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This article is written by Virat Singh of 7th Semester of Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University


In contemporary governance, the intricate allocation of powers and responsibilities between administrative bodies and the judiciary holds paramount importance in fostering an efficient and effective legal system. The conventional model of centralizing adjudicatory authority exclusively within the judicial branch faces growing scrutiny, as a deeper recognition of the benefits associated with devolving certain adjudicatory functions to administrative bodies emerges. This article delves into the necessity of devolving adjudicatory authority to administration, exploring the multifaceted advantages and challenges entailed in adopting this approach.


‘Devolution’ is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to govern at a subnational level, such as a regional or local level[1]. It is a mode of transfer of power from a higher authority to a lower authority. Thereby, adjudicatory authority encompasses the power to settle legal disputes and render binding decisions. Historically, this authority has been vested primarily in the judiciary, which upholds the principles of impartiality and independence inherent in the adjudicatory process. However, as the complexities of modern governance have escalated, the judiciary couldn’t cope up with the situation alone. Consequently, administrative bodies have arisen to address specialized areas such as tax disputes, labour relations, environmental regulation, and intellectual property conflicts.


Devolution, Adjudicatory authority, Administration, Need, Legal disputes, Binding decisions, Specialized matters, Efficiency, Timelines, Access to justice, Expertise, Subject-matter knowledge, Streamlining processes, Alternative dispute resolution, Procedural barriers, Cost-effectiveness, Policy considerations, Flexibility, Uniform development, Case management, Precedents, Consistent decision-making, Legal certainty


For a smooth functioning of the government, the framers of our constitution have separated the management into three wings—

  • Legislative                                         
  • Executive
  • Judiciary

In order to prevent any overlapping of powers and functions among these branches, the concept of separation of power has been enumerated in the constitution. As per this concept, the powers and functions of each wing are distinct in order to prevent any conflict. This concept is being followed since the very beginning of the constitution, though not in a very strict sense.

In the context of the case of I.C. Golaknath vs State of Punjab[2], the Constitution effectively establishes the concrete existence of separate constitutional entities, namely the Union territories, Union, and State. Additionally, it incorporates three principal apparatuses, namely the judiciary, executive, and legislature. The Constitution meticulously delineates their respective jurisdictions and demands that they carry out their functions without encroaching upon the functions of others. They are expected to operate strictly within their prescribed boundaries.

In the case of Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain[3], the court established that our Constitution embraces the doctrine of separation of powers in a broader interpretation. Unlike the American and Australian Constitutions, which adhere to a rigid concept of separation of powers, such rigidity is not applicable in India.

In Ram Jawaya vs The State of Punjab[4], Justice Mukherjee observed:

“In India, this doctrine has been not be accepted in its rigid sense but the functions of all three organs have been differentiated and it can be said that our constitution has not been a deliberate assumption that functions of one organ belong to the another. It can be said through this that this practice is accepted in India but not in a strict sense. There is no provision in Constitution which talks about the separation of powers except Article 50 which talks about the separation of the executive from the judiciary but this doctrine is in practice in India. All three organs interfere with each other functions whenever necessary.”


  • Definition of Adjudicatory Authority

The term “adjudicatory authority” pertains to the jurisdiction bestowed upon a body or establishment to resolve legal conflicts and render enforceable judgments. Historically, this authority has predominantly resided within the judicial division of the government. Nevertheless, the notion of decentralizing adjudicatory responsibilities to administrative entities has garnered significant recognition in recent times.

  • Role of Administrative Bodies

Administrative bodies possess a distinctive advantage when it comes to addressing intricate subjects that fall under their jurisdictional scope. Through the delegation of adjudicatory authority, these bodies are able to effectively settle conflicts, decipher regulations, and implement legal principles within particular domains, including labour relations, taxation, immigration, and professional licensing. This delegation process enhances the efficiency of decision-making and guarantees the prompt resolution of administrative disputes.


There have been many instances in the history of judiciary where delegated legislation has been dragged to courts. In the case of Indian Oil Corporation vs. Municipal Corporation, Jullundhar And Ors.[5], the court reached the conclusion that any delegated legislation must align with the provisions of the parent act, ensuring it does not violate the legislative policies established therein. Moreover, the court implied that no delegate should possess greater legislative authority than another delegate.

The legislature is prohibited from delegating fundamental legislative tasks, including the formulation of policies necessary for the administration of a specific act. This restriction applies uniformly, indicating that the delegation of non-essential matters, regardless of their importance, is not permissible.

