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