Legislative Control - Indian Polity UPSC Notes | EduRev

Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

UPSC : Legislative Control - Indian Polity UPSC Notes | EduRev

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The legislative control of administration is substantial but essentially political. Its basic function is to state clearly and broadly the purpose and objective of what it wishes the administration to follow.

In a democratic administration, especially in a parliamentary democracy, all state activities emanate from the Legislature. The legislature lays down the public policy, the nature and extent of administrative organisation, the number of personnel required for the organisation, the method and procedure of work and also the funds that are to be made available to the administration for carrying the policy into practice. It further follows the public official in his day-today activity and controls his actions, in a general way, and holds him responsible for all his omissions and commissions.

In a parliamentary democracy the Minister is responsible to the legislature. Therefore the official cannot be responsible to the Legislature directly. He can never be called into the floor of the house of Legislature nor criticised by name. The Minister shoulders the responsibility for the administrative acts of his Department and if he is unable to satisfy Parliament, he has to quit office. From this, we see that the administration is responsible to the Legislature only indirectly and in a very general way.

Parliamentary Control

The Legislature in a parliamentary form of Government controls administration in the following ways :

  • Control of Administration Policy: Normally policies are laid down by the Legislature in general terms and the administrative branches are authorised to frame the rules and regulations. But it usually requires the Executive to lay the rules and regulations framed under the enabling Acts before the House. Sometimes it appoints a committee which examines these rules and reports back to the House about their authenticity. Sometimes the Legislature lays down every detail in the statute.
  • Control of Appropriation: A more effective control over administration by the Legislature is through the appropriation system. No money can be spent unless appropriated by an Act of the Legislature. The Legislature controls the activities of the administration by its control over the strings of the public purse. While voting the grants, the Legislature reviews past work and also sets up fresh aims and gives new directions.
  • Audit and Report: A still more effective means of Legislative control is through Audit and Report. For this purpose, the Constitution provides for the appointment of an Auditor-General. He is an officer of the Legislature. He audits all the accounts of the Government annually and reports about the financial transactions of the Government annually to the Legislature.
  • Interpellations: In parliamentary system of government where Ministers are members of Parliament, there is a practice of setting apart one opening hour of Parliament meeting time for question  and answer. The Ministers concerned prepare their answers with the help of the Civil Servants. The question-answer system keeps the Civil alert and responsive to public opinion.

Questions represent a very powerful technique of parliamentary control over administration. Almost any act or omission of administrative authority from the highest to the lowest, can be made the subject of a question. Even though the Ministers answer the questions, the answers are prepared by the officials of the department concerned. This necessitates meticulous record-keeping of every transaction or case, for, it is not possible to forsee about which matter a member may table a question. The question, therefore, exercises a very healthy check on the ministers and the officials and compels them to act so as to be able to meet the criticism which may come on any day. Formally the object of the question is merely to elicit information about something, but in practice, it is used to draw attention to the failures and abuses of authority or to the grievances of the people.

The question hour has been described as a search-light turned on the activities of administration. It can  reach the remotest and darkest of its recesses and expose them to public view. A minister can refuse to answer a question but only on the ground that it would not be in public interest to do so. Too frequent unreasonable refusals would draw the wrath of the House on the minister.

  • Debates and Discussions: The inaugural address of the President, the Budget speech and introduction of a bill for amendment of an Act or enactment of a new law in Parliament provide occasion for full address debates. In such debates, Government policy and achievement in the department concerned come for full examination, any member may comment, criticize or praise any aspect of the department's work.

In the Indian Parliament, in addition to the general debate, there are two other occasions  for discussing the government work in a department. The first is the Half-an-hour Discussion and the next, Short Discussion. The Half-an-hour Discussion follows the Question-Hour, when a member feels dissatisfied with the answer given to his question. During this discussion, the House may extract more information on a matter of public policy from the government, may seek further clarification of the policy, may ventilate the public grievance or may put more pressure upon the Government to modify its policy in accordance with the wishes of the opposition party.

The rules also provide for Short Discussion on a matter of urgent public importance for a short time not exceeding two and a half hours. The discussion can take place only if the speaker admits the notice given by a Member on grounds of urgency and public importance and the Government agrees to find time. If admitted, a discussion takes place on the subject of the notice. Members place their points of view before the House and the Government makes a reply.
 But there is no voting on the motion.

‘Calling Attention’Notice is another device of drawing the attention of the Government to a serious problem in its policy administration. Under this provision, a member may raise a matter of grave urgency immediately. If it is admitted by the Speaker, the Government has to give an answer immediately or it may ask for time to make a statement.

There are two kinds of motions or resolutions, those whose object is to censure a particular minister or Government as a whole and those which seek to recommend some course of action to be adopted. Censure motion, if passed, would result in the resignation of Government. The other kind of motion are recommendatory and may or may not be accepted by the Government. Motions for adjournment are intended to discuss a definite issue of urgent importance.

Through these devices, the administration may be stirred from inertness and callousness and may be made alive to the urgency of the seriousness of a problem.

  • Committee on Assurances: During the course of debates, questions and answers, and discussions, the Government might be made to give assurances, promises or undertakings on the floor of the House. In order to ensure that the assurances given to the House are being properly implemented, the Rules of Procedure in India provide for the setting up of a Committee on Assurances. The Committee functions under the control of the Speaker. Its members are appointed by the Speaker. The Committee is required to report to the House from time to time. The formation of this Committee has helped to keep vigil on the administrative efficiency. The Ministers are careful in giving promises and the administration is prompt enough to take action on the promises given.
  • Other Committees: Parliament appoints committees of their own Members which specialize in their particular sphere of activity and thus keep constant and close watch over the administration. The role of the Estimates and Public Accounts Committee in maintaining legislative control over appropriations and public finances has been enormous. Besides there is a Committee on Subordinate Legislation which controls the government's activities regarding administrative sub-legislation. There is also a Petitions Committee. All  these committees consisting of more or less experts gather a lot of material, hear expert evidence and frame conclusions. Recommendations based on such conclusions help in improving the tone of the administration, in avoiding wastes and improving efficiency and quality of work. Committees are thus a highly efficient means of enforcing legislative responsibility on Public Administration.
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