Notes on the types and functions of the executive branch of Indian Government


The executive is the primary and prominent organ of the government in terms of its importance. It has been playing its role much before attempts were made to organise the branches of government. Executive has been the manifestation of government. It has been performing its functions of executing the laws made by the legislature and also implementing the policies of the state. The efficiency of the government depends on the effective implementation of its policies by the executive. It is the pivot round which actual administration of the state revolves and includes all officials engaged in administration. However it is customary to use the term executive in its narrow sense which refers only to the Chief Executive Head of the state and his advisors and ministers.


Different types of executives are referred to while making a study of State and the Government. Some familiar types of executive with which the students come across frequently are discussed below.


Political and Permanent Executive :

The emergence of welfare state has made the administrative functions of the State highly complex. The democratic set up has bestowed on the representatives of the people, the power to manage their affairs. Since the representatives without any administrative experience, spring to action from social life, know at best what people expect from them. When they come to power they take the help of the civil service, a body of professionals, trained, experienced and paid. This body of civil servants serve the political masters to formulate their policies and implement them. They have no party affiliations. They assist the political masters irrespective of their party ideology and do not hesitate to point out lapses in administration as and when they occur. These elected representatives who form the Government are known as political executive and the body of civil servants are known as permanent executive.

Nominal and Real Executive :

It is needless to say that the Real Executive exercises the powers that belong to him. He is responsible for the exercise of these powers. May be he takes the assistance of subordinates but the decision is his. For example the President of U.S. A is an example of Real Executive who takes decisions for himself and exercises his own powers.


The Nominal Executive is just the opposite. It is clearly discernible in a constitutional monarchy as prevalent in U.K. or Parliamentary Democracy as prevalent in India.

In case of England the king is theoretically the master of all executive authority. But in practice his executive powers are exercise by the Council of Ministers. Similar is the position in India where the President enjoys the entire executive authority as per the constitution. But the Council of Minister exercises them and remains responsible for the exercise of powers.

The king in England or the President in India are the examples of Nominal Executive and the Prime Ministers under the British and Indian system of administration offer the example of Real Executives.

Singular and Plural Executive:


Single Executive consists of a person who does not share power with others. The President of U.S.A is an example of a single executive. When the executive authority of the state is vested in more than one person having co-equal powers is known as plural executive. Switzerland provides the best example of such a type of executive. Here the executive powers of the state are vested in a collegiate body of seven persons at par in authority. This body takes all decisions jointly.

Hereditary and Elective Executive :

The political Executive can be classified as hereditary and elective. Under monarchic or aristocratic system of government hereditary executives are seen. The king in England is an example of hereditary executive. Hereditary is the road to power in England. Also in Japan and neighbouring States of Nepal the head of executives are appointed by birth. But the executives in democracies like U.S.A., India and most other Countries are elected by the people either directly or indirectly for a fixed tenure. These executives are known as Elective executives.

Parliamentary and Non-Parliamentary Executive:


The Parliamentary executive is basically a responsible and a removable executive. The Parliamentary executive is responsible and answerable to the legislature for all its activities. The striking feature of this type of executive is close relationship between the executive and the legislature. The members of the political executive are the members of the legislature. U.K., India, Australia provide examples of this type. The executive in a non-parliamentary system is independent of the legislature and is not responsible to it. Such type of executive is found in U.S.A., France, and Sri Lanka etc.

Mode of Selection :

The mode of selection of the different types of executive are different as is clear from their nomenclature. Some executive are hereditary pr selected by birth and remain in office till death. This principle is followed in U.K., Nepal, Japan, Spain and many other Countries.

The Chief executive may be elected by the people. The election may be direct or indirect but secret voting is the key. The element of election makes the office democratic. More so the election is for a definite period which differs from Country to Country. U.S.A. and India offer examples of this type.


Yet another mode of selection of the executives is a process of nomination. The Governor Generals of Canada. Newziland, Australia are nominated by British Crown. The Governors of Indian States are also nominated by the President.

Another process of selection is appointment by recruitment. The vast majority of the permanent or non-political executive in India or other Countries hailing from civil service are chosen through this method.

Functions :

The functions of the executive in modern State are complex and varied. The compulsions of a welfare state, the pressures of an industrial society, the expectations from a positive state assign a variety of functions to the executive some of the important functions are discussed here.

Execution of the policies of the state administration of government is the basic function of the executive. As head of the administration, he exercises a wide power of control over the personnel of the administrative service through his power to appoint, direct and remove his subordinates. The subordinates are made to work under his direction and supervision. Maintaining security of the country both internal and external is a sacred function of the executive. Such responsibilities increase many-fold when there is a war or internal riot. Maintaining diplomatic function is an important responsibility of the executive. Taking care of relationship with other States in the world constitutes an important function of the executive. Because the Countries grow in stature, technology and prosperity through mutual help and co-operation. Thus the executive through mutual relationship, with other States try to push through development and progress of its Country.

The management of finance of the State is vital to the administration. The success or failure of the government largely depends on proper implementation of fiscal policy. True the legislature controls the finance and grants funds to the executive. But it is the executive which very meticulously studies the needs of the administrative departments and finds out the ways and means to meet such expenses. It has the responsibility of preparing a budget which would be acceptable to the legislature. Once the budget is approved by the legislature the executive exercises tremendous control over its expenditure by the various departments.

Law making comes under the domain of the legislature. But in practice it is found that the executive enjoys enormous legislative powers. In Parliamentary System the legislative responsibilities rest with the executive. The executive summons, prorogues and if need be dissolves the legislature. In the recess of both the Houses of Parliament the President of India can promulgate ordinance, which has the effect and force of law made by this legislature. The executive as per its requirement drafts and introduces legislative measures for adoption and gets it passed because of majority support. This undoubtedly has made the executive more powerful.

The executive also discharges some judicial responsibilities. The right of pardon or mercy is executive power. The Heads of executives in many countries enjoy this power. For example the President of India can suspend, remit or commute sentences of any person convicted of offence. Similarly the President of the U.S.A. enjoys similar power. The executive in many states have also taken up the responsibility of deciding cases having administrative implications.

An analysis of the powers of the executive stated above clearly indicates the predominance of the executive over the legislature and the judiciary. The executive gradually started acquiring more and more power owing to the emergence of welfare activities of the states. The development of the executive into what may be called a multi functioning organ is highly significant. The real authority in both the developed and developing states have come to rest with the executive. This growth of concentration of power in the executive has opened door for criticism from all quarters. According to Lord Hewart it has led to a rise of ‘New Despotism’ which has controlled the fate of so many by so few.

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