The most fundamental executive functions are those which relate to essential activities of government. The modern State is a complex structure, and it has to cater for the satisfaction of innumerable human needs.
The province of the State has, consequently, considerably increased and modern governments have become more socialistic in their outlook. We do not agree with the old theory of Individualism that the State is a necessary evil and its only function is to preserve internal peace and external security.
Our political outlook is entirely changed. The State is now regarded as a means for achieving the welfare of man. It must provide for that atmosphere in which welfare can best be realised. If this is the raison d’etre of the State, then, no rigid line of demarcation can be drawn to define its functions.
There is, however, no uniformity between the executive functions of one State and those of the other. Broadly speaking, the essential functions may be enumerated as: /
Every State is a politically organised society. The purpose of the State cannot be realised, unless there is internal peace and order. It is the foremost duty of every executive to devise ways and means in order to ensure the maintenance of peace within the country.
The department which is responsible for the maintenance of internal peace and order is called the Home Department, or the Department of the Interior—the nomenclature varies from State to State.
Then, it is the duty of the executive to implement policies and direct the execution of laws. It entails the division of the work of government into different departments and agencies and their organization in such a manner as to ensure efficient and effective administration.
It also coordinates the business of government. Various departments of government do not function in watertight compartments. They act and react upon one another.
The political executive appoints secretaries and other top officials to head the various administrative departments. In the United States, Secretaries are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate.
In Britain, India and other countries with a parliamentary government, they are appointed, in terms of law, by the Chief Executive of the State, but, in actual practice, the Cabinet does so and, to be more precise, they are really the choice of the Prime Minister.
They hold office at the pleasure of the head of the State, though their removal is governed, according to the provisions of the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament. In the United States the power of the President is unqualified. The Supreme Court has ruled that the consent of the Senate is not necessary in case of removal, as it is in the case of appointments.
All States are sovereign and independent. But no State can lead an isolated life or exclusive independence. All States exist under conditions of mutual dependence. To ensure mutual peace and security and to avoid all acts of aggression against one another, States adjust their differences, if any, through diplomatic negotiations.
In order to further international goodwill and amity treaties are concluded and representatives are appointed in foreign countries. The department of government which conducts foreign relations is called the Department of Foreign or External Affairs.
The conduct of foreign relations includes the reception and dispatch of diplomatic agents and recognition or non-recognition of the independence or legitimacy of new States and governments.
It negotiates and concludes, through its representatives, treaties and agreements. In some States the treaty-making power of the executive is subject to approval and ratification of one or both the Houses of its legislature.
In the United States the Senate ratifies all treaties. Although the legislature, generally, controls the foreign policy of a country, yet it rarely interferes in the actual administration of the foreign department, as the conduct of foreign affairs requires high technical skill, secrecy of information and personal tact.
Defence and War. It is the essential function of the executive to secure territorial integrity of the State and to protect the country from external aggression, and when necessary, to wage war. The problem of common defence today is entirely different from what it was a century or so before. No country can afford to wait for defence until war is declared.
It must always be prepared to ward off the probabilities of war and to win, if it actually comes. The department, which is concerned with the defence of the country and controls its military operations, is called the Defence and War Department.
This department may be bifurcated into two—internal defence, and war-department when a country is in the midst of hostilities. The Defence and War Department determines the strength and organisation of the armed forces of the country, Army, Navy and Air Force, and appoints the general and other commanders.
In Great Britain, the Executive has the power to declare war independently of the legislature. In the United States war can be declared by Congress and in India it is declared by Parliament. But in every country the powers of the executive during the period of war increase immediately and immensely.
Usually the legislature expressly confers powers on the executive to control production and transportation, to establish rationing, to institute censorship, and to suspend the operation of certain guarantees of rights and civil liberties. Even when such powers are not conferred, the executive may take any action necessary to safeguard the safety of the State and ensure the successful prosecution of war.
All governments spend huge sums of money every year to perform their multifarious functions. When money is to be spent, it must be obtained by some means. Governments meet their expenditure by taxing the people and by tapping other sources of income.
This is an executive function and the department which makes provision of ways and means is called the Finance Department or the Treasury. This department is the most powerful, because it not only allocates money to the different departments but also regulates and controls their expenditure through audit.
The legislative functions of the executive vary with the form of government that prevails in the State. It is everywhere the right of the executive to summon, adjourn and prorogue the sessions of its Parliament. In countries where there is a parliamentary government, the executive dissolves the popular House and orders fresh elections.
It can also convene special sessions of the legislature whenever necessary. The executive furnishes necessary information to the legislature regarding the needs of the country, either at the beginning of the session, or from time to time, during the continuance of the session.
The Speech from the Throne, at the opening of Parliament in Britain, or the Presidential Address, on the opening day of the session of Parliament in India, is, generally, the exposition of the policy which the government desires to pursue and the legislation in pursuance of that policy which it intends to enact. In the United States the President has the right to send messages to Congress, embodying the various legislative actions considered expedient, including the budget.
In a parliamentary government the real executive, that is the Ministry, is part of the legislature; it controls the time schedule of the legislature and, thus, provides the much needed element of leadership to the legislature. It is the function of the executive to initiate and pilot all public bills and see them through in the legislature.
All bills passed by the legislature must receive the assent of the executive head in order to become laws. He can also veto or refuse his assent thereto. The veto power has, however, fallen into disuse in most of the countries with parliamentary government; in others it is only a suspense veto. For example, in India the President can withhold his assent to a bill.
