A District Magistrate, also called a District Collector or Deputy Commissioner (or shortened to DM, Collector, or DC), is the chief administrative and revenue officer of an Indian district. He is a member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), and is appointed by a State government. He usually works under the supervision of Divisional Commissioner who is a senior IAS officer. He is responsible to implement all the government programmes in the interest of the common public of the district. Being a district election officer he conduct elections peacefully.
District Administration in India is a legacy of the British Raj. District Collectors were members of the Indian Civil Service, and were charged with supervising general administration in the district.
Warren Hastings introduced the office of the District Collector in 1772. Sir George Campbell, Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal from 1871-1874, intended “to render the heads of districts no longer the drudges of many departments and masters of none, but in fact the general controlling authority over all departments in each district."
The office of the Collector during the British Raj held multiple responsibilities– as Collector, he was the head of the revenue organization, charged with registration, alteration, and partition of holdings; the settlement of disputes; the management of indebted estates; loans to agriculturists, and famine relief. As District Magistrate, he exercised general supervision over the inferior courts and in particular, directed the police work. The office was meant to achieve the "peculiar purpose" of collecting revenue and of keeping the peace. The Superintendent of Police, Inspector General of Jails, the Surgeon General, the Divisional Forest Officer and the Chief Engineer had to inform the Collector of every activity in their Departments.
Until the later part of the nineteenth century, no native was eligible to become a district collector. But with the introduction of open competitive examinations for the Indian Civil Services, the office was opened to natives. Anandaram Baruah, the sixth Indian and the first Assamese ICS officer, became the first Indian to be appointed a District Magistrate.
The district continued to be the unit of administration after India gained independence in 1947. The role of the District Collector remained largely unchanged, except for separation of most judicial powers to judicial officers of the district. Later, with the promulgation of the National Extension Services and Community Development Programme by the Nehru government in 1952, the District Collector was entrusted with the additional responsibility of implementing the government's development programs in the district.
They are appointed by the State government, from among the pool of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers in the state. The members of the IAS are either directly recruited by the Union Public Service Commission or promoted from Provincial Civil Services (PCS). The direct recruits are posted as Collectors in their thirties whereas the promoted members from state civil services generally occupy this position in their forties. A District Magistrate/District Collector/Deputy Commissioner are transferred[clarification needed] from this post by State government.
He is entrusted with a wide range of duties in the jurisdiction of the district. While the actual extant of the responsibilities varies in each State, they generally involve
- land assessment
- land acquisition
- collection of land revenue
- collection of income tax dues, excise duties, irrigation dues etc.
- distribution of agricultural loans
- Disaster management during natural calamities such as floods, famines or epidemics
- Crisis management during riots or external aggression
- Chairman of the District Bankers Coordination Committee
- Head of the District Industries Centre
As District Magistrate:
- maintenance of law and order
- supervision of the police and jails
- supervision of subordinate Executive magistracy
- hearing cases under the preventive section of the Criminal Procedure Code
- supervision of jails and certification of execution of capital sentences
As Deputy Commissioner
- reports to Divisional Commissioner on all matters.
- acts as ex-officio chairman of the District Development Authority in absence of Divisional Commissioner, which carries out various developmental activities
A District Magistrate/District Collector/Deputy Commissioner is assisted by some I.A.S and P.C.S for carrying out day-to-day work in various fields:--
- Vice Chairman(VC) of District Development Authority, Chief Developement Officer (CDO),Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)
- Additional District Magistrate(s) E(Executive),F/R(Finance and Revenue),(City),CS(Civil Supply),(Protocol),(Projects),(Nazul),(Relief),LA(Land Acquisition), Municipal Commissioner(Nagar Ayukt) and Secretary of District Development Authority
- City Magistrate
- Sub-Divsional Magistrate(s) or Deputy Collector(s)
- other officers at district level
- Deputy Commissioner of Police/Superintendent of Police
- Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax/Deputy Director of Income Tax (Criminal Investigation)
- Deputy Development Commissioner
- Deputy Conservator of Forest/District Forest Officer
It is a very interesting fact that the British who introduced this office abolished Collector rank long ago in Britain & disbursed its powers to various magitrates inside the city counciles headed by Mayor popularly elected by city voters. In modern & progressive democracies, Collector has no direct homologue outside India
- His Majesty's Slationery Officer, Report of the Indian Statutory Commission (1930) Vol. I, Survey, London, pp. 286
- Arora, R.K, Goyal, R. Indian Public Administration, Wishwa Prakashan, New Delhi, 2011.