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Relationship Between Constitutional Law And Administrative Law An Analysis

Constitutional and administrative laws are the areas of law which establish and regulate the institutions of government within states. They also encompass the internal governance of supranational legal orders. They are increasingly concerned with the relationship between internal and external legal norms and the interaction between multiple layers of government within and beyond states.

Relationship between constitutional and administrative law in India:

Both the constitutional and administrative law is a part of the public law in the modern State. It is logically impossible to distinguish between administrative law from constitutional law and all attempts to do so are artificial. Till recently, the subject of administrative law was dealt with & discussed in the books of constitutional law and no separate & independent treatment was given to it.

Many definitions of administrative law, was included in constitutional law. According to Holland, the constitutional law describes the various organs of the government at rest while administrative law describes them in motion. Therefore according to this view, the structure of the legislative and executive comes within the preview of the constitutional law but their functioning comes within the sphere of administrative law.

On one hand administrative law deals with the organization, function, powers and duties of administrative authorities while constitutional law deals with the general principles relating to the organization and powers of the various organs of the state and their mutual relationships and relationship of these organs with the individuals.

In other words constitutional law deals with fundamental while administrative law deals with details. It may also be pointed out that the constitutional law deals with the rights and administrative law lays emphasis on public need. The countries which have written constitutional law likewise India, the difference between constitutional law and administrative law is not as nuclear as in England.

In such countries the source of constitutional law is constitution while the source of administrative law may be statutes, statutory instruments, precedents and customs. India has a written constitution while the constitutional law deals with the general principles relating to the organization and power of the legislature, executive and the judiciary.

According to Mait Land, constitutional law deals with structure and the broader rules which regulate the function while administrative law deals with the details of those functions. The dividing line between the constitutional law and administrative law is a matter of convenience because every researcher of administrative law has to study some constitutional law.

The importance of administrative law has not been adequately appreciated by governments, both centre as well as the states. Indian administrative law has grown rather sporadically and unsystematically.

Thus in India the administrative action can be tested on the following points:

  1. The action must have been taken in accordance with the rules and regulations.
  2. The rules and regulations should be in accordance with the relevant statute.
  3. The action, the rules, regulations must in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
  4. If the constitution is amended, the amendment of the constitution should be in accordance or conformity with the basic structure of the constitution.

The separate existence of administrative law is at no point of time disputed; however, if one draws two circles of the two branches of law, at a certain place they will overlap depicting their relationship and this area may be termed as watershed in administrative law. In India, in the watershed one can include the whole control mechanism provided in the Constitution for the control of administrative authorities i.e. Articles 32, 136, 226, 227, 300 and 311.

It may include the directives to the State under Part IV. It may also include the study of those administrative agencies which are provided for by the Constitution itself under Articles 261, 263, 280, 315, 323-A and 324. It may further include the study of constitutional limitations on delegation of powers to the administrative authorities and also those provisions of the Constitution which place fetters on administrative action i.e. fundamental rights.

Today administrative law is recognized as a separate, independent branch of the legal discipline. The correct position seems to be that if one draws two circles of administrative law and constitutional law at a certain place they may overlap and this area may be termed as the watershed in administrative law.

Doctrine of water shades in administrative law:

The doctrine of water shades is very important as it gives a base to establish a line of proper demarcation of the proper boundaries for the functioning of both the laws. It defines the relationship between the constitutional law and administrative law which was defined by various English authors like Dicey and Holland. Their definition clearly states that the laws are dependent and interconnected to each other.

Evolution of constitutional law and administrative law in India:

Administrative law has become the most eminent feature of the government in today's era and at the same time; it is also the most in ancient periods. Administrative law was alive even in ancient times. The history of the same can be traced back to the Mauryas and Guptas who have a well-organized and centralized administration.

The rule of Dharma was in action. Every man of the monarch observed this rule and no one claimed immunity. It was said that the administration could only be run on the principles accepted by dharma and thus was followed by the kings and his officers. Principles such as natural justice and fairness were few of the power which was in the ambit of dharma.

The parameter of dharma was wider than the rule of law or due process of law. For a better understanding of administrative law and its functions, it is necessary to know about the sources of it. In India, the Administrative law is the part of ordinary law of land. The sources of administrative law in India are different from other countries like America and England.

In America, the sources of Administrative law are statutes, common laws, and implied powers of the administration.

In England, the sources of this law are statutes, precedent, subordinate legislation, and significant case laws.

Constitutional law is the most important source of administrative law in India. It is the origin and soul of administrative law. In other words, we can say that constitutional law is the mother of Administrative law. So, without a constitution, administrative law cannot perform its functions and work properly because it totally depends on the soul of our country’s constitutional law.

Statutes are also a great source of this law. It also came from the constitution. State legislature gives the lawmaking power to parliament. The powers for administration have been even guaranteed under statues and all such powers have to conform to the statutory pattern.

The ordinance is also a good source of this law. It empowers the President and Governor to promulgate during the recess of parliament under Article 123 and during the recess of state legislature under Article 213 respectively. This provision brings flexibility on the level of union and the state to make laws which are necessary for the emergency situations and circumstances in which certain laws and acts declared void by courts of law.

The Chief Executive has the great ordinance making power but it cannot be unlimited. Ordinances can be issued by the Governor on the advice of Council of Ministers. There are a need and the requirements of approval for the confirmation of ordinance.

In the Rustom Cavasjee Cooper v. Union Of India (Bank Nationalisation case) {1}, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that:
“If an ordinance is made on collateral grounds then it can be challenged before the Supreme Court”.

Later on S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, {2} the Supreme Court has held that proclamation of emergency on ground of failure of constitutional machinery under Article 356 is subject to judicial review. Accordingly, Presidential Rule in certain states was held to be unconstitutional.

The relationship between constitutional law and administrative law is not very emboldened to be seen with naked eyes but the fact remains that concomitant points are neither so blurred that one has to look through the cervices of the texts with a magnifier to locate the relationship. The aforementioned veracities and illustrations provide a cogent evidence to establish an essential relationship between the fundamentals of both the concepts. If doubts still persist, the very fact that each author, without the exception of a single, tends to differentiate between the two branches of law commands which create the hypothecation of a huge overlap.


  1. Dr. J.J.R. UPADHAYA, Administrative Law (Central Law Agency, 30 D/1 Motilal Nehru Road, Allahabad, 10th edn. 2016).
  2. S.P Sathe, Administrative Law (LexisNexis, 14th Floor, Vijay Building, 17 Barakhamba Road, New Delhi-110001, 7th edn. 2004).
  3. M.C. Jain Kagzi, The Indian Administrative Law (Universal Law Publishing Co.Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 7th edn. 2014).

End Notes

  1. AIR 564, 1970 SCR (3) 530.
  2. AIR 1994 SC 1918

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