[This article has been authored by Sehaj Singh Cheema, student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala. It discusses the state hierarchy at the grassroots-level, highlighting derogation from these principles in administrative practice.]
The Indian Constitution’s purported subscription to the ‘Separation of Powers’ doctrine has been amongst the most contentious of our constitutional ideals. Inextricably linked to the doctrine, is the concept of ‘Office of Profit’ as a ground for parliamentary disqualification. Previous analyses of the practicalities of these concepts have focused solely on their manifestation in the topmost strata of the constitutional hierarchy. India’s initial choice of the Parliamentary Executive system militated against strict power separation. Yet, judicial pronouncements contrarily insisted on the doctrine as manifest in our ‘Basic Structure’. Preliminarily, the paper answers the question – ‘What level of power-separation does the Constitution envisage?’ Subsequently, the paper analyzes the State hierarchy at the grassroots-level, highlighting derogation from these principles in administrative practice. The ‘Halqa In-Charge’ system in Punjab is an instance of the general trend towards the hijacking of local executive power by non-ministerial legislators. MLAs have been elevated to virtual heads of the ground-level executive, becoming the locus of legislative and executive power at the same time. Through this subversion of the constitutional ideal of separate powers,legislators assume de facto ‘offices of profit’ without any legal implications. The Punjab case study presents blatant deviation from the power-division envisaged by the Constitution. Conclusively, the paper sets the tone for striking a middle ground between legislative oversight and executive autonomy at the grassroots.