Establishment of Delhi Sultanate in the thirteenth century constitutes a significant landmark in the evolution of the administrative system.
A system which was characterised by fragmented nature of the policy during the post-Harsha period was again put under a centralised dispensation by the Turko- Afghans.
The foremost feature of the administrative system was that the Sultan's office was the most important. The Sultan had the supreme political, military and legal authority vested in him. He was responsible for the safety and security of the State. As such he was responsible for administration and was also the commander-in-chief of the military forces.
He was also responsible for the maintenance of law and justice. To discharge this function, he appointed judges. The Sultan acted as a court of appeal from the judges. A direct appeal could be made to him against the highhandedness of any of his officials.
Although the Turkish Sultans in India declared themselves to be the Lieutenants of the Caliph and included his name in Khutba, it did not mean that the Caliph became the legal ruler. The Caliph had only a moral position. By proclaiming him supreme position, the Sultans at Delhi was only proclaiming that they were a part of the Islamic world.
The Sultan was assisted by a number of ministers who were chosen by him and remained in office and functions of the ministers varied from time to time. A definite system of administration developed towards the end of the thirteenth century.
The key figure in the administration was the Wazir. In the earlier period, the wazirs were primarily military leaders. In the fourteenth century, the Wazir began to be considered expect in revenue officers, and presided over large department dealing both with income and expenditure. The Wazir was assisted by accountant called Mustafa and an auditor called mushrif-i-mammalik.
The next important department after that of the Diwan-i-Wazarat was the diwan-i-arz or the military department. The head of the department was called the ariz-i-mammalik. The ariz was not the commander- in-chief of the army, as king commanded all the armed forces.
The special responsibility of ariz's department was to recruit, equip, and pay the army. There were two other important departments of state: the diwan- i-risalat and the divan-i-isha. The former dealt with religious matters, pious foundations and stipends to deserving scholars and men of piety.
It was presided over by the chief Sadr, who was generally a leading Qazi. Qazis were appointed in various parts of the empire. The Qazis dispensed civil law based on the Shariat. The Hindus were governed by their own personal laws. Criminal law was based on the regulations formed for the purpose by the rulers.
The diwan-i-insha dealt with state correspondence. All the correspondence formal or confidential between the ruler and the heads of other states, and with his subordinate officials was dealt by this department.
There were a number of other departments in addition to these the rulers posted intelligence agents called Barids in different parts of the empire. The ruler', household was another important department of state. It looked after personal comforts of the Sultan and requirements of large number of women in the royal household.
It also looked after a large number of Karkhanas in which goods and articles needed by the king and the royal household were stored. The officer in charge of the department was called wakil-i-dar. He was also responsible for maintenance of proper decorum at the court and placing nobles in their proper order of precedence.
Besides these, there was department of public works set up by Firuz Tughlaq which built canals and many of his public buildings.
Another marked feature of the administrative system of Turko-Afghan was the iqta system. Initially, these were allotted to leading Turkish nobles. The holders of these offices were called muqtas. It was these tracts which later became provinces or Subas. At first the muqtis were almost independent, they were expected to maintain law and order and collect revenue due to the government.
Out of the money collected, they were expected to meet the salaries due to the soldiers and keep the balance. As the* central government became stronger, it began to control the muqtis closely. It began to ascertain the actual income, and fix the salaries of the soldiers and muqtis in cash. The muqti was now required to remit to the centre the balance of the income after meeting the expenditure.
Below the provinces were the Shiqs and below them the Paragana. The villages were grouped into units of 100 or 84 to form Paraganas. The Paragana was headed by the Amil. The most important people in the village were the khut (landowners) and the muqaddam or headman. There was also the patwari or the village accountant. The village administration was carried on as before and was not disturbed so long as it paid the land revenue due from it.
The other chief aspect of the administrative system was the land revenue. Till the time of Alauddhin Khilji the traditional Indian system prevalent at that time continued. Then, started the system of fixing the land revenue based on measurement. The peasants could pay in cash or kind.
The demand varied from one third to half. Alauddin Khilji curbed the power of local intermediaries. Sher Shah further improved upon this system.
The military administration was another distinct feature. The main ranks were thou of khan, below who lay Amir, below him Sipahsalar and below him the ordinary soldier. While the higher officials were paid in iqtas, the ordinary soldiers received salary in cash. Ala ud din Khilji started the practice of keeping standing armies, and of instituting the practice of branding horses and keeping descriptive roll of soldiers.
These key features of administrative system of the Turko-Afghans medieval times and laid foundation for establishment of strong administrative system first under provincial kingdoms and later under Akbar.