Meaning and Definition of Legislature | Roles and Functions of Legislature

Meaning and Definition of Legislature | Roles and Functions of Legislature

Meaning of legislature and roles and functions


The government is needed to run the governance of a country or state smoothly. Government is the instrument that implements the objectives or goals of the state.

To fulfill its responsibilities, the government divides the government functions into three parts and manages to complete them. The government has three organs - the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.

Among these three organs, the legislature is the highest organ of the government. The main function of the legislature is to make laws for the people and government.

In the presidential system of government, the legislature does this work independently, but in parliamentary democracy, this work is done in collaboration with the executive.

But it is of utmost importance that in every system of governance, the responsibility of making laws rests on the shoulders of the legislature itself. Along with the development of democracy, the legislature has also evolved.

Meaning Of Legislature

In simple words, the legislature is that part of the government which does the work of making laws. It is commonly known as Parliament.

The word Parliament is derived from the French word 'Parler' which means - to talk or to speak and the Latin word 'parliament'. Parliament is called 'Parliament' in English. The Latin word 'Parliament' has also been used for conversation. Thus the word Parliament is used for that body of persons who have gathered for discussion or deliberation.

Today, in the context of the functions of the government, Parliament is given the name of the legislature, which is related to the making of laws.

Definition Of Legislature

Some scholars have defined the legislature and said:-

According to Gilchrist – “The legislature is the greater part of the power of the government, which has authority over both the finances of the government and the making of laws."

According to Ellen Ball - "The legislature is the advisory body to the executive."

But in modern times, the legislature is not an advisory body of the executive, but a special type of organization, that has an important function in the operation of governance.

In modern times, “the legislature is such a collective organization of individuals that are empowered to make laws.”

In modern times, Finer has given the correct definition of the legislature. He says that “the legislature is that part of the government whose function is to use public opinion or the will of the people in the making of laws and to direct, supervise and control the work of the executive”.

Functions & Roles of Legislature

The functions and roles of the legislature are different in different countries. The performance of the functions of the legislature depends on the nature of the system of governance.

In countries where there is an autocratic monarchy, it works as an advisory committee by staying completely under the control of the state. The position of the legislature remains very strong in a parliamentary government. In the presidential system, the functions of the legislature are limited by the Constitution. 

Finer has described the functions of the legislature to involve the public in law-making and to direct and supervise the works of the executive.

Functions of Legislature

The main functions of the legislature can be:-

1. Legislative or Law-making Functions

In modern times, except for the basic constitutional laws, all other types of laws are made by the Legislature or Parliament. Being the representative of the public will, it becomes the main duty of the legislature to make the demands and pressures of public opinion into law.

Renau has written – “Modern parliaments are a kind of factory whose function is to make laws. Here the raw material in the name of public opinion is converted into proposals, policies, and laws. The legislature makes many types of laws for the maintenance of peace in society and the development of the citizens. It also changes or repeals the old laws in the changed circumstances of the country.

In parliamentary government, most of the bills are introduced by the ministers in the legislature, because the cabinet has a majority in the parliament. In a presidential government, instead of ministers, only the President can send messages about bills. It is up to the legislature to accept them or not. But the legislature is also not free to make laws of its own free will. There are also some constitutional restrictions on it.

The legislature can make laws by keeping the Constitution within the legal limits. But whatever the situation, the legislature has to do the work of lawmaking. In this work, it takes the help of her committees. In Britain, due to parliamentary supremacy, the legislature has full authority over lawmaking.

In countries like Nepal with a federal system of government, due to the decentralization of powers to the legislature, Parliament can make laws only on subjects of national importance. Before becoming a law, it is also necessary to get it signed by the President of the Executive.

Although the executive chairman can return the bill to the legislature for its reconsideration, it has become his compulsion to sign it in the end. In this work of making laws, the legislature also has to face many problems today, but in the end, it achieves success in lawmaking.

2. Control Over Executive

Keeping control over the executive is also the main function of the legislature. In the parliamentary system of government, this control remains direct, because the cabinet is elected by him and it is responsible to him. In the parliamentary system of government, many means of control are used by the legislature - asking questions and supplementary questions to the executive, calling attention motions, adjournment motions, curtailment and censure motions, no-confidence motions, etc. In this, the legislature can also exercise control by rejecting the demand for money or by rejecting the policy, proposal, or bill presented by the executive. This is the system in England and Nepal.

