Herman Finer says that “it is most useful to look upon the executive as the residuary legatee, for that explains the mixed nature of its functions and parts.” In early times, all power, of every kind, rested with one single person, the prince, and he exercised that power with his narrow circle of advisers.
They not only executed policy but planned it and sat in judgment. As the movement for responsible government advanced, it caused “portions of the power to be taken over by other institutions, the remainder itself being subjected to certain norms of constitutional morality and controlled by the new organs.”
As thus understood, the executive embraces the whole governmental organisation with the exception of the legislative and judicial organs and includes all officials, high and low the Head of the State, his principal advisers and ministers, as well as the whole body of subordinate officials through whom the laws are administered.
In this wide sense the term executive is the aggregate or totality of all the functionaries or agencies which are concerned with the execution of the will of the State as that will has been formulated and expressed in terms of law.
But it is customary to use the term executive in its narrow sense which refers only to the Chief Executive Head of the State and his advisers and ministers. The executive in Britain in this context means Queen Elizabeth II and her Ministers with Prime Minister at the top. In India, it is President of the Union, plus all Ministers headed by The Prime Minister.
In the United States of America the President and his Secretaries constitute the executive. The primary duty of this part of the executive is to formulate policy and to see that it is properly implemented. The policy implementation function is the job of the permanent civil service who actually run the various departments of the government and the field officers.
Both, those who see that the laws are properly enforced and those who actually enforce them are really integral parts of the same machinery and all collectively constitute the executive department of the government.
The only difference between the two is that the former initiate the policy and supervise its implementation. If it cannot be carried out within the framework of the existing law, they propose new legislation in the executive, in brief, is organised on the theory that one bad general is better than good ones.
The executive organised on the plural principle is incompatible with force, energy, unity of purpose and independence. It is, therefore, politically expedient hat there should be some one person who can, in the last resort, exercise a decisive and authority.
Absolute monarchy and dictatorship are typical examples of a single order to enable them to carry it through. The latter, members of the civil service, are not concerned with policy-making though at the top they considerably influence the policymakers. Their primary function is policy execution or enforcement.