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The Importance of Administrative Law in Pakistan

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Tariq Mahmood Awan

Administrative law, a crucial legal framework, is instrumental in establishing and evolving a system of public administration under the rule of law, akin to the concept of justice under the law. As public administration involves the exercise of power by the executive branch of government, administrative law assumes profound constitutional, political, and legal importance, ensuring justice is upheld in the administration of public affairs.

Administrative law, a term that lacks a universally accepted definition, is a multifaceted field that encompasses the organization, powers, duties, and functions of various public authorities engaged in administration. This includes their relationships with each other, citizens, and non-governmental bodies, as well as the legal mechanisms for controlling public administration and the rights and responsibilities of officials. Administrative law is intricately intertwined with constitutional law, and the boundary between the two is often blurred. Matters such as the organization of a national legislature, court structure, cabinet characteristics, and the role of the head of state fall under constitutional law, whereas substantive and procedural provisions regarding central and local governments and judicial review of administration are considered part of administrative law. However, certain aspects, like ministerial responsibility, cannot be exclusively categorized under either administrative or constitutional law. According to some French and American jurists, administrative law encompasses certain elements of constitutional law, underscoring the depth and complexity of these legal fields.

Administrative law, beyond its role in the operations of public administration, extends to the legal aspects of public health, education, housing, and other public services. These areas, often seen as part of administrative law due to their connection with public administration, have practical implications that affect our daily lives, making administrative law a relevant and tangible concept.

One of the primary goals of administrative law is to ensure the effective, efficient, and fair administration of public affairs. A system of administrative law that obstructs or undermines administration would be detrimental, as would a system that leads to injustice for individuals. By highlighting the role of administrative law in ensuring fairness and justice, we can enhance the readers’ understanding of its importance in governance.

It can be argued that all states, regardless of their economic or political systems or stage of development, are striving for a high rate of economic growth and improved average income per capita. They are all pursuing goals of modernization, urbanization, and industrialization, while endeavoring to provide essential social services such as education and public health at the highest possible standard. There is a heightened level of public expectation compared to earlier eras, with the government not only expected to maintain order but also to promote progress. There is a widespread belief that well-directed government action can eradicate poverty, mitigate severe unemployment, raise the nation’s standard of living, and foster rapid social development. Citizens today are acutely aware of the direct impact of government on their daily lives and its potential for both good and harm, underscoring the relevance of administrative law in their lives.

The expansion of the state’s functions can be observed in both more developed and less developed nations, in old and new states, in democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian regimes, and in the mixed economies of the West. This trend is far from reaching its peak. For instance, in the field of public health, we see the state taking on a more active role in ensuring the well-being of its citizens. With each addition to the state’s functions, administrative organs, including central ministries, local or regional governments, and specialized agencies established for specific purposes, have gained additional powers.

Administrative law is a crucial branch of public law responsible for governing the activities and operations of government agencies, both at the federal and provincial levels. It plays a key role in regulating how ministries, departments, and agencies create and enforce rules, handle disputes, and engage with the public while safeguarding the rights and interests of affected individuals and groups. This body of law is derived from the constitutional and statutory authority of the government, as well as from common law and judicial precedents.

Different forms of administrative law include rulemaking and adjudication. Rulemaking involves the process of organizations creating, amending, or repealing rules or regulations with the force and effect of law. This process is subject to specific procedural requirements such as public notice, comment, and participation, as well as judicial review, to ensure the legality, reasonableness, and consistency of the rules. On the other hand, adjudication entails agencies resolving specific disputes or claims that arise under the rules or regulations they administer, following certain procedural safeguards like due process, fair hearing, impartiality, and judicial review to ensure lawful, rational, and fair decisions.

The correlation between constitutional law, legislative law, and administrative law is significant, as all are interrelated and form the legal framework of the government. Constitutional law establishes the structure, powers, and limits of the government, as well as the rights and duties of citizens. Legislative law, enacted by the legislature, defines government objectives and policies and authorizes the creation and operation of agencies to implement them. Administrative law, in turn, is created and applied by public organizations as they execute and enforce legislative law, regulating the manner in which agencies carry out their functions and duties and ensuring their accountability, transparency, and responsiveness to the public and the courts.

Administrative law can be considered an implementing law, as it translates general legislative law into specific rules and regulations guiding agency actions and decisions. It also implements constitutional law by setting boundaries and standards for agencies to operate within the rule of law and respect citizens’ rights and interests.

The significance of administrative law for the executive branch of government, particularly for administration and executive functions, lies in its role in enabling the effective and efficient performance of executive duties. It provides the legal tools and mechanisms for creating and enforcing rules and regulations that address complex government issues and challenges, as well as the framework for resolving disputes and ensuring lawful and fair executive action. Moreover, administrative law ensures accountability, transparency, and responsiveness of the executive to the public and the courts.

In Pakistan, various factors such as historical legacy, constitutional framework, political system, socio-economic context, and international environment influence public administration. This includes challenges and opportunities related to devolution and decentralization of power, governance transparency and accountability, service delivery efficiency and effectiveness, citizen participation, and institutional innovation and reform.

Given the importance of administrative law for efficient administration and good governance, reforming and codifying administrative law is vital for Pakistan’s governance interest.

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