The scope and importance of administrative law has grown tremendously over the past few decades. There are several factors that have contributed to this rapid growth and development of administrative law.
Change in Philosophy of Role of State
There has been a radical change in the philosophy regarding the role of the state. The laissez-faire policy of minimal state interference has been replaced by the welfare state model which believes that the state has positive obligations towards citizens. As held in Unni Krishnan v. State of AP (1993), the Indian Constitution envisions a welfare state model. This has resulted in the state undertaking a wide variety of functions like healthcare, education, infrastructure, housing etc. Performance of these functions requires framing of schemes, rules, regulations by administrative bodies thereby expanding the scope of administrative law.
Industrialization and economic development has led to rapid urbanization with people migrating from rural areas in search of livelihoods. This has created need for better housing, sanitation, transportation and other civic amenities in urban areas. As noted in R.D. Shetty v. International Airports Authority (1979), in a modern society service-oriented agencies like housing, supply of essentials etc. are necessities which the state has to provide. To effectively discharge these functions and framing suitable policies and schemes for urban development, administrative law has progressively gained importance.
Dealing With Emergency Situations
The legislative process of enacting statutes is often time-consuming. On the other hand, administrative authorities can promptly formulate schemes, rules to deal with emergency situations through administrative law. As per doctrine of necessity as laid down in Attorney General for India v. Amratlal Prajivandas (1994), administrative bodies can take actions in emergency situations which may not strictly conform with legal provisions. Such flexibility makes administrative law indispensable.
Judicial avenues often involve complex procedures, excessive costs and delays which render them inadequate to redress many grievances. To make dispute redressal simpler and speedier, specialized tribunals and other authorities are established. They follow flexible procedures laid down in administrative law. As per S.P. Sampath Kumar v. UOI (1987), establishment of administrative tribunals is valid. Their functioning is governed by principles of administrative law thereby accentuating its relevance.
Drawbacks of Legislative Process
Parliament and state legislatures have limited time to deliberate and lack expertise to formulate meticulous, technically sound legislations covering every relevant detail. As per doctrine of separation of powers, policy formulation is legislature’s function but working out minute details is generally delegated to administrative bodies as held in Bharat Cooking Coal Ltd. v. State of MP (2007). This increases relevance of delegated administrative law making.
Administrative procedures allow greater flexibility to formulate rules and then modifying or repealing them after testing their efficacy for reasonable time periods which is not permitted in formal legislative enactments adding to importance of administrative law.
Judicial authorities are bound by strict procedural and evidentiary rules leading to delays and complexities which administrative bodies can avoid by relatively informal functioning, as laid down in Managing Director v. Shivakumar (2011), leading to quicker redressal.
As noted by Supreme Court in Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel (1985), administrative law aims to prevent harm by mechanisms like licensing, inspections, grading etc. unlike criminal law which imposes penalties post occurrence of harm. Such preventive functions necessitate administrative setups guided by principles of administrative law.
For enforcing preventive mechanisms like cancelling or suspending licences in case of violations or destroying harmful products, administrative bodies like pollution control boards are better equipped than traditional judiciary. Hence administrative law assumes great significance.
Thus, the reasons elucidated above have contributed to steady expansion of administrative law. As state aims to ensure social welfare, equitable development and good governance, importance of administrative law will continue to grow manifold. With changing socio-economic conditions, administrative law is bound to evolve further.