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Research No: Doctrine Of Separation Of Powers

There are three main categories of governmental functions, and to perform these three functions, there are three separate organs, namely:
  1. Executive
  2. Legislature and
  3. Judiciary
The doctrine of 'Separation of Powers' suggests that these three powers and functions, must always be kept separate and must be performed by three different organs of the government.

That is to say, there must be no overlap among them:
  • The legislature cannot exercise the functions of the judiciary and executive
  • The executive cannot exercise the functions of the judiciary and legislature
  • The judiciary cannot exercise the functions of executive and legislature.

Historical Background
This idea first emerged in the theories of Plato and Aristotle; however, it was the French Philosopher 'MONTESQUIEU', who for the first time formulated this into a proper concept in his book 'Spirit of the Laws' published in the year 1748.

Objectives of Separation of Powers:
  • Firstly, the concept aims to eliminate arbitrariness and promote an accountable and democratic form of government.
  • Secondly, it prevents the misuse of powers within the different organs of the government, as it keeps a check on all the branches of the government by making them accountable for themselves.
  • Thirdly, this principle allows all the branches to specialize in their respective field with an intention to enhance and improve the efficiency of the government.

Indian Perspective
India practices the parliamentary form of government in which executive and legislature are linked to each other. So, the doctrine of separation of powers is not implemented in its strict sense. However, the composition of our constitution creates no doubt that the Indian Constitution is bound by the separation of powers. There are various provisions under the Indian Constitution that clearly demonstrate the existence of the doctrine of separation of powers. This principle is followed both at the centre and the state level.

Quasi-Judicial Bodies (An Exception to Separation of Powers in India)
A quasi-judicial body is a body which has functions resembling those of a court of law or judge such as an arbitrator or tribunal board. It is under a duty to objectively determine facts and draw conclusions from them so as to provide the basis of an official action. Their powers are usually limited to a very specific area of expertise and authority, such as land use and zoning, financial markets, public standards etc. National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Minorities, etc. are examples of quasi-judicial bodies.
  • They can adjudicate and decide penalties on the guilty.
  • They are different from judicial bodies in that their field is limited compared to a court.
  • They can be formed on a matter pending in court, by a court order if the court considers it necessary; the court reserves the right to appoint members of such a body.
  • They can be tribunals for a specific domain, or like an arbitrator.

Examples include:

Central administrative tribunal:
This is constituted to look into the matter related to service dispute of civil servants. For example, determination of age of civil servant in case of dispute etc.

National Human right commission:
National Human Rights Commission is a quasi-judicial body which looks into cases of specifically Human Rights violation. It was established under the Human right act 1993. They can investigate human right abuse and can recommend the steps to be taken.

Election commission:
It is constitutional bodies that mainly function for the conduct, control, supervise the election. It also performs judicial function e.g., determination of disqualification of Member of legislator or examining the violation of model code of conduct.

Other regulatory bodies:
SEBI, TRAI, IRDA etc. are some other quasi-judicial regulatory bodies. Their main function is to ensure transparency in the market economy. They also take judicial measures e.g., punishing in case of violation of rules through fines etc.

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