Role and Function of District Collector

The role played and the functions performed by the District Collector in district administration can be studied under the following heads.

Revenue Administration

Historically, collection of revenue has been the first charge (function) of the District Collector as the very title Collector signifies. He is still the head of revenue administration in the district. He is responsible for the collection of revenue to the state government through the Board of Revenue or Revenue Tribunal in Maharashtra and Gujarat or Financial Commissioner in Punjab, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir. As the head of revenue administration in district, the Collector is responsible for the following functions:

  1. To collect land revenue.
  2. To collect other government dues.
  3. To distribute and recover taccavi loans.
  4. To maintain land records.
  5. To collect rural statistics.
  6. To exercise the power of land acquisition officer, that is, acquiring land for the purpose of colonisation, industry, slum clearance, capital construction and so on.
  7. To implement land reforms.
  8. To look after the welfare of the agriculturists.
  9. To make an assessment of losses of crops and recommend relief during natural calamities like fire, drought and flood.
  10. To supervise treasury and sub-treasury.
  11. To enforce Stamp Act.
  12. To pay rehabilitation grant.
  13. To manage government estates.
  14. To hear revenue appeals against the orders of lower authorities.
  15. To pay Zamindari abolition compensation.

Law and Order Administration

The maintenance of law and order in district is the principal duty of the District Collector. Before Independence, the District Collector acted as both, the Executive Magistrate and the Judicial Magistrate. As an Executive Magistrate, he was responsible for the maintenance of law and order and as a Judicial Magistrate, he was responsible for the trial of criminal and civil cases by interpreting the laws. After Independence, the judiciary has been separated from the executive in accordance with Article 50 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution. As a consequence, the role of Collector as a judicial magistrate came to an end. This function has been handed over to a new functionary called the district judge who works under the direct control of the State High Court.

The District Collector in his capacity as the district magistrate (i.e. executive magistrate) is ultimately responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the district. For this purpose, the district police force headed by the District Superintendent of Police is kept under the control, supervision and direction of the district magistrate. The Indian Police Act of 1861 vests the police adminstration of the district in the District Superintendent of Police under the control of the district magistrate. Thus there is a system of dual control of law and order administration in the district, that is, control by the district magistrate and control by the departmental line headed by the DirectorGeneral of Police.

The District Collector in his capacity as the district magistrate performs the following functions:

  1. To control and supervise the subordinate magistracy.
  2. To issue orders when there is threat to public peace and order under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  3. To dispose all the petitions received from the government and others.
  4. To release prisoners on parole.
  5. To inspect the jails.
  6. To submit an annual criminal report to the government.
  7. To grant, suspend or cancel many kinds of licenses like arms, hotel, explosives, petroleum
    and others.
  8. To grant superior classes to prisoners.
  9. To supervise and control local bodies.
  10. To control and direct the action of district police.
  11. To enforce Entertainment Tax Act, and Press Act.
  12. To call the armed forces to aid and assist the civil administration to deal with any abnormal
    situation in the district.
  13. To prosecute offenders under the Factories Act and Trademark Act.
  14. To order disposal of unclaimed property.
  15. To recommend schemes for the development of forests.

Development Administration

Before Independence, the developmental role of a Collector was, not that important as British India was a ‘police state’ concerned mainly with the regulatory administration. After Independence and with the initiation of development planning strategy, the developmental role of a Collector became significant. He has become a pivotal figure in the implementation of development programmes. However, the position in this regard is not same in all the states. Broadly, there have emerged two distinct patterns of development administration in the district. One is the Tamilnadu, Rajasthan and other states’ pattern and the other is the Maharashtra and Gujarat Pattern.

In the first pattern the Collector is made responsible both for regulatory and development administration. As such, he looks after revenue, magisterial and developmental activities in these states. All the district level officers engaged in the implementation of development programmes function under the supervision, guidance and leadership of the Collector. Even though, in technical matters they function under the control and supervision of their respective departments, in the actual implementation of their development programmes they are placed under the administrative control of the District Collector. In many states, the Collector is also designated as the District Development Officer and is authorised to write the Annual Confidential Report of the District level officers engaged in the development administration.

In the second pattern found in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Collector is made responsible only for regulatory administration. The development administration in these states is made the responsibility of the Zila Parishad. All the District level officers engaged in the implementation of development programmes function under the administrative control and supervision of the Zila Parishad. For this pourpose, the Zila Parishad has appointed the District Development Officer (or chief executive officer) who also belongs to the IAS. By this arrangement, the Collector is relieved of his responsibility in the developmental field.

An important dimension of the role of the Collector in the developmental field is his association with the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). It should be noted here that the chief role of a Collectorin the field of development administration is that of coordination–coordinating the activities of district level officers engaged in the implementation of development programmes.

However, the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 and the consequent Panchayati Raj Acts of 1993 and 1994 of various states have reduced the role of Collector in development administration.

Other Powers and Functions

In addition to the above, the Collector also performs the following functions:

  1. He acts as the Returning Officer for elections to parliamentary and state asssembly 
    constituencies. Hence, he coordinates the election work at the district level.
  2. He acts as the District Census officer. Hence, he conducts the census operations once in ten years.
  3. He acts as the Chief Protocol Officer in a district.
  4. He presides over the District Plan Implementation Committee.
  5. He acts as the official representative of the state government during ceremonial functions in the district.
  6. He acts as a kind of buffer between citizens and administration in the district.
  7. He supervises the municipal administration in the district.
  8. He acts as the Public Relations Officer of the government.
  9. He acts as the crisis administrator-in-chief during natural calamities and other emergencies.
  10. As a head of district administration, he deals with personnel matters of the district staff.
  11. He is responsible for civil supplies–food and other essential commodities.
  12. He handles work pertaining to civil defence.
  13. He maintains liaison with military authorities and looks after the welfare of both serving and
    retired members of the armed forces.

Source: Governance in India by Laxmikanth

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