Powers Of District Magistrate (District Collector) In India

Powers Of District Magistrate (District Collector) In India

The District Magistrate or the Collector is the chief executive of a district.  He is responsible for running the administration of the district smoothly and properly.  In fact, the district is the principal administration in India. The activities of the district administration practically cover a wide range and touch almost at every level the loves and activities of the people. The main task of the district administration is as such to implement programs with the active cooperation and support of the people of the district.

Thus the district administration has some special characteristics. Here the government comes into direct contact with the people and the problems that the district administration tries to solve are essentially local in their character. 'The state government finds each district at its lowest level and its direct agency terminates there leaving the head of the district as its last agent and 'man on the spot. Exceptions apart, the districts represent the maximum of the area in which they must work together. The district administration is fieldwork as opposed to staff or secretarial duty. And at the collector level in the district, all policies end and action begins.”

The District Magistrate or the Collector is the pivot in the district administration. He is the main agent for making the necessary coordination of the official agencies functioning within the district. As such the function and responsibilities of the District Magistrate may be broadly classified under three general heads viz., the District Magistrate as the Collector, the District Magistrate as the Magistrate of the ruler of the district, and the District Magistrate as the highest administrative officer in the district.

As a Collector the District Magistrate is responsible for the collection of revenue from the district. It is also his responsibility to hear the appeals in revenue cases against the decisions taken by the Tahasildars and other subordinate revenue collectors in the district. Thus, as a revenue collector, he is to look after the collection of land revenue, maintenance of land records, land reforms, consolidation of holdings, etc. Actually, the revenue collection function of the collector includes revenue, excise and the government treasury. It covers the separate items. The first is the assessment and collection of land revenue. 'The district apparatus for this purpose in the normal way consists of the Collector (D.M.), the sub-divisional officers (deputy collectors), the Tahasildars, and the naib-Tahasildars and at the village level the patwaries.”

The irrigation depart­ments consist of the second group. Here the irrigation department generally makes out the 'demand lists of irrigation dues” each season and sends it to the Collector or to the Tahsildars. Then the Collector with his revenue staff collects it.

The third element is income tax. Here also the assessment is made by the income tax officials who in fact are under the central government. They collect the income tax directly but they certify the arrears collection of income tax to the District Collector for recovery.

The fourth element is agricultural income tax which is also collected under the order of the District Collector. The fifth element, the sales tax is also collected under the authority and responsibility of the District Collector, especially for the collection of the arrears.

The sixth element included—the court fees payable in connection with various judicial proceedings, such as the presentation of plants, the issue of writs and other processes documents, and the certified copies of proceedings. It also includes taxes leviable in the shape of revenue stamps on documents. The District Collector has good say in these activities.

The seventh element of these revenue annals is the excise duties of different kinds. In the district, an officer of the district officer's staff is designated as the district officer's staff. He supervises and controls the works of the excise inspectors. A number of other taxes like the taxes on motor vehicles, entertainment taxes etc. are also there which are collected under the supervision of the Collector.

As a District Magistrate, the task of the D.M. is quite heavy. He is an executive magistrate. He is the head of all magistrates (except Additional District Magistrates) within the district. It may be noted that a District Magistrate is an official of the Executive branch and not of the Judicial branch. However, the District Magistrate may be granted judicial powers by the State Government in certain circumstances. It is his duty to main peace and order in the district. He supervises the activities of other magistrates under him in the district. It is his duty to maintain law and order within the district and also to take all the necessary actions under the preventive section of the criminal procedure code. This concerns the question of public safety, the protection of the citizens, and all of their rights within the district.

In certain cases, he may hear and decide the criminal cases, if so empowered by the State Government. Thus, the administration of criminal and civil justice may also fall under his jurisdiction. The District Magistrate controls the police department of the district that is under him and supervises the activities of the subordinate executive magistrates. He submits the annual criminal report to the government. He supervises the district Police Stations at least once in a year and recommends cases for passports and visas and takes care of the movement of foreigners within the district.

He looks after all the election works within the district, appoints the public prosecutor of the district, gives or issues certificates to the persons belonging to the Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribes, and other backward communities and to the freedom fighters, appoints the village Chowkidar and punishes him for breach of discipline, etc.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the district, it is the duty of the District Magistrate to implement the posting transfer and to grant the leaves of different gazetted officers within the district to implement various government orders, and to submit the budget of the district to the government.

The District Magistrate acts as the Chief Protocol Officer of the district. He also conducts the census work, presides over the local institutions or remains a member there, looks after the supply and proper distribution of daily necessity goods, hears and takes adequate steps to redress the grievances of the local people, supervises the activities of the young government officers in the district and arrange for their training, etc.

Apart from all these works the District Magistrate also is the chief development officer of the district. In such a capacity it is his duty to conduct all the development plans and projects of the district, make them successful and remove all the hindrances on its way, to put into effect the policy of democratic decentralization, to act as the chief liaison officer of the state government within the district and maintains close link with all the inhabitants of his district.

All these categories of work are the routine works of the District Magistrate. In addition to these works, the District Magistrate functions as the returning officer in the elections of both the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assembly. He conducts all the election works in the district level, supervises them, and coordinates them. Moreover, as he is the chief information officer it is his duty to collect all the necessary news and information and to dispatch them to the higher authority.

