Political Institutions – Foundation of Governance

Political Institutions

Political institutions play an important role in shaping the governance and functioning of a country. It serves as the basis for decision making, policy formulation, and law enactment.  Political institutions are the backbone of a country’s political system. It is the foundation of a nation’s governance and democracy. Political institutions serve as the pillars of democracy, ensuring the smooth functioning of the government and safeguarding the rights and interests of the citizens.

India comprises 28 states and 8 Union territories, all contributing to its unity. Within the centralized structure of the Indian government, there are three wings.

First, the Legislature makes laws for the country;

Second, the Executive enforces the laws and manages the Constitution; and

Third, the Judiciary ensures equality and justice and also safeguards the citizens from the autocracy of the government.

The concept proposed by Aristotle suggests that government functions can be classified into three major realms: lawmaking, enforcement, and adjudication. There are three separate entities:

  1. The legislature,
  2. The executive, and
  3. The judiciary,

These three are responsible for these functions. Undoubtedly, the Legislature holds the most significant position as it frames and expresses the will of the state.


One of the key political institutions is the legislature, it is responsible for making laws and representing the interests of the people. Elected representatives make up this body, engaging in debates and discussions on various matters, and ultimately enacting legislation that mirrors the desires of the populace. The legislature acts as a check on the executive branch, ensuring that the government’s actions are in line with the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

Parliament is the legislative body of India. The Parliament comprises the President, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. It makes laws for the administration of the country and has outright control over the nation’s wealth. Approval of the Parliament is necessary before levying any new kind of taxes or incurring expenses. Applying sound reasoning and fairness, the Parliament manages the routine activities of the Council of Ministers. In extreme cases, Parliament can force the government to quit by expressing its want of confidence in the Executive. The Parliament also has the authority to rephrase the Constitution of India.

1) Delegated Legislation

The Parliament delegates certain powers and authorities to other entities such as the Government and the RBI to formulate rules, regulations, and release bills. The concept of delegated legislation involves the delegation of authority to specific entities. The requirement for making such notifications and declarations public is through the Official Gazette.

2) Ordinances

A Parliament in session can pass any act. At times, there is an urgent need to enact legislation and it is not feasible to delay the action until the beginning of the next Parliamentary session. In such circumstances, the President possesses the authority to issue an Ordinance. It has the same validity as that of the Act of Parliament but is valid only for a limited period. For example, a new Patent Law through ordinance (Patents (Amendment) Ordinance 2004) was passed by the government of India to fulfil WTO requirements. As it was an emergency case, it did not get through the Parliament and an Onlinace was issued to enact a new Patent Law on December 27, 2004. Following that, it was operational from January 1, 2005.

Structure of Legislature in India

The basic structure of the legislature in India can be shown in the image below:

The structure of the legislature in India is as follows:

  1. Union Legislature
  2. State Legislature

1) Union Legislature

The Union Legislature consists of the Parliament of India, the President and two houses.

  1. Lok Sabha and
  2. the Rajya Sabha

Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are the two houses of the Union Legislature.

The following section explains these two houses of the Union Legislature.

i) Lok Sabha

It is the lower bouse of the Union Legislature of India. The general terminology for it is the ‘House of the People.’ The election of Lok Sabha members is based on Adult Suffrage (from single-member constituencies). The Speaker holds the esteemed position of presiding over the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament.

ii) Rajya Sabha

The ‘Council of States’ or ‘House of Commons’ is the alternate name for the upper house of the Union Legislature of India. Here, the Vice President of India is the head of the Rajya Sabha. Elected members of State Legislative Assemblies indirectly choose representatives for the respective states in the Rajya Sabha.

2) State Legislature

In a country, every state is provided with a legislature by the Constitution. The State Legislature comprises the Governor and one or two houses. If the State Legislature is bicameral, then it consists of two houses; and if it is unicameral, then it consists of one house.

i) Legislative Assembly

People commonly use the name Vidhan Sabha to describe it. This is the popular house of the State Legislature where the elected representatives of the people convene.

ii) Legislative Council

The Vidhan Parishad, commonly referred to as the upper house of the State Legislature, holds a significant position in the Indian government system. It consists of various categories of members.