But when he does so, he must send the Bill to Parliament for reconsideration along with his message. If Parliament again passes it either with or without amendments, the President must give his assent thereto. In Britain, legally the King may refuse assent to any bill passed by Parliament.
But this power of the King has now become obsolete; it has never been exercised since 1707. In a non-parliamentary or presidential government the power of vetoing a bill by the Chief Executive is an effective control over the legislature, although it may not be an absolute veto, as in Britain.
The President’s veto in America can be negative on reconsideration of the Bill by a two-thirds majority vote in each House of Congress. Nevertheless, it is a potent instrument in his hands, because two- thirds majority in each House is difficult to secure. The President also exercises what has come to be known as a “pocket veto,” and it is absolute.
If the President fails to sign a Bill within the specified period of ten days and if Congress adjourns within that period the Bill lapses and is automatically killed. A considerable number of last-minute Bills, to which the President may be opposed or for which he does not want to take responsibility, are not assented to and, thus, fail to become law.
The Presidents have generously used this device. President Jimmy Carter killed in a single day, November 11, 1980, three Bills he considered inflationary. The veto power vested in the executive is, therefore, valuable as a means of preventing hasty and ill-considered legislation and gives the executive a means of defence against encroachments on its powers and prerogatives.
In every country the executive is armed with the power of issuing Ordinances. It is a sort of subsidiary power of legislation which takes the form of decrees. Frequently, this power is expressly conferred on the Chief Executive by the Constitution.
The Constitution of India empowers the President to issue at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, Ordinances, which will have the same effect as Acts of Parliament.
Every such Ordinance must be laid before both Houses of Parliament and it ceases to operate at the expiry of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament or if pore the expiry of that period resolutions disapproving it are passed by both Houses, the absence of an express authority in the Constitution, it is deemed to be an inherent power of the Chief Executive to issue Ordinances.
In countries with a monarchical form of government, the Ordinance issuing power is considered a part of the royal prerogative, there is a constitutional or statutory limitation to it. This device of legislation has more enhanced the legislative powers of the executive.
The increased range of activities of the State has forced Parliaments, during recent years, to delegate wide legislative powers to the executive. The legislative delegation of authority may be effected in various ways. For example, in Britain Parliament may legislate in general terms on some question and leave one of the departments to work out the detailed regulations necessary to give effect to the statute.
It may also merely empower a department to make rates with regard to a specified matter. Rules, Regulations, and Orders so made are known as delegated or subordinate legislation and have the force of law. They are declared unconstitutional only if they offend against the parent law.
Delegated legislation is quite inescapable in the context of a modem State and it has significantly added to the powers of the executive. It is also an ideal arrangement for an emergency as it arms the executive with power to take immediate action.
The Committee on Ministers’ Powers in Britain, while dealing with this aspect, reported: ‘in a modem State there are many occasions where there is a sudden need for legislative action. For many such needs delegated legislation is the only convenient or even possible remedy.”
Moreover, delegated legislation enables the Executive to provide for all the unforeseen contingencies arising out of reform without having to return to Parliament for amending acts or for additional powers. Delegated legislation also relieves the pressure on parliamentary time by removing details of administration from Acts of Parliament.
The right of pardon or clemency is, by common consent, regarded as a natural and necessary part of executive function. This is a semi-judicial function and is justified for various reasons. In the first place, it is intended to correct an error of judgment of the judiciary which cannot be rectified otherwise.
Moreover, a judge decides the case on its merits and not on grounds of political expediency. Many persons may be convicted of political offences, but with the lapse of time their detention may become inexpedient. By vesting the executive with the power of pardon, the release of such persons can be ensured.
A very important result of delegated legislation is the emergence of administrative adjudication empowering the executive agencies designated by statutes to hear cases involving particular fields of administrative activity. Finer maintains that “wherever there is administration and law, there is administrative law.”
The great majority of legislation passed by Parliament of every country and Regulations made there under relate to matters of public administration and vest judicial power in the executive to administer the law. Delegated legislation has naturally made the executive more powerful than before.
This has evinced a stout protest and Lord Hewart in England reflected the attitude of alarmed jurists in his book, The New Despotism, and called to the attention of the public the dangers that he believed to be attendant on this development.
The functions enumerated above are usually regarded as essential functions of the executive. But, as stated above, we cannot circumscribe the functions of a modern government. No government can afford to ignore subjects like commerce, education, agriculture, transport, communications, etc.
These are beneficent departments and without their proper development it is impossible to promote that atmosphere which helps to advance the welfare of man. Similarly, most of the governments now actually ran certain public utility services, and impose statutory restrictions on the production and sale of various commodities.
These changes in the province of the State have been introduced as a result of conscious attempts to bring the economic organisation in conformity to the moral and political ideas.
Much has been done to moralise our economic system and “coordination, regulation and control, initiative and encouragement, in many cases ownership, are regarded as essential in these fields; and the departments concerned are little less important in the eyes of the public than the so-called essential or major departments.”
The scope of the modern State has, in fine, increased enormously and with it has expanded the functions of the executive. Finer has given a matter-of-fact summing up of the enormity of its task. He says that the scope of the State today “hardly fails to envisage any branch of the moral or material sides of human endeavour.
The record is written on the roads, the gutters and the buildings and spells what the State has done in order that society may have a modicum of wisdom, protection of persons against criminals and mechanically propelled vehicles, and environmental and personal defence against deadly bacteria.
The annual thousands of Rules and Orders, the detailed and present plan of activity of all modern States, reveal how the State concentrates upon each individual and weaves his very impulse into the myriad threaded warp of its existence. The State is everywhere, it leaves hardly a gap.”