Thus, the position of a District Magistrate is both responsible and painstaking one. He is in fact the tortoise, as Ramsay MacDonald has put it, on whose back stood the elephant of the government of India. As the works of the government have become more and more complex and voluminous, the responsibility and burden of the District Magistrate have increased no doubt, but he has lost much of his prestige that he used to enjoy during the British period. In fact, after independence, the status and dignity of the District Magistrate decreased much, and nowadays he is no longer considered a high ranking bureaucrat but has been reduced to the insignificant role of a public servant merely.


The Functions and Role of the District Magistrate in India are discussed below:

As collector
This is the traditional function of the district magistrate. As the head revenue officer, his foremost task is the assessment and collection of land revenue. In addition to these taxes of different types, such as irrigation dues, income tax dues, agricultural dues, canal dues, sales tax, arrears, court fees, excise duties on various commodities, stamp duties, etc. are collected by his office. The collector assesses the amount of relief required in case of calamities. He also takes the relief work. Land may be acquisioned for housing schemes, development projects, etc. Land acquisition is another function of the collector. The preparation and maintenance of land records is an important function of the collector. The district treasury comes under his control and officers attached to the district treasury function under his supervision.

As District Magistrate

Maintenance of law and order and safety in the district is the primary function of the district magistrate. He pays continuous attention to the problems arising out of social and political tensions, communal disharmony, caste problem, terrorism, smuggling, and economic offenses which may threaten peace and order in the district and the safety of its people. The function and role of a District Magistrate can be discussed in the following three areas Although the actual administration of the police is discharged by the district superintendent of police under the responsibility of the D.G. of police, the police force, in general, work under the order and supervision of the district magistrate. There has been an erosion in the authority of the district magistrate as a judicial magistrate. Due to the separation of the judiciary from the executive, the civil and criminal powers are now the responsibility of the judiciary under the control of the High Courts. The district jails are under the general control of the district magistrate.

As coordinator

The District Magistrate is the overall in charge of every important official activity in the district. He coordinates the activities of all the government departments which function in the district. The names of few such departments are public health, agriculture, public works, irrigation, education and cooperation. The district magistrate is regarded as a commander who is to co-ordinate their activities. He holds meeting of the officers posted as the head of the various departments at the district level at periodic intervals to take the stock of the work done. The district magistrate gives them suggestions, removes bottlenecks, and raises confidence. He guides the district functionaries.

As Development officer

The role of the district magistrate in the development has assumed greatest importance after the initiation of the development planning and the Panchayat Raj system. Several projects and programs of the rural development have been undertaken for the benefit of the cross section of the people and especially for the under privileged and downtrodden people. Several schemes of development related to health, education, employment, housing, agriculture, marketing of agricultural products etc and some special programs for rural women, children and the youth are in full operation under the supervision of the District Magistrate. These programs aim at eradicating poverty and improving the living standards of the poor and helpless people. Besides, a number of projects, like DDP, DPAP, TDP, CAD, IRDP and many other important projects are undertaken. The district magistrate is responsible for the implementation of all these schemes. In fact, he is the captain, commander and leader of the developmental work of the entire district.

Role in Panchayat Raj

With the advent of Panchayat Raj the role of the district magistrate is to be viewed in terms of his position and relationship with the Panchayat system. He is not only the Chief Executive Officer of the Zilla Parishad. He also looks after the functioning of the other two-tiers of the Panchayat body by providing necessary assistance and technical help and supervises to ensure that the priorities fixed in the plans are being adhered to. He also ensures that no conflict develops between the district administrative staff and the elected representatives of the Panchayats bodies and between themselves. 

As Crisis Manager

The effectiveness of the office of the District Magistrates is put to test during crisis. Here he is to act as crisis manager and savior. During emergencies caused by natural calamities in the nature of flood, famines, droughts, cyclones etc or man-made crisis, such as riots, fires, loot, murder etc. he has to arrange relief measures, organize rescue operations, check epidemics, ensure medical treatment, prevent panic and perform a host of other crucial functions. At the time of such crisis the DM and his staff appear to be the savior to the down trodden people. 

Miscellaneous Functions

The activities of the District Magistrate cannot remain confined within the written boundaries of his functions. As District Magistrate he is to act in various roles and perform various miscellaneous functions. A few important functions of such nature are mentioned below.

1. He plays the role of Chief Returning officer and coordinates the entire election proceedings at the district level.
2. He functions as the District Census officer.
3. He works as the official government representative in the ceremonial functions in the district.
4. He handles the protocol work in the district.
5. He looks after the working of the municipal bodies in the district.
6. He ensures the regular supply of essential commodities at reasonable prices.
7. He arranges training for government servants.
8. He deals with the personnel matters of the huge number of staff posted in the district.
9. He undertakes regular tours and in the district to know about the performance of the government work and also to listen to the grievances of the people about the government.
10. He complies and submits various reports related to the district to the appropriate authorities.

The existence of plurality of departments at the district level, and the multidimensional functions of various natures assigned to them, make the District Magistrate almost indispensable but overburdened. There is unparalleled uniqueness about the office of the district magistrate. He acts as a leader, motivator, developer, doer, and saviour and, above everything, a top administrator. This makes his role overloaded, overburdened and overstrained. In fact, he is the chief actor in the district administration.
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