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Functions of Legislature in India

In every country, the functions of legislatures are different. The form of government in each state determines the role of the legislature. The nature and scope of the functions performed by a legislature differ from a monarch or aristocrat state to that of a democratic state. The legislature has a very important role to play in the Parliamentary System of Government. Under such a system, the legislature holds a predominant position over the executive. The executive remains liable and accountable to the legislature for all its activities. The executive will remain in power until the legislature is supportive and satisfied.

The principal role of the legislature is the same even if the organisation, nature and functions of the legislatures differ from one country to another.

The functions of the legislature in India are as follows:

  1. Legislative Functions
  2. Financial Powers
  3. Regulatory Functions
  4. Judicial Function
  5. Deliberative Functions
  6. Electoral Functions
  7. Constitutional Functions

1) Legislative Functions

The most important function of the legislature is to make laws because it is the direct source of legislation. Generally, people regard law as the expression or reflection of the collective will of a country’s citizens. These laws serve as indicators of the shifting societal conditions and the evolving social milieu. Although the legislature is responsible for enacting laws, it is the executives who carry out the implementation of policies and plans. Apart from law-making, it is also the function of the legislature to amend and repeal the laws that have become obsolete with the changing wants and desires of society. The enactment of laws strictly adheres to the procedural guidelines set forth in the Constitution. The powers of the legislatures are definite and limited under the provisions of the Constitution of India.

2) Financial Powers

Authorities have vested the legislature with different powers within the financial domain. It holds the responsibility of safeguarding India’s national income. It controls and regulates all the incomes and expenses of the government regarding several projects, administration and public welfare. Representatives should guide and regulate the use of the general public’s money to prevent its misuse and irrational spending. The theory of ‘no taxation without representation’ underscores the legislature’s authority as a body responsible for both fundraising and granting funds. The basic principle in every country dictates that the legislature’s consent is mandatory for any expenditure or tax collection to take place. Legislature is the most popular channel that directs all proposals for financial legislation.

3) Regulatory Functions

Another function based on the Parliamentary System of Government is that the legislature has direct and immediate control over the executive. The legislature has the power to ask questions from the executive about all its activities. It can enquire the ministers to obtain all the important information related to the subject of administration and public interest. The legislature can also raise debates and adjournment motions to discuss the lapses of the government and can declare a no-confidence motion. By directing such a motion, the legislature denotes its lack of confidence in the government and if this motion is passed then the party in power is compelled to resign from that position. These legislative powers profoundly control the operations of the government.

4) Judicial Function

The legislature also performs various judicial functions. In some countries, the legislature has been given the responsibility of exercising the function of judging high constitutional authorities like members of the judiciary, head of the executive and other constitutional entities through the motion of impeachment. Impeachment is a formal process charged on officials, who have done unlawful acts and as a result, can be removed from office or punished. In India, the Parliament can impeach the President, the judges of the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the members of UPS.C after fulfilling all the constitutional formalities. In England, the Upper House of Parliament is the highest court of appeal and in the United States, the Senate can impeach the President. Many times the commissions of inquiry relating to agriculture, industry, trade, commerce, etc., are appointed by the legislature.

5) Deliberative Functions

The legislature is a place where several people coming from different sections of society represent their interests and varied viewpoints. This is why it is considered as a deliberative body. It carries out the discussion and debate procedures which enables the body to determine various legislations and policies. It provides an opportunity for all the members of a particular party to express their views and present them from the perspective of the discussion held in the House. Several views of different parties presented in the House help the members of the executive to understand several problems to find out their possible solutions and also contribute to developing political awareness of the general public. Being a deliberative body, the legislature can build a connection between the government and the public.

6) Electoral Functions

Many legislatures also perform electoral functions. The Indian Parliament participates in the election of the President and the Vice President of India. The committee members of various Houses are also elected by the legislature. Alongwith this, the residing and deputy presiding officers of the House are also elected by the legislature.

