Executive function means

What is the executive function of the State- explain

In Ram Jawaya Kapur v. State of Punjab (1955) 2 SCR 225 the State of Punjab, which used to select books published by private publishers for prescribing them as text-books and for this purpose used to invite offers from publishers and authors, altered that practice and amended the notification in that behalf so that thereafter. only authors were asked to submit their books for approval as text-books. The validity of this notification was challenged inter alia on the ground that the executive power of a State under Article 162 extended only to executing the laws passed by the legislature or supervising the enforcement of such laws. Under Article 162, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the executive power of a State extends to the matters with respect to which the Legislature of the State has power to make laws, namely, the matters enumerated in the State List (List II) in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.

Under the proviso to that Article, in any matter with respect to which the Legislature of a State and Parliament have power to make laws, that is, the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List (List III) in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the executive power of the State is to be subject to, and limited by, the executive power expressly conferred by the Constitution or by any law made by Parliament upon the Union or authorities thereof. Under Article 154(1), the executive power of the State is vested in the Governor and is to be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution. The corresponding provisions as regards the executive power of the Union of India are contained in Article 73 and Article 53(1). Repelling the above contention, Mukherjea, C.J., who spoke for the Constitution Bench of the Court observed (at page 230):

“A modem State is certainly expected to engage in all activities necessary for the promotion of the social and economic welfare of the community.”

The following passage (at pages 235-36) from the judgment of the Court in that case with respect to the meaning of the expression “executive function” is instructive and requires to be reproduced:

“It may not be possible to frame an exhaustive definition of what executive function means and implies. Ordinarily the executive power connotes the residue of governmental functions that remain after legislative and judicial functions are taken away. The Indian Constitution has not indeed recognised the doctrine of separation of powers in its absolute rigidity but the functions of the different parts or branches of the Government have been sufficiently differentiated and consequently it can very well be said that our Constitution does not contemplate assumption, by one organ or part of the State, of functions that essentially belong to another. The executive indeed can exercise the powers of departmental or subordinate legislation when such powers are delegated to it by the legislature. It can also, when so empowered, exercise judicial functions in a limited way.

The executive Government, however, can never go against the provisions of the Constitution or of any law. This is clear from the provisions of Article 154 of the Constitution but, as we have already stated, it does not follow from this that in order to enable the executive to function there must be a law already in existence and that the powers of the executive are limited merely to the carrying out of these laws.”

(Emphasis supplied)

In India, as in England, the executive has to act subject to the control of the legislature; but in what way is this control exercised by the legislature?

Under Article 53(1) of our Constitution, the executive power of the Union is vested in the President but under Article 75 there is to be a council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions. The President has thus been made a formal or constitutional head of the executive and the real executive powers are vested in the Ministers or the Cabinet.

The same provisions obtain in regard to the Government of States; the Governor or the Rajpramukh, a the case may be, occupies the position of the head of the executive in the State but it is virtually the council of Ministers in each State that carries on the executive Government. In the Indian Constitution, therefore, we have the same system of parliamentary executive as in England and the council of Ministers consisting, as it does, of the members of the legislature is, like the British Cabinet, “a hyphen which joins, a buckle which fastens the legislative part of the State to the executive part.”

The Cabinet enjoying as it does a majority in the legislature concentrates in itself the virtual control of both legislative and executive functions and as the Ministers constituting the Cabinet on presumably agreed on fundamentals and act on the principle of collective responsibility, the most important questions of policy are all formulated by them.

Suppose now that where the Ministry or the executive Government of a State formulates a particular policy in furtherance of which they want to start a trade or business. Is it necessary that there must be a specific legislation legalising such trade activities before they could be embarked upon? We cannot say that such legislation is always necessary. If the trade or business involves expenditure of funds, it is certainly required that Parliament should authorise such expenditure either directly or under the provisions of a statute.

What is generally done in such cases is, that the sums required for carrying on the business are entered in the annual financial statement which the Ministry has to lay before the House or Houses of Legislature in respect of every financial year under Article 202 of the Constitution. So much of the estimates as relate to expenditure other than those charged on the consolidated fund are submitted in the form of demands for grants to the legislature and the legislature has the power to assent or refuse to assent to any such demand or assent to a demand subject to reduction of the amount (Article 203).

After the grant is sanctioned, an Appropriation Bill is introduced to provide for the appropriation out of the consolidated fund of the State of all moneys required to meet the grants thus made by the Assembly (Article 204). As soon as the Appropriation Act is passed, the expenditure made under the heads covered by it would be deemed to be properly authorised by law under Article 266 (3) of the Constitution.

Specific legislation may indeed be necessary if the Government require certain powers in addition to what they possess under ordinary law in order to carry on the particular trade or business. Thus when it is necessary to encroach upon private rights in order to enable the Government to carry on their business, a specific legislation sanctioning such course would have to be passed.


Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd. and another-AIR 1986 SC 1571 : (1986) 2 SCR 278 : (1986) 3 SCC 156 : (1986) 1 SCALE 799