Supreme and Subordinate Legislation

Supreme and Subordinate Legislation


Legislation is one of the important sources of law esp. when it comes to modern sense. In layman’s language legislation refers to promulgation of legal rules by the body which has the authority to do so. However this source of law has been divided into two types and one of them have been further branched with some more types.

This article, discusses the two types of legislation i.e. Supreme legislation and Sub ordinate legislation.

Supreme and Subordinate Legislation

The authority of legislation generally lies with the sovereign authority of the entire political community. This legislation can be both Direct and Indirect. Coming on to the direct legislation it is when the sovereign or the supreme authority itself legislate any law, for example, the law made by the Indian Parliament. The legislation becomes indirect when the sovereign or supreme authority delegates its power to the inferior ones to legislate laws, for example when a power is delegated to university to frame its rules. The former one is called the supreme legislation whereas the latter one is Subordinate Legislation.

Supreme Legislation

Supreme legislation is the legislation which has been drafted by the Sovereign or Supreme power of the State. The main point to note is that there is no other authority within the state which can exercise its control over the supreme legislation. In England, Parliament is the supreme authority and is above all. Parliament of England is not only supreme but is also legally invincible. Conclusively in England there seems to be no legal limitations in the power of Parliament. In India too Parliament is supreme. Although, Indian Parliament is not subjected to any legislative authority but it has certain constitutional limitations upon its power. This limitation is widely exercised by the Judiciary esp. the apex court.

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Subordinate legislation

As discussed above Subordinate legislation refers to making of law by any authority except the Supreme or Sovereign. This legislation is made under the power delegated to the authority by the sovereign. This type of legislation completely survives in the mercy of the supreme authority. It means Supreme authority can alter or destroy this legislation if it desires. Subordinate Legislation has been further divided into some classes which have been discussed hereunder:

Autonomous Law

Autonomous law refers to those laws in which the supreme authority grants power to a group of individuals to make laws on the matters handed over to them as a group. So here the law made by the latter is called Autonomous law and the body making those laws is called autonomous body. For example, Railway corporation can termed as autonomous body and the rules, guidelines, by laws etc which has been legislated by them for their regulation is Autonomous law. Similarly Universities are also autonomous body and is entitled to lay down rules and laws for its regulation.

Judicial Rules

As judiciary is one of the organs of the government whose main function is to interpret the enacted laws. Judiciary is provided with the powers to lay down certain rules and guidelines for the proper regulation of its procedure. Coming on to India, Supreme Court is the apex judicial body and has been authorized to make rules and guidelines for the regulation of its administration and functioning. Similarly High Courts are also provided with the power to make rules and guidelines for its administration and functioning. These rules are called as Judicial rules and are the part of Subordinate Legislation.

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Local Laws

Several local bodies are provided with the power to make by-laws in order to tackle down the local issues. These by-laws which are made by the local bodies work within the particular locality. Coming on to India, various local bodies just like Municipal Corporation, Municipal Boards, Zila Parishads, Gram Panchayat and many more are provided with the powers to make by-laws for their respective locality. These local laws play a very important role in a country like India where we have enormous diversity whether it is socially, culturally or geographically. These local laws directly or indirectly boost our unity at a large. In India, there is a great move for providing very wide powers to local bodies especially in village area i.e. Panchayats. Thus there is a wide possibility that this subordinate legislation is going to witness drastic positive growth in our Country.

Colonial Law

The Countries which are not independent and are under the controlling power of some other state and that country have no sovereign power to make law. These kinds of countries are denoted by different names such as Colonies, dominions, protected, trust territories and many other. So the law made by them is not supreme but is subjected to the supreme legislation of that state under whose control they are. Thus this kind of legislation is also a part of Subordinate legislation. For example Britain had various colonies and Dominions and the laws made in those colonies were subjected to the Supreme law of England. Here the law made for the self government of the territory can be altered or repealed by the law of the British Parliament. As of now almost all the dominions have successfully achieved their independence and have uncontrolled power of law making. So this kind of subordinate legislation is unlikely to come into existence in future.

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Executive made Law

Legislative, Executive and Judiciary are the three different organs of Government. Each has their own functions to be performed i.e. Legislature is required to make laws; Executive is required to implement those laws and Judiciary to interpret those laws. These three organs are separate and independent of each other. Coming on to executive organ, this organ in addition to its normal function also sometimes perform the task of law making. This law making also comes within the domain of Subordinate legislation. This power of law making is delegated by the legislature. In modern era this type of law making has become inevitable. The supreme authority just lays down the fundamental laws and the various departments are entrusted with the power to fill the details. This kind of Subordinate legislation is called is called “Delegated Legislation”. In modern era this legislation occupies a very important place.


Legislation occupies a very important place in source of law. As explained above that legislation gets bifurcated in two different types that are supreme and subordinate. Both the types have their own importance in the law. Obviously Supreme Legislation is the one which is above all but in the present Subordinate legislation has also established a well settled place in our legal world and can’t be ignored.

Author: Dheeraj Diwakar,
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow 1st year

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