The Chief Executive heads administration at the respective national, state, district and local levels. The Chief Executive could be of different types namely singular, plural or collegiate. In India at the Union level. President is the Constitutional Chief Executive, while the Prime Minister as the Head of the Cabinet is the ‘real’ Chief Executive.

The Secretaries are in charge of different departments like finance, education, health etc., and run the administration in the real sense of the term. At the state level, the Governor is the Constitutional Chief Executive and the Chief Minister is real Chief Executive. At the district level, the District Collector is the Chief Executive, who is the most important functionary in the district administration.

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The Indian Constitution confirms that the executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President (Article 53). The ‘executive power’ has been classified into four categories, namely, administrative, legislative, judicial and military. Despite these powers, the President is only a nominal executive, as he has to exercise his functions with the aid and advice of Council of Ministers headed by Prime Minister.

Thus, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is the real Chief Executive. However, the President has discretionary powers, such as ordinance-making and pardoning powers. In addition, he has special powers relating to ‘Union Territories’. He has the power to give instructions to the state Governors and to appoint certain Commissions for specific matters. Thus, he is not totally deprived of real powers.

That notwithstanding, it is a fact that the Prime Minister is the linchpin of the executive wheel. As the Chief Executive, he presides over the meetings of the Cabinet, prepares the agenda and guides its deliberations; allocates portfolios among the ministers; and communicates to the President about the happenings in and outside the country.

The Prime Minister is the chief spokesperson of the Cabinet in Parliament. He is the chief coordinator of Ministries and Departments and makes the major appointments in the name of the President. He represents the country at international forums. In work, he is assisted by the Council of Ministers. Moreover, the Cabinet Committees, the Cabinet Secretariat and Prime Minister’s Office provide staff support to the Chief Executive.

The Cabinet Secretary keeps the Chief Executive informed about the agenda of Cabinet meetings and assists him. The work of administration is run by the Secretariat. It helps in policy-making, framing rules, exercising financial control; and guiding and directing the executive agencies in their tasks. Thus, both staff and line agencies help the Chief Executive.

The Indian Constitution provides for a federal government having separate systems of administration for the Union and its states. The Governor is a Constitutional ruler. In practice, he has to act according to the advice of the Council of Ministers responsible to the state legislature.

He has powers relating to the appointment of judges and members of the State Public Service Commission; addressing, summoning, proroguing, dissolving the state legislature; and granting pardons, remissions etc. He performs with the advice of Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. He also functions under the direction of the President of India.

Thus, the Chief Minister with his Council of Ministers is the real Chief Executive while the Governor is the nominal Chief Executive. The Chief Minister is the political head at the state level and the Chief Secretary heads the administration. He is the kingpin of the State Secretariat and head of the civil services in the State.

The Chief Secretary works as the principal adviser to the Chief Minister; prepares the agenda for the Cabinet meetings, arranges meetings, maintains records of proceedings etc., exercises general superintendence and control over the Secretariat; and gives orders on postings, transfers etc., of the government personnel. Thus, he acts as a staff agency to the Chief Minister.

The role of Chief Executive is very important at the district level. As a basic unit of administration, district is placed under the charge of a District Collector. Thus, District Collector is the chief executive. He is the kingpin of administration, and all the administrative powers are vested in him.

The major functions of the Collector are to maintain law and order; check proper implementation of social welfare and development programmes; make necessary arrangements to complete the election process; supervise over the local bodies; assume charge under unforeseen situations and utilise the district machinery to meet the situation; secure coordination at the district level in the working of various State Government Departments; and exercise control over field offices through inspections and meetings with his subordinates. By this, he monitors different programmes and also fixes priorities. Thus, the Collector represents the state government in its totality.

Other government officers in the district look at him for support and advice. He acts as a buffer between the government and district administration, and between administration and citizens.

The Chief Executive’s office is the end-result of a political process. Chief Executive in a Parliamentary system is controlled by the Legislature and Judiciary and in an organisation he is controlled by the Board of Directors. In his day-to-day functions, he is supported by the Line and Staff agencies.