7) Constitutional Functions

In addition to the above functions, the legislature also executes constitutional functions. Legislatures of almost all countries have been assigned the authority to amend the Constitution. In India and other countries like Britain and the U.S.A., the legislature is the only place where all amendment plans can be commenced. There are several procedural limitations under which the legislature practices its constitutional functions.


Another important political institutions is the executive branch, headed by the president or prime minister, depending on the country’s political system. The executive branch is responsible for implementing and enforcing laws, managing the day-to-day affairs of the government, and representing the nation on the international stage. It plays an important role in decision making, policy formulation, and the execution of government programs.

A Council of Ministers assumes the responsibility of overseeing the administrative affairs of the country. The President of India is the Head of the State on record, but actual powers to rule lie in the hands of the Council of Ministers. Hence, the Prime Minister and his associates constitute the Union Cabinet, with each minister assuming responsibility for a specific ministry. The government looks after the matter through different departments and each department has a head designated as Secretary. If the department is large, then a Board is formed to control the department, e.g., the Railway Board. Furthermore, the government employs various additional officials for administrative functions.

The task of preparing and planning the nation’s general policy falls under the jurisdiction of the Union Cabinet. The Cabinet creates a preliminary version of all significant Bills and then submits them to the Parliament for approval. The Finance Minister, in collaboration with other ministers, creates a budget for the upcoming financial year and subsequently presents it in the Lok Sabha. Therefore, the Council of Ministers possesses all administrative powers.

Structure of Executive in India

India is a democratic country with a parliamentary form of government. The government is termed the Union Government at the Central level and the State Government at the State level. There are three bodies of the Union Government, i.e., the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary. The Union Executive consists of the Prime Minister, the President, and his Council of Ministers. The structure of the Executive in India is represented below:

1) Union Executive

The hierarchy of Union Executives by the relative authority and status is as follows:

i) President

The Rashtrapati or the President of India is the first citizen of India and the head of State. Additionally, he/she holds the position of the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. The president holds the position of the nominal executive of the State, whereas the Prime Minister and council of ministers assume the role of the actual executives of the State. On paper, it is the President who holds significant power.

ii) Vice President

The Vice President holds the second highest office in the country. He can also be called a ‘President in waiting. The reason behind this is that he/she takes over the office of the President for six months when the office remains unoccupied due to the sudden death, impeachment or resignation of the President.

iii) Prime Minister

The Prime Minister of India serves as the esteemed leader of the Union Government. As India follows the Westminster model of constitutional democracy the role of the Prime Minister is to administer the daily operations of the Union Government of India.

iv) Council of Ministers

It is the policy-making body of the Government and the country as a whole. The Council of Ministers operates under the governance of the Prime Minister. They are provided by the Constitution to assist and guide the President in the implementation of his operations.

v) Attorney-General (AG)

The President of India elects the Attorney-General (AG). The person appointed as AG should be qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court. In simple words, he/she must be a citizen of India and should have been a judge of some high court for five years an advocate of a high court for at least ten years or a renowned jurist from the President’s perspective.

2) State Executive

The structure of Individual States is identical to that of the Union Executives, which is as follows:

i) Governor

The Governor of India delegates all the executive powers of the State Government; he or she possesses majority support in the Legislative Assembly. He or she also has the power to appoint the Chief Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers. The Chief Minister guides the Governor on the issuance of portfolios to the council of ministers. The governor additionally carries out all the other notable appointments of the state.

ii) Chief Minister

The Chief Minister holds the position of the eminent personality in any state of India. He/she is also the political head of the state. According to the Constitution of India, the Governor of the state appoints the Chief Minister who will lead the Council of Ministers in every state. The Chief Minister is the chief architect of the state and the focal point of the state executive

iii) Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers are provided by the Constitution to assist the Governor. This Council of Ministers consists of the Chief Minister and other ministers. The Governor appoints the Chief Minister, whereas the Governor appoints other ministers under the Chief Minister’s guidance. By and large, the Council of Ministers is accountable to the Legislative Assembly.

Functions of the Executive in India

In the present scenario, the leadership of executive control has dominated the distrust in them. In recent times, the executive has become the government in actuality and the theory of government’s three organs with equivalent powers requires reaffirmation. The different functions of the executive in India are as follows:

1) Administration of the Country

The major function of the executive is to manage and regulate the country It is the duty of the government to maintain internal peace and control in the country, Alongwith this, the executives should also manage external relations, announce war, accomplish peace, make treaties with foreign cates, organise troops, declare emergency if required, appreciate or depreciate currency, determine prices of essential commodities and implement activities relating to the welfare and security of the people.

2) Executing Legislative Functions

Even though legislative functions are not a part of the executive sphere, recently, the executive has started performing various legislative functions. They play an active role in planning and drafting laws for the legislature. This is real in the sense of parliamentary governments like India and the United Kingdom. In India, the executive has the authority to issue ordinances if the legislature is not in session. The Head of the State has the authority to cancel or postpone the bills passed by the legislature. Due to the extension in the delegation of legislation, there is a rise in the functions of the executive. The laws formulated by the Parliament usually do not include the details which are eventually provided by the executive.

3) Performing Judicial Functions

The executives also carry out certain judicial functions. The Head of the State in every country has the power to allow forgiveness, stay or amnesty to the criminals or offenders. This power of granting reprieve is termed as “Prerogative of Mercy”. The other functions performed by the executive include settlement of disputes through administrative tribunals, appointment of judges, etc. There are few countries where the ministers have the authority to operate as appellate tribunals.

4) Regulating the Wealth of the Nation

One of the major functions of the executive is to prepare the budget and present it before the Parliament for its approval. The executive determines the taxation system of the nation and the Parliament only provides an official consent. The executive is responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of the budget provisions approved by the Parliament. To ensure the proper implementation of the provisions, the executive has few auditing and controlling firms that act as the financial watchdog of the country.

5) Making Decisions

The participation of bureaucracy, i.e., the permanent executive is essential at every step of the decision-making procedure. It also helps to maintain steadiness in the administration. Generally, all the political executives rely on the bureaucrats because they have appropriate knowledge and technical expertise.


The judiciary is yet another important political institutions that upholds the rule of law and ensures justice for all. It interprets and applies the laws, resolves disputes, and safeguards the rights and liberties of individuals. The judiciary acts as an independent and impartial arbiter, ensuring that the government’s actions are within the bounds of the Constitution and protecting the citizens from any abuse of power.

In the mid-19th century, the English implemented the British legal system, later acknowledged as the Indian Judiciary. It is a typical combination of legislations, customs and practices which have enforceability of law. The highest legal document of the nation is the Constitution of India. The Indian Judiciary has different levels and various types of courts with varying powers based on the tier and jurisdiction granted to them.

They all form an authoritarian hierarchy by the orders of the courts in which they preside. The flow hierarchy consists of the Supreme Court at the apex, followed by High Courts of each state with district judges sitting in District Courts, and at the bottom are the Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judge of Junior Division, Various types of criminal and civil cases are handled by the courts including conflicts between individuals and the government. As stated in the Constitution of India, the Indian judiciary is autonomous of the executive and legislative sections of the government.

Structure of Judiciary in India

The structure of the judiciary in India is shown in the figure below:

1) Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has the original and appellate jurisdiction by the Constitution of India. The term ‘Original Jurisdiction’ implies that the court can directly listen to the suits from the parties in disagreement. Whereas, in appellate jurisdiction, the court hears appeals that are contrary to a decision given by any other court of India.

The Supreme Court serves as the guardian of the Constitution mainly of the Fundamental Rights which are assured to the citizens of India. It also understands the Constitutional clauses and provides advice to the Union Government. As per Article 136 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the choice to grant special leave to appeal any sentence, decree, judgement, order or determination passed or made by any other tribunal or court in India. Under Article 141 of the Constitution, any law declared by the Supreme Court is a legal obligation on all courts in India.

2) High Court

The Constitution imparts both original and appellate jurisdiction to the High Court. It is also considered as a court of record which implies that the judgement or order passed by this count is regarded as commanding and they act as case laws for future study. It performs administrative as well as judicial functions. The High Court has the authority to supervise and control all other lower courts in the country.

