Who is a collector? What are his powers?


A Collector, formally addressed as the District Collector, is any person given the powers to collect or manage collection in a district or territory. He is the highest Indian Civil Administrative Officer who is in charge of collection of revenue and administration of a district in the country. District Collector also possesses executive magisterial powers, his post is also known as District Magistrate.

History and Collector’s role in administration of a district:

District Collector, as a post has been one of the most important posts when it comes to the areas of administration in India for the last two hundred years. In  Pre-Independent India, when the country’s economy was predominantly agrarian, a Collector was appointed to be the head to collect the land revenue. He was also enjoying wide powers of administration under criminal laws. The Collector, then, was considered as the fundamental guardian figure who was accountable for the welfare of the people and residents within his jurisdiction. The British Empire, allotted the jurisdiction of every collector as a ‘district’. District, has been one of the most important limbs of administration in some way or the other from time immemorial when it comes to India.

The British Parliament which was the first ever legislature when it comes to India’s administration and governance, made some enactments which gave concrete powers to a person at the district level to administer the various problems and issues existing in such district. A head of administration was generally called as the Collector when he performs duties of collection and administration with respect to revenues and other incomes. The same head when performs duties in administering criminal justice, is known as the District Magistrate and when performs duties in relation to general administration of the district accompanied by ancillary functions or powers governing the laws of tenancy he is called the Deputy Commissioner.

The District Collector/ District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner leads the administration of the district and is also responsible for the basic control and management of the police. Even after 73 years of Independence, the diversification of the Indian economy, growth in industrialization and other economic activities in most parts of India, except for the metropolitan cities, the District Collector is recognized as an important part of administration. He is also viewed as the primary representative of the District. He is considered as the person who could be approached for solutions to problems from land disputes to insufficiency of crucial commodities, to inadequacy of any relief during crisis, to community disputes and such like.

The Evolution:

The powers of a collector as per the current scenario is that of revenue collection (Collector) and administering criminal justice (District Magistrate)

With the establishment of Panchayat Raj Institutions and Municipal bodies, through constitutional mandate, it has now become important to re-examine and re-define the role of the district administration. As they say, modern problems require modern solutions, it is important that new ways of decision making is devolved so as to counter administration. It is equally important to provide for a unique form of administrative practise for which the district requires a person with the proper expertise and credibility to hold the office of the District Collector which has been built up over a period of two hundred years.

Powers and functions of a collector:

A collector, the Chief Representative of the district has some roles and powers. The functions performed by him may be classified into regulatory functions and developmental functions.

Regulatory Functions:

  • One of the main functions that a collector perform is maintenance of law and order. He is in charge of the law and order of the district and performs this duty with the assistance of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • He plays a pivotal role in assessing the lands in a district for the purpose of collecting land revenue. He also performs magisterial responsibilities as he has the powers of a first class Magistrate.

Developmental Functions:

  • The Collector directs and supervises the execution of developmental plans.
  • He ensures that the schemes reach the targets in right time and coordinates the proper execution of developmental schemes by removing difficulties.
  • He also makes sure there is no corruption.

Generic Functions including regulatory and developmental aspects:

Public Security, Law and Order and Preventive Action

  • He takes preventive action to ensure public peace and tranquillity by way of making preventive arrests under CrPC and for National Security.
  • He also imposes restrictions on unlawful assemblies by way of curfew that restricts free movement.

Revenue Functions:

  • The District Collector is the custodian of all lands in the district and collection of revenue function is primary to his role.
  • Being the head of Revenue Administration he has the authority to collect the land revenue, government dues, maintain land records, implement measures for reformation of land, collect rural statistics.
  • He has the powers to pay rehabilitation grant, manage government estates and pay compensation for the people affected by Zamindari Abolition.

District Planning:

  • He is the chairperson of the District Planning Council (DPC) and is involved in preparing the 5 year and annual district plans.
  • He oversees the progress and implementation of schemes and projects and heads the coordination cell of bank in the district. He also anticipates the expenditure and allots the appropriate amount of money for it.

Disaster Management:

  • In case of natural calamities like flood, famines or epidemics, the collector has a duty to manage the disaster.
  • He is the Chairman of the District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) and by virtue of this power he is expected to take anticipatory measures to diminish the consequence of such disaster.
  • He is authorised to grant gratuitous relief to the affected persons.

District Civil Supplies:

  • He administers management of provision of essentials by way of Public Distribution System (PDS) which operates through fair price shops that provide goods like rice, wheat, sugar, kerosene etc. This distribution is ensured through ration cards issued by the government.
  • The District Supply Officer who is in charge of all these shops is under the control of the district collector.
  • He has the power to conduct raids in such shops at regular or random intervals.

Fair Price to Agricultural products:

  • He possesses the power to distribute agricultural loans and help farmers auction products at reasonable prices.
  • He also has powers to set up procurement shops with the help of marketing and cooperative departments to ensure the sale of major agricultural products at minimum prices assured by the government.

Supervision of District Treasury:

  • He is the authority controlling the District Treasury safeguarding public money, government property and complying government instructions with respect to financial prudence.
  • He is in charge of dispersal of money for pensions to retired government servants, salaries and other monetary benefits to other government employees. He also has the power to take action under the Indian Treasure Trove Act.

District Excise Department:

  • The main source of income to State Government arises from the sale of liquor and other intoxicants and also the District Collector supervises the payment of monthly rents, inspects the quality of liquor and strictly prohibits adulteration of liquor.

Protocol Functions:

  • Abiding by the standing instructions and guidelines issued by the Government, the Collector performs protocol functions in the district.
  • A Senior Additional District Collector is appointed to perform this type of function. Performance of this function is very crucial and any mistake in execution of this function would lead to serious consequences to the district collector as he is answerable.

Residual Functions:

  • Any other function in the district that has not been allocated to any other department is automatically directed to the jurisdiction of the District Collector. He is bound to perform his functions and duties within the given budget and regulations imposed by the Government.


The district collector is therefore in a position to run a mini-government within his territory for ensuring the safety and security of its people and for the purpose of maintaining law and order. He is hence considered to be the all-in-one in the district to which he is in charge of.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje