Supreme and Subordinate legislation

Supreme and Subordinate legislation

Supreme legislation is that which proceeds from the highest law-making body and is not capable of being repealed, annulled or controlled by another legislative authority.

Subordinate legislation, on the other hand, is that which proceeds from subordinate law-making body and is, hence, liable to be abrogated or amended by the supreme law-making body.  The law passed by the British Parliament is an example of Supreme legislation, but, under the Indian Constitution which is federal in nature, both the parliament and state legislatures are supreme in their own legislative spheres.  Hence the law passed by the Indian Parliament and also the State Legislatures are examples of Supreme legislation.

It must be borne in mind that the distinguishing features of supreme legislation is that it cannot be nullified by judicial authority.  Thus, the legislation made by the Congress of the USA or Parliament of India is supreme even though such legislation is capable of being declared as null and void by the judiciary on the ground of constitutional invalidity.

However, Prof.A.V.Dicey has expressed the opinion that the legislatures under Federal Constitutions are only subordinate law-making bodies because they are liable to be controlled by their constitutions which are made by constituent assemblies which are to be treated as the really supreme law-making bodies.

Subordinate Legislation:

The legislation made by the bodies other than the supreme law-making body is subordinate legislation. The chief forms of subordinate legislation are the following:

i) Colonial legislation: The law made by the legislatures of the erstwhile self-governing colonies of British Empire are illustrations of colonial legislation. For instance, the legislation made by the British Indian Parliament was subordinate legislation which was liable to be annulled by the British Imperial Parliament.

ii) Executive Legislation: Under the modern conditions when law-making has become a very complex affair, legislature very often makes legislation only in its broad outlines, leaving the details to be worked out by the executive. Such executive rule-making is an example of subordinate legislation.

iii) Judicial legislation: Certain rule making power is delegated to superior courts for the regulation of their own procedure, and the rules made in the exercise of such power are really the ‘judicial legislation’ which is to be distinguished from the so called judge-made law or case law.

Under Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may, with the approval of the President, make rules for regulating generally the practice and procedure of the Court.

iv) Municipal legislation: The bye-laws made by Municipal corporations etc are subordinate legislation which is liable to be superceded by the legislature that has conferred such law-making power on the municipal authorities.

v) Autonomous legislation: The law passed by autonomous bodies like the Universities, registered companies and Road Transport corporation are examples of such subordinate legislation.