All the High Courts are allowed to issue writs or summons. A writ refers to an order or procedure that is issued by the court or any judicial officer, appealing an individual to perform or cease from performing any act. This is the most influential and important right and is quite beneficial if the government or other administrative bodies deny justice to any person. An application made to any High Court to demand justice is known as a Writ Petition. Every state has three kinds of Subordinate Courts apart from the High Court, i.e.,

  1. Criminal Courts,
  2. Civil Courts, and
  3. Revenue Courts.

The Constitution of any country plays a pivotal role in developing the most favourable environment for the smooth functioning of business. It helps in effectively managing and controlling the environment. Alongwith the Constitution, the judiciary also acts as a decisive force in developing business. Nations which have a powerful legislature, administrative body and judiciary system aid business to grow and sustain

3) Subordinates

From district courts to Gram Panchayats, all these courts under High Courts come into this group.

Functions of Judiciary in India

An array of functions ranging from the interpretation and enactment of current laws to framing of laws and policies that are expected to be evident in future is performed by the judicial system across the globe. It is essential to discuss the functions of the judiciary before analysing its impact on policies and programmes:

1) Ensure Fair and Independent Administration

The first and foremost function of the judiciary is to ensure that the administration of justice is unbiased and independent. The most important area of operation of a judiciary is to clearly understand the provisions of the Constitution. The definition and interpretation provided by the Supreme Court, the highest court of the country, is considered final and conclusive, except that the legislature revises the applicable provision of the Constitution. The judiciary supports and sustains the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. It, therefore, acts as a custodian of the Constitution

2) Acts as Protector of the Rights of Citizens

In the present scenario, it is considered that the judicial system acts as the guardian of the rights and freedom of the citizens. Nowadays, every country provides a set of rights to its citizens which is known as the Fundamental Rights. These fundamental rights are regarded as the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. The government has made various attempts to change some provisions of the rights but the judiciary has always detained the efforts of the Parliament, and it has no authority to change the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This way the judiciary acts as the protector of the citizen’s rights.

3) Framing Policies

The judiciary formulates the policies based on its pronouncements and judicial verdicts. Even if the Constitution of a country is comprehensive it may fail to cover some areas of administrative, political, social, financial and economic systems. In India, the Constitution is implicit on certain matters and remains silent when it is related to the rule of the President at the central level mainly in cases of failure of the constitutional system. Even though such provisions distinctively prevail for the state governments. Besides this, some certain laws and provisions can be vague or conflicting with the other laws of the country. Under such conditions, it is the court that has the final authority to determine what the law is and which law should exist.

4) Settlement of Disputes

Under a centralised system, courts operate as an independent and rightful authority between the Central Government and the governments of the centralised units and also between the centralised units themselves. The judiciary is held liable for interpreting the provisions of the Constitution if there is a dispute between any set of governments. The interpretation by the judiciary is considered as last and conclusive. Hence, in a centralised system, the judiciary undertakes the position of the Constitutional Court For example, the Supreme Court of India is investigating the Cauvery Water Dispute. In addition, the regional parties of Punjab are strongly demanding to refer the case of the water dispute between Punjab and Haryana to the Supreme Court

5) Legitimising Policy Outputs

The judiciary plays a cardinal role in authorising the policy outputs of the government. At times, courts have to portray a conventional approach and should understand the meaning of law in the fastest-changing situations. Some people may challenge future decisions of the government as unconstitutional in a court of law. However, the judges should evaluate the conditions from a dynamic perspective.

If viewed from this approach, the policy outputs of the government can be considered legitimate by the judicial system. The most suitable example in this connection is of American Supreme Court, as it changed its attitude in 1937. Thus, it is essential for the judiciary to maintain its behaviour and should neither be destructive nor obstructive. It must more willingly permit the political system to operate efficiently. In this situation, the political viewpoints and opinions of the citizens play a very crucial role in safeguarding the situation from reaching the point of no agreement.

6) Judicial Review

Reviewing judicial decisions is one of the important functions of the judiciary. This enables the judiciary to state any administrative action, any law and executive policy as intra vires (within the power of the system) or ultra vires (beyond the power of the system).

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