After thorough deliberation, discussion, and contemplation, the courts have determined that any alternative interpretation that aligns with the policy objectives of the concerned act is deemed acceptable for establishing the grounds of constitutionality.

The Supreme Court explicitly clarified that the intent behind delegated legislation is not a valid basis for assessing the competence of the authority. Instead, the court will consider the relevance and significance of the contextual and background factors under which the rule-making power was exercised.


As administrative authorities are vested with discretionary powers to legislate delegated legislation, administrative law establishes a control mechanism to oversee and regulate the exercise of such powers. This control mechanism operates through the following means:

1. Parliamentary Control of Delegated Legislation: Parliamentary control involves the oversight and scrutiny of delegated legislation by the legislative branch of government. This control is typically exercised through the following mechanisms:

  • Enabling Act Scrutiny: Parliament ensures that the delegation of legislative authority to administrative bodies is done within the limits prescribed by the enabling act.
  • Committee Scrutiny: Parliamentary committees review and examine delegated legislation to assess its consistency with the intent of the enabling act and to ensure proper scrutiny before implementation.
  • Disallowance: Parliament reserves the right to disallow delegated legislation if it is found to be inconsistent with the provisions of the enabling act or against public interest.

2. Judicial Control of Delegated Legislation: Judicial control refers to the role of the judiciary in reviewing and determining the validity of delegated legislation. The courts exercise this control through the following means:

  • Ultra Vires Review: The judiciary assesses delegated legislation to ensure that it remains within the limits of the authority conferred by the enabling act. If the delegated legislation exceeds its authority or goes beyond the intended scope, it may be declared ultra vires and invalidated.
  • Proportionality Review: Courts examine whether the delegated legislation is proportionate to the objectives it seeks to achieve, ensuring that it does not impose excessive restrictions on individuals’ rights and freedoms.
  • Judicial Review: Individuals or organizations affected by delegated legislation can seek judicial review to challenge its legality and request the courts to intervene and strike down any unlawful provisions.

3. Procedural Control of Delegated Legislation: Procedural control focuses on the process followed in the making of delegated legislation. It includes the following elements:

  • Publication and Consultation: Administrative authorities are often required to publish proposed delegated legislation and provide an opportunity for public consultation and feedback before finalizing it.
  • Rules of Natural Justice: Authorities must adhere to the principles of natural justice, including providing fair notice and an opportunity to be heard to those affected by the delegated legislation.
  • Subordinate Legislation Committees: Some jurisdictions have established committees to oversee the procedure and content of delegated legislation, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and protecting against potential abuses of power.

These control mechanisms collectively aim to maintain accountability, ensure legality, and safeguard against any misuse or arbitrary exercise of delegated legislative powers by administrative authorities.


Following are discussed the advantages of devolution:

  • Enhanced Expertise and Specialization: Administrative bodies possess invaluable subject-matter expertise and specialized knowledge that significantly enriches the quality of adjudication within their specific domains. This expertise empowers administrators to make more judicious decisions, as they delve into the intricate technical, scientific, and industry-specific aspects that often underpin cases.
  • Improved Efficiency and Timeliness: Administrative bodies are often better equipped to handle a substantial caseload efficiently, in contrast to overburdened court systems. Through the implementation of streamlined processes, deployment of specialized personnel, and adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, administrative bodies can expedite the resolution of disputes, alleviating the burdens placed on traditional courts.
  • Increased Access to Justice: The devolution of adjudicatory authority plays a pivotal role in enhancing access to justice by rendering the dispute resolution process more accessible and economically feasible. Administrative bodies often feature lower procedural barriers and costs, allowing individuals and businesses to seek redress without encountering the complexities and financial burdens associated with formal court proceedings.
  • Consideration of Policy Implications: Administrative bodies occupy a unique position to take policy implications into account while adjudicating cases. Their capacity to interpret and apply laws in a manner that aligns with the objectives and idiosyncrasies of specific industries or sectors ensures adaptability. This, in turn, enables administrators to address intricate regulatory issues and respond to evolving societal needs.
  • Effective Case Management and Precedents: Devolution of adjudicatory authority facilitates efficient case management within administrative bodies. By establishing consistent decision-making processes and precedents, these bodies can foster predictability, ensuring that similar cases are treated uniformly. Such consistency promotes legal certainty and mitigates the potential for conflicting interpretations of the law.


