Nature, Scope, And Development of Administrative Law

Nature, Scope, And Development of Administrative Law

The law which is related to administration is known as administrative law. The administrative procedure has witnessed tremendous growth in every country and evolved to deal with the operation and control of governmental powers.

Definition of Administrative Law

Several people, in order to clarify the concept of administrative law, gave their own definitions. Some of the definitions of are as follows:


He defines administrative law as denoting that part of the country’s legal system which is responsible for determining the legal status and liabilities of all state officials, which defines the rights and liabilities of private individuals in their dealing with public officials, and which specifies the procedure by which those rights and liabilities are enforced.

Sir Ivor Jennings

Ivor Jennings defined it as the law that is related to the administration. It determines the organization, powers, and duties of administrative authorities. A modern British approach is deprecated through this definition.

K.C. Davis

The definition given by K. C. Davis shows the American approach to administrative law. He defines administrative law as the law concerning the powers and procedures of administrative agencies, including especially the law governing judicial review of the administrative action. 

Therefore, it can be said that administrative law is the law concerning the operation and control of administrative power. It provides the jurisdiction to be exercised by the administrative authorities, lays down the principles governing the exercise of such jurisdiction, and provides remedies to the person aggrieved by administrative action. This law acts as an essential weapon in order to control the government’s power through the courts. 

Nature and Scope of Administrative Law

This field of law is mainly concerned with the operation and control of administration and it lays more emphasis upon the function instead of structure. It deals with the various processes of administration and control and it has come into existence in a welfare state.

  1. Pervasive legal discipline: Administrative law becomes a pervasive legal discipline because the principles of administrative law emerge and develop whenever and wherever any person becomes the victim of arbitrary exercise of public power by any authority. The allegations relating to the arbitrary exercise of power can be raised in almost all areas of substantive law.
  2. Law in the realists sense: It is a law in the realist’s sense of the term which includes statute law, administrative rulemaking, precedents, customs, and administrative directions. It also includes the study of something which may not be considered as law, for example, administrative circulars, policy statements, memoranda, and resolutions. 
  3. Meaning of administration: It holds a very extensive and varied dimension and therefore, it is not easy to define the term administration. It is not enough to say that the administrative body is the one that administers and for proper administration it does only puts the law into effect but it also legislates and adjudicates. Administrative agencies are variously designated as departments, directorates, boards, commissions, public corporations, authorities, officers, bureaus, tribunals, and government companies.
  4. Administrative Process: This law is particularly concerned with the process of administration. The administrative process mainly comprises carrying on the business of government and regulating the affairs of individuals in the interest of the public as a whole. Due to several reasons, the process of administration has become an indispensable phenomenon in all progressive societies, particularly in a welfare state where many schemes are adopted for society and are administered by the government. 
  5. Expanding horizons of administrative jurisdiction: As there is an unprecedented increase in in-state activities, the executive exercise very wide powers. Apart from pure administrative and executive functions it also exercises legislative functions by the way of delegated legislation and makes rules, regulations, by-laws, notifications, etc. substantially affecting the rights of the public at large. Its administrative agencies also exercise powers of adjudication of disputes by establishing several administrative tribunals. 
  6. Measures of administrative law: There are several measures which are important in this law. These include: 
  • to check abuse or detournement of administrative power.
  • to ensure to the citizens an impartial determination of their dispute by officials.
  • to protect them from unauthorized encroachment on their rights and interests.
  • to make those who exercise public power accountable to the people. 
  • to see those holders of public power justify their actions as legally valid and socially wise and just.
  • to ensure that public power is not exercised against the public interest. 

Therefore, it is a study of the pathology of power in a developing society. It is a branch of law that is increasingly developing to control abuse and misuse of governmental power. It attempts to keep the executives and its various instrumentalities and agencies within the limits of their power.

Development of administrative law

In the twentieth century, administrative law was considered as the most outstanding legal development but it does not mean that there was no administrative law before. The administration is related to the public and hence it existed in one form or other within the nation having some form. It is as ancient as the administration itself.

