rules do not fall within the scope of the Legislature's powers, they may be challenged as ultra vires. As a result, the subordinate delegation must not be contrary to or in contradiction with the delegating Act.

Delegated legislation is permitted by the Indian Constitution. It exists in form of bye-rules, regulations, orders, bye laws etc. Modern legislation requires technicality and expert knowledge of problems of various fields, our legislators, who are politicians are not expected to have such knowledge. Subordinate legislations are more flexible, quickly and easily amendable and revocable than ordinary legislation, in case of failure or defect in its application.

In order to ensure that the power of delegated legislation is not misused in the hands of executive it is necessary to adopt effective modes of control. The judicial control of delegated legislation in India is complete. The constitutional position of judiciary is such that its right to examine legislation, whether emanating directly from Parliament or from subordinate authorities, cannot be barred. A law purporting to confer the statutory finality on subordinate legislation would not bind the court.

  1. In re. Delhi Laws Act A.I.R., 1951, S.C. 332.
  2. N.K. Jayakumar, Limits of Judicial Activism vis-a-vis Administrative Discretion: A Preliminary Inquiry, 26 Journal of Indian Law Institute 55, 56 (1984).
  3. (1957) A.C. 488.
  4. V.N. Shukla, Judicial Control of Delegated Legislation in India, 3 Journal of the Indian Law Institute 357, 359 � 364 (1959).
  5. A.I.R. 1952 Nag. 58.

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