Devolution can present several disadvantages, which are outlined as follows:

  • Difficulty in securing qualified personnel: One drawback of devolution is the challenge of attracting qualified personnel to accept postings in remote areas. This issue is particularly prevalent in developing countries where critical social amenities may be lacking. The allure of big cities tends to retain highly qualified individuals, making it challenging to staff remote regions with skilled personnel.
  • Potential for inefficiency: When there is a scarcity of qualified personnel, governments may be compelled to hire individuals who are willing to accept postings in remote areas, regardless of their level of expertise. Consequently, the efficiency and effectiveness of the services provided may not meet the expected standards, leading to subpar outcomes.
  • Uneven development: Devolution can contribute to disparities in development among different districts or regions. Motivated districts with access to highly qualified personnel tend to progress at a faster pace, while those with less qualified personnel may lag behind. This lack of uniform development can perpetuate socioeconomic inequalities and hinder overall progress.
  • Increased costs: The practice of devolution requires establishing institutions and infrastructure across the country to provide comparable services to all regions. This entails constructing facilities and hiring personnel to manage them. The financial implications associated with building and maintaining such structures make devolution a costly endeavour.
  • Divided loyalty: While devolution brings the government closer to the people, it may also lead to a shift in loyalty. Individuals tend to identify more strongly with the government that is geographically closer to them. Consequently, their allegiance and sense of connection may become primarily focused on the local government, potentially eroding their connection with the central authority.
  • Potential for secession: Excessive devolution may foster a sense of heightened independence among regional and district governments. This can lead them to contemplate secession or breaking away from the central authority. If not managed effectively, such sentiments can escalate and result in conflicts or even full-fledged wars, posing a significant threat to stability and national unity.


  • Judicial Oversight: While the devolution of adjudicatory authority to administrative bodies is highly desirable, it must be accompanied by robust mechanisms for judicial oversight. The courts should retain the power to review decisions made by administrative bodies to ensure compliance with legal principles and safeguard against potential abuses of power.
  • Independence and Impartiality: To maintain public trust, it is imperative to ensure that administrative bodies possess ample independence and impartiality. Transparent appointment procedures, clear decision-making criteria, and safeguards against conflicts of interest must be established to safeguard the integrity of the adjudicatory process.
  • Procedural Safeguards: Administrative bodies must adhere to procedural safeguards that protect the rights of all parties involved. These safeguards should include principles of natural justice, such as the right to be heard, the right to legal representation, and the right to appeal decisions to higher authorities or the judiciary.
  • Capacity Building and Training: Adequate resources, training programs, and capacity-building initiatives are indispensable in enabling administrative bodies to effectively carry out their adjudicatory functions. Continuous professional development, knowledge-sharing platforms, and collaborations with judicial institutions can significantly enhance the competence and professionalism of administrators.
  • Legislative Framework: The devolution of adjudicatory authority necessitates a well-defined legislative framework that clearly delineates the jurisdiction, powers, and procedures of administrative bodies. A comprehensive legal framework should ensure accountability, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law while granting necessary autonomy to administrative bodies.


The devolution of adjudicatory authority to administrative bodies represents a pragmatic response to the evolving needs of modern governance. By harnessing the expertise, efficiency, and accessibility of administrative bodies, the legal system can more effectively address the complexities and challenges presented in an ever-changing world. However, it is vital to establish appropriate checks and balances, safeguard independence, and uphold procedural fairness to ensure the legitimacy and effectiveness of devolved adjudicatory systems. With meticulous planning, adequate resources, and a steadfast commitment to the principles of justice, devolution can serve as a potent tool in enhancing access to justice and improving the overall efficiency of the legal system.


  1. https://lawbhoomi.com/administrative-adjudication-meaning-needs-and-growth-of-administrative-adjudication/
  2. https://thelawcommunicants.com/devolution-of-adjudicatory-authority-on-administration/#:~:text=The%20devolution%20of%20adjudicatory%20authority%20on%20administration%20brings%20numerous%20advantages,streamlines%20the%20resolution%20of%20disputes.
  3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/administrative-law-1/
  4. https://old.amu.ac.in/emp/studym/100003464.pdf
  5. https://www.studocu.com/in/document/university-of-lucknow/administrative-law-i/unit-3-administrative-law/47370405

[1] “What is devolution?”, BBC Academy

[2] 1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762

[3] Appeal (civil) 887 of 1975

[4] AIR 1955 SC 549, 1955 2 SCR 225

[5] Civil Appeal No. 46 of 1990


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