In countries with a presidential system of government, it is not possible to have direct control over the executive by the legislature due to the separation of powers. Therefore it tries to keep the executive under control by not demanding money or passing necessary arrangements. It can also arrange for control by stopping the approval of appointments or treaties made by the President.

The legislature also controls the executive by appointing a commission of inquiry to impeach the President. In this way, no matter what the governance system is, the executive has more or less control of the legislature. In Nepal, this control is direct and more, whereas in America it is indirect and less.

3. Judicial Functions Of Legislature

Although it is the function of the judiciary to perform judicial functions, today in many countries legislatures also perform full or semi-judicial functions. The House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, is the highest court of appeal in England.

In America, the Senate sits as a court to give the final decision about the impeachment against the President. In Nepal, the Pratinidhi Sabha (Lower House) arranges for the impeachment hearing and decision on the President.

In Switzerland, due to the power of the National Assembly to interpret the constitution, it is also called the legislature performing judicial work. But till now, no president in Nepal and America has suffered the consequences of impeachment. Therefore, the legislature also performs judicial functions.

4. Financial Functions

In every country, it is the legislatures who manage to spend the national finances properly. If it is misused, no one can save the political system from the crises that will come. 

Madison wrote – “He who has financial power, he has real power.” In democratic countries, the system of control over financial power has been delegated to the lower house of the legislature (the elected house). Not a single penny can be spent without his approval. It is also the work of the legislature to impose new taxes and eliminate unnecessary taxes. The Finance Bill is also always introduced in the lower house. They can move a motion for the money.

In a presidential system, the finance bill is prepared completely by the executive and sent to the legislature, but often the legislature deducts some amount and passes it. Although there are many restrictions on the financial powers of the legislature in all countries, in the end, somehow or the other, the legislatures manage to execute the financial functions with success.

5. Amendment in the Constitution

The legislature also has the right to amend the constitution. In some countries, this right is fully available, and in some parts. In some countries, the legislature amends the constitution with a simple majority, but in some, it has to be amended only through a special procedure.

In Nepal, this work can be done by the Parliament in three ways - (1) by a simple majority of the Parliament, (2) by a two-thirds majority of the Parliament, (3) by a two-thirds majority of the Parliament and with the approval of more than half of the states.

In Britain, this work is done by a simple majority. In Switzerland, amendment proposals are presented to the public for public decision. There the public has the right to propose a constitutional amendment. Canton's approval is required on the amendment proposal. In countries like America, Germany, Switzerland, etc.,

Parliament has only a partial right to amend, whereas, in India and Britain, it has a full right to amend. This right of amendment proves the supremacy of the legislature in parliamentary countries.

6. Election of The Legislature

In all the countries of the world, the legislature also has to do election-related work. In Nepal, the President is elected by the elected members of both the Houses of Parliament and the members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies

In Switzerland, the National Assembly elects the Council of Ministers, the judges, and the General Commander. In Russia, the Supreme Soviet (Parliament) elects the members of the executive and the judges of the Supreme Court. In England and Nepal, the lower house elects the speaker. In China, the federal president is elected by the parliament.

In the United States, Congress has the authority to decide elections, election details, and the electoral qualifications of members. In Japan, the Diet (Parliament) elects the Prime Minister. In this way, the legislature in all the countries also performs election-related work.

7. Deliberative Functions

Any law can become popular only when it is made with wide understanding and deliberation. So the legislature does extensive deliberations to make good laws. A legislature is a meeting place representing many interests, perspectives, and communities.

In this, there is a wide exchange of ideas about public matters, national and international subjects. In this, the decision is taken only after considering all the matters related to governance. In fact, by doing its work properly, the administrator only does proper administration work. The committees of the legislature give full cooperation to him in doing this work.

8. Other Functions

Today's era is the era of welfare states. With the development of the parliamentary system, the executive has also started doing the work of making laws and keeping control over the administration. But this has not reduced the burden of the legislature. 

Today it is loaded with many responsibilities. It has to do work in addition to the above-mentioned tasks. Today the legislature has to do the work related to forming public opinion, educating public opinion, redressing public grievances, monitoring international relations, representation, interest-formation, interest-grouping, political socialization, and supervision and monitoring.

These functions are becoming important functions of the legislature in parliamentary countries. That is why Frederick has written – “The basic function of a House of Representatives in modern times is not as important as law-making as the political education of the general public, propaganda, and integration of different opinions, views, and differences.” However, this role of the legislature remains confined to democratic governance systems only. Its role shrinks in totalitarian countries.

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