Difference Between Administrative Law and Constitutional Law | Administrative vs Constitutional Law

By Shivank Goel|Updated : September 20th, 2022

Difference between Administrative law and Constitutional Law is that Administrative law is subordinate to Constitutional law. In contrast, Constitutional law is the highest law in India and is considered supreme. Constitutional law stands responsible for dealing with various organs of the state, and Administrative law is concerned with the organs of the state in motion.

Both constitutional and Administrative law, concerned with the functions of the government, are components of public law in the modern nation-state. However, there is a difference between Administrative law and Constitutional law. More specifically, Administrative law is an addition to the supreme law of the land, the Constitutional law.

Difference between Administrative law and Constitutional Law

In his seminal work, Ill-Assorted Musings about Regulatory Takings and Constitutional Law, Maurice J Holland emphasizes that the main difference between Constitutional law and Administrative law is that Constitutional law governs the legislative and executive branches, but Administrative law governs their operations.

Difference between Administrative law and Constitutional Law PDF

In his magnum opus, The British Constitution, Ivor Jennings believes that Administrative law is concerned with Administrative authorities' organization, functions, powers, and responsibilities. On the other hand, he opines that Constitutional law is concerned with the broad principles guiding the structure and powers of the various state organs and their relationship with the citizens.

Another difference between Constitutional law and Administrative law is that in countries with a written constitution, Constitutional law is derived from the constitution. However, Administrative law is derived from legislation, Administrative regulations, executive decrees, circulars, letters of instruction, conventions, etc.

Constitutional Law

Administrative law

The ultimate law of any nation-state is Constitutional law.

Administrative law is ancillary to the ultimate law.

Deals with the organs of the State and its structure

Deals with the actual functioning of the organs of the State.

It has a wide scope and deals with the powers of the State, general principles of governance, and the relationship between the citizens and the State.

It has a narrow scope and only deals with the powers and functioning of the Administrative bodies.

It is codified into a single text in countries with a written constitution.

It is not codified. There might be hundreds of thousands of Administrative laws.

Constitutional law establishes an Administrative body

Administrative law defines its legal roles and limitations. Therefore, it can be seen as the action arm of Constitutional law.

What is Administrative law?

Administrative law governs the establishment of government entities, and the administration of these entities is also concerned with this law. It defines the authorities concerning the Administrative agencies, their created substantive regulations, and the legal relationships binding them to the general public and other government organizations.

What is Constitutional law?

The liberties, rights, and powers established by a charter or a legally passed constitution are dealt by Constitutional law. It comprises the rights of the people and powers of the several.

Prof. S P Sathe stated that Administrative law is a subset of Constitutional law, and all the concerns related to Administrative law are considered to be Constitutional law issues. This points out that Constitutional law has a broad scope, with many Administrative laws accounting for a sizable component of the Constitutional law. This is the difference between Administrative law and Constitutional law.

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FAQs on Difference Between Administrative and Constitutional Law

  • The difference between Administrative law and Constitutional law is that Administrative law is an addition to the supreme law of the land, the Constitutional law. Constitutional law is considered supreme in the country.

  • In India, Constitutional laws, directly or indirectly, limit the powers of Administrative entities. It scrutinizes Administrative acts. Therefore, it becomes difficult to completely separate Administrative law from Constitutional law in a society with a codified constitution and judicial review.

  • Constitutional law in India is the highest law in India. It is considered supreme, and Administrative law is merely subordinate to Constitutional law. In India, Constitutional law is the most important source of Administrative law, among others as executive orders, delegated legislation, ordinances, judicial pronouncements, etc.

  • Some scholars have pointed out a zone of overlapping between Constitutional and Administrative law. Here, Constitutional law deals with the operation part- organization, functions, powers, and responsibilities of Administrative authorities. Examples: Articles 32, 136, 227, 262, 263, 267, 280, and 311 of the Constitution of India.

  • Administrative law is derived from different sources in different countries. The sources of Administrative law in the United States are statutes, common law, executive orders, etc.

    In England, the sources of Administrative law are statutes, precedents, subordinate legislation, etc. However, in India, Constitutional law is the most important source of Administrative law.

  • In some ways, judicial review of Administrative action is central to Administrative law. It decides whether the Administrative laws are congruent with Constitutional law. Therefore, judicial review is part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India. 

    However, some are concerned that excessive judicial scrutiny will weaken Administrative law and jeopardize the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

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