The powers of the legislature, however, depend upon the nature and character of the law-making bodies. In the presidential form of government, the legislature has an effective control over the executive but the latter is not accountable to it.
The legislature in parliamentary system of government has full control over almost all the spheres of government..1 activity. The legislature in a unitary government has both legislative and constituent functions. The position, scope of authority and functions of the legislature, therefore, depend upon the form of government. With the growth of democracy the legislature is assuming more and more importance .
The various functions performed by the legislature in general may be discussed as follows :
The real and legitimate function of the legislature is to make, amend and repeal laws. It makes new laws to meet the changed needs of society.
Old laws which are not suitable to the new conditions are amended. Laws which have become obsolete in character are repealed. Modern state is a positive or welfare state.
Consequently the work of the legislature has increased enormously. Its legislative activities have now been expanded to various fields like education, social welfare and economic regulation and planning. It may delegate subordinate legislative powers to the executive authorities.
2. Control over Finances :
All the legislatures of the world have got an undisputed control over the national purse. It is the crux of democracy that parliament controls the finance. No money could be spent or raised by the executive without the previous consent and approval of the parliament.
In fact no money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of the state without authorization of parliament. Every year budget containing the estimated expenditure and income of the ensuing year is placed before it. It passes the budget in two parts—the Appropriation Act and the Finance Act.
It exercises supervision over the financial administration through its two important committees—the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee.
3. Executive Functions of the Legislature:
Although the legislature is a law making body yet it performs certain other functions as well. It is so because the government possesses an organic unity and the functions of one organ must overlap the others.
The legislature under the parliamentary system of government controls the executive through the vote of no-confidence, interpolation (asking questions) and adjournment motions. Under this system of government, the executive is responsible to the legislature.
It continues in office so long as it enjoys the confidence of the majority in the legislature. The moment a Cabinet loses the confidence of the majority, it is thrown out of office by a vote of no- confidence.
Although in theory the legislature controls the executive in a parliamentary system of government yet in practice the position is reverse. The executive has complete control over the legislature so long as it enjoys the support of a safe majority in the legislature.
The legislature also approves or disapproves proclamations and ordinances issued by the executive.
Certain legislatures perform some direct executive functions as well, e.g., the Senate of America shares with the Parliament the power of making appointments and concluding treaties.
4. Control over Public Administration:
The Parliament determines the structure and organization of the public administration and provides funds to maintain it.
It creates different state services, lays down rules and regulations of service, determines the distribution of powers between various agencies of administration and provides institutional devices for recruitment, and training of personnel of administration.
It asks for appointment of the Commissions like Gorewala Committee and Administrative Reforms Commission to enquire into the administrative structure and make recommendations for improvement and re-organization.
5. Judicial duties of the Legislature:
Certain legislatures perform some judicial functions. The House of Lords, for example, is the highest court of appeal in the U.K. The Senate of America is the highest court of impeachment for high public officials.
In India, impeachment of the President is to be conducted by the Parliament. It determines the judicial structure in the country and may effect changes whenever it deems fit.
In India, legislature might confer judicial or semi-judicial functions on the executive. The legislatures try their own members and decide contested elections.
6. Ventilation of grievances:
A legislature acts as an agency for ventilation of the grievances of the people. A legislature is a place where every interest and shade of opinion can have its case presented. Parliamentary debates and discussions throw a flood of light over different issues of public importance.
The proceedings of a legislature are flashed in the newspapers. Thus a legislature on the one hand, acts as a vehicle for the expression of public opinion, and on the other, acts as an organ for the formation of public opinion. It secures redress of grievances of the people against the executive.
It secures modification in government policies in accordance with the interests of the common people. People can make petitions to the Parliament. Every Parliament has a Committee on Petitions of its own to deal with such petitions from the people.
As Laski says “The opportunity to utter complaint is one of the occasions where the legislature has a special value.”
7. Electoral Functions:
Many legislatures perform certain electoral functions. The Parliament of India, for example elects the Vice- President of the Indian Republic.
It also takes share in the election of the President. In Switzerland, members of the legislature elect the Federal Council, the Judges, Chancellor and even the General of the Army.
It makes election laws, determines dates of general elections and mid-term elections.
8 Constitutional Functions:
Legislatures in different countries of the world have some share in effecting constitutional amendments. The Parliament of India, for example, has a dominant share in making constitutional amendments.
The U.S. Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution. The British Parliament can singly amend the constitution. It is at once a law making body and a Constituent Assembly.
In every Welfare state, legislatures adopts plans for economic development. They not only regulate economy by way of fiscal, financial, banking and tariff policies, but allow the government agencies to enter into the industrial field.
The Parliaments pass legislation establishing Public Corporations to undertake industrial and commercial activities on behalf of the State. Though these corporations are autonomous, the Parliament exercises regular control over their working apart from determining their constitution, structure, powers and functioning through law.
It is also responsible for providing social utility services to the community. These may be organized departmentally or through autonomous or statutory bodies.
10. Appointment of Commissions:
Parliament may appoint from time to time commissions and committees of enquiry and investigations. It may establish research institutes, etc.
Thus the Parliament today performs all those functions which are essential to organize common welfare. These functions are so numerous and defy enumeration.
Points To Remember
The legislature makes, amends and repeals laws. It has full control over the national purse. It controls the executive under parliamentary form of government. The Senate of America has direct executive powers. The House of Lords in U.K. is the highest court of appeal. It acts as an agency for ventilating public grievances. Certain legislatures perform electoral and constitutional functions as well. It controls public administration and approves planning, organizes social utility services, appoints commissions and committees.