Administration and Good Governance

By | January 11, 2021
Administration and Good Governance

Good Governance: It is the normative guiding principle of administration (the function for which a democratic government is elected and good governance is the set of principles on how they should carry out the administration). It is a pre-condition for the development of a nation or any administrative unit.

Good governance lays out how democracy is to be administered in order to achieve maximum welfare of the people, and the Government is the entity that executes it. It is based on the idea of a government being citizen-centric, citizen-friendly, guided by citizen participation, responsive to citizen’s voiced considerations, and ultimately accountable to them.

I. Definition & Origin

Anybody given the task of administration must have a scope of discretion it exercises. Administration is a collective process of making decisions using their discretions and then executing those decisions. Good governance guides the discretion of the authorities in making and executing the decisions. It ensures that the decisions are taken with the citizens in mind, and they are executed in a fair, transparent and equitable manner.

It militates against absolute and uncontrolled discretion and abuse of power. The US Supreme Court has said in US vs. Wunderlich [1] that absolute discretion is destructive of freedom and always leads to suffering. The Pakistan Supreme Court has also said in Pir Imran Sajid vs. Managing Director, Telephone Industries Of Pakistan that good governance can never be achieved by arbitrary or unreasonable use of discretion. It must be exercised in a just, fair and open way in consonance with the constitutional principles [2].

II. The Origin of Good Governance

The use of the term “good governance” is traced to a publication of the World Bank in 1989. Subsequently, in 1992, the World Bank published a report on “Governance and Development” further explaining the concept of good governance. Finally, in 1997, the Bank asserted the concept of good governance as a precondition to holistic development. In the following years, the concept of good governance increasingly found its place in International Administrative law in association with issues of human rights.

With the advent of the concept of “welfare state”, the principles of good governance have found roots as an established road toward achieving a welfare state. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights states five primary attributes in good governance. They are participation, transparency, responsibility, accountability, and responsiveness.

In India, in a lecture by Justice Santosh N Hegde, the then Lokayukta of Karnataka, it was said that good governance is a fundamental right of the people in a democracy. The court has also iterated that good governance is a right of the people and not a favour bestowed by the authorities [3].

III. The Elements of Good Governance

Good Governance may be said to include 8 fundamental elements, which have been discussed below:

  • Participation

Good governance requires that a civil society generates ample opportunities for participation by both men and women in the formulation of strategies for development. Citizen participation in governance is an important element which ensures commitment and support for projects and enhances the quality of implementation.

Mere participation is not sufficient, it needs to be informed and organized. This means that the nation must ensure the quality of education is such that it trains people to be active participants in governance. It should allow freedom of speech, expression and association in a wide manner for people to freely voice their opinions. Participation of those in minority and likely to be drowned out must be specifically ensured.

  • Transparency

Incorporating transparency in the working of the governing authorities is the first step toward good governance. Unless information on how governance is being conducted is provided clearly, people cannot be expected to participate effectively and the judiciary cannot be expected to review the decisions on constitutional principles. Thus, a transparent government is a precursor to good governance, and decisions should be taken and their enforcement should be done in a manner where rules and regulations can be seen to be followed. Transparency ensures that sufficient information is provided in an easily understandable form and accessible medium.

  • Rule of law

Administrative law and good governance are inherently connected. An essential doctrine in administrative law which is also an element of good governance is A V Dicey’s Rule of Law. Good governance must ensure that the supreme rule established is of law and not of men. This would require a fair, transparent and reasonable legal framework enforced without partiality. Complete protection of human rights, especially minorities ought to be covered. Further, unbiased law enforcement requires an independent and effective judiciary and an incorruptible police force. An effective justice administration system is the first pillar of good governance.

  • Responsiveness and Consensus Orientation

People voicing their opinion is necessary but a one-person conversation does no one any good. Good governance requires the government to respond to the concerns raised in an honest manner. Good governance requires that institutions should serve all stakeholders within a limited time-frame. The several actors and viewpoints and the varying interests of society needs to be mediated. Governance needs to analyse the best interest of the community and work toward achieving that. This mediation of the varying interests of groups of people is termed as consensus orientation. Achieving this requires strategic visiona broad and far-seeing perspective on what is actually needed and how can it be attained sustainably.

  • Effectiveness and Efficiency

A good government is like a well-coordinated machine. Like any economic unit of machinery, it can be gauged by the twin parameters of efficiency and effectiveness. This means that all parts of it should be working at their optimum level and there should be minimum wastage of time and resources. The use of resources must be sustainable and adaptable to consistent changes.

  • Equity and Inclusiveness

Society must work to keep all its members in mind to the lowest represented strata while making and implementing decisions. A society’s well-being relies on ensuring that each man, woman and others have opportunities to improve their standard of living. It is a must that all groups, especially those most vulnerable, should be afforded opportunities to improve or maintain their way of life.

  • Accountability

In the end, it is most important for a government to allow itself and all its units to be held accountable for their actions and its consequences in a fair, open and reasonable manner. Both public and private sector and civil society organizations must remain accountable to the public in general, and to their institutional stakeholders. Every organization or institution is accountable to those who will likely be affected by its decisions and actions. It is pertinent to understand that accountability can only be enforced by securing transparency and obedience of rule of law first.

IV. Significance of Good Governance

The Courts have affirmed and upheld the principles of good governance in almost every case before them. The Principles of Natural Justice as a way of enforcing good governance have evolved and closely conform administrative authorities to transparency and accountability. The decisions of the Court in A K Kraipak v. Union of India [4] highlights the rule against bias, an essential branch of the rule of law needed for impartial governance.

In the 2018 judgment in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India [5], the apex court upheld transparency in the election by stating that political parties should publish criminal records of the candidates. This has been affirmed by the Court again in a contempt petition titled Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora [6] on February 13, 2020, and the political parties are required to publish criminal records in detail within 48 hours of the selection or 2 weeks of the nomination of candidates.

Thus, it can be seen that the elements of good governance are being realised as fundamental for a welfare state to function. Good Governance is significant because it allows the government to deliver on its promise of ensuring human rights in all respects: civil, cultural, political, social and economic rights. Good governance is the function of installing positive virtues of administration and eliminating vices of dysfunction.


[1] 342 US 89 (1951)

[2] 2015 S C M R 1257

[3] 2017 SCMR 683

[4] AIR 1970 SC 150

[5] (2019) 3 SCC 224

[6] CONTEMPT PET. (C) NO. 2192 OF 2018

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Author: Ashish Agarwal

Advocate | School of Law, Christ University Alumnus

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