In India, the development of this law may be traced to the well organized and centralized administration under the Mauryas and Guptas several centuries before the christ following through the administrative system of the Mughals to the administration under the East India Company. Administrative law has witnessed development tremendously in terms of quantity, quality, and relative significance during the twentieth century and it has become more articulate and definite as a system in democratic countries. It is recognized as a more recognizable form in the present century and has come to be identified as a branch of public law by itself distinct and separate from constitutional law, a fit subject matter of independent study and investigation in its own right. The development of this branch of law in modern times is the direct result of the development of administrative powers and functions. Its development is mainly attributed to the change of philosophy as regards the role and function of the state. Before 1947, India was a police state but after independence, it changed.

A conscious effort began to transform the country into a welfare state. The philosophy of the welfare state has been ingrained in the preamble of the Indian constitution and directive principles of state policy. The constitution envisions establishing an egalitarian social order rendering to every citizen, social, economic, and political justice in a social and economic democracy [1]. It also envisages the establishment of the welfare state at the federal level as well as the state level and the primary duty of the government in a welfare state is to secure the welfare of the people.[2]

Reasons behind the development of administrative laws

This law is a by-product of the intensive form of functional government. The reasons for the development of this law are as follows:

  1. Change in the concept of government: The rapid development during the twentieth century resulted in the change in concepts of the role and function of modern government. The Laissez-faire doctrine gave place to the doctrine of the welfare state and this has led to the rise of administrative powers and functions. The result is that the development of the administrative process and administrative law has become the modern cornerstone of modern political philosophy.
  2. The demand of the people: There is a demand from the side people that the government must solve their issues instead of merely defining their rights. The right to equality holds no importance until the government steps forward actively to fulfil the needs of weaker sections of society and establish equality in reality.
  3. Evolution of socialistic patterns of society: A welfare state has necessarily to undertake legislation on the ever-widening front if the ultimate aim of a socialistic pattern of society operating within the domain of the rule of law is to be evolved by the democratic process. The enormous legislative output of parliament and state legislature calls for trained personnel to implement them.
  4. Inadequacy of the judicial system: There is a presence of inadequacy due to the traditional form of the judicial system which is unable to provide the quality and quantity of performance which is required in the twentieth century for the functioning of the welfare and the functional government is a huge contributing factor which led to the development of administrative law and process. The inadequacy that has developed due to the traditional form of the judicial process to react to the new challenges has led to the development of administrative adjudication in the nation. Now it can be seen that there is a shift from punitive to preventive justice and litigation is now no longer considered a battle to be won.
  5. Inadequacy of legislative process: The administrative action has been called upon to fill in the substance of legislation where the legislature can’t lay down detailed rules in advance. Even when the detailed provisions were made by the legislature they were found to be defective. Under such circumstances, it was felt indispensable to delegate some powers to the administrative authorities and therefore it led to the inevitable development of the administrative legislative process.
  6. Scope for experimentation in the administrative process: Legislation is considered to be rigid while the administrative process is considered to be flexible. In the administrative process, there is a scope for experimentation. Here, rules can be made, tried for some time and if found defective they can be altered or modified.
  7. The non-technical character of the administrative process: Administrative process represents a function instead of a theoretical or legalistic approach. The traditional judiciary is more conservative, rigid, and technical and the courts are not allowed to decide cases without formalities and technicalities but administrative tribunals are not bound to follow the rules of evidence and procedure. They are free to take a practical view of the matter and decide on complex problems as required in socio-economic conditions.
  8. Principles of good governance: The Supreme Court made special mention in the judgment of Onkar Lal Bajaj v. Union of India[3]. This case relates well-established propositions of administrative law. The highlight of the case is the statement by the court of principles of good governance. 

There are thus, numerous factors responsible for the development of the administrative law which is the all-pervading features of the government today. 


Administrative laws aim to ensure legal control of the administrative power and to provide protection to the individuals against abuse of such power. This law attempts to adjust the relationship between public power and personal rights.


[1] Samantha v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1997 SC 3297.

[2] Paschime Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1996 SC 2426.

[3] Onkar Lal Bajaj v. Union of India, (2003) 2 SC 673.


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