Legal Maxim

Home » Delegatus Non-Potest Delegare

Literal Meaning

One to whom a power is delegated, cannot himself further delegate that power.




The maxim is a principle in the constitutional and administrative law which means that a person to whom an authority or decision-making power has been delegated to from a higher source, cannot, in turn, delegate again to another unless the original delegation explicitly authorized it. In simple terms, a delegate cannot re-delegate. The maxim is derived from and is most frequently applied in matters relating to principal and agent but is not confined thereto. In general, the maxim deals with delegation.


  1. An auditor who has been appointed to audit the accounts of a company cannot delegate the task to another unless expressly allowed to do so. If express authorization has not been granted the auditor will have acted ultra vires.
  2. An attorney given legal authority in a power of attorney cannot, of their own volition, delegate the exercise of that authority without the consent of the person who granted the power of attorney.

Case Laws

In Democratic Bar Association vs. High Court of Judicature, the Allahabad High Court held that “the maxim delegatus non potest delegare does not enunciate a rule that knows no exception; it is a rule of construction to the effect that *a discretion conferred by a statute is prima facie intended to be exercised by the authority on which the statute has conferred it and by no other authority, but this intention maybe negative by any contrary indications found in the language, scope or object of the statute.”

In Ultra Tech Cement Limited vs. The Union of India and Ors., the Kerala High Court held that “Sub-delegation implies a further delegation of the same power, which was originally delegated by the legislature. The governing principle is that legislative powers must be exercised by the delegatee himself and by none else. A delegatee cannot further delegate his power unless the parent law permits it to do so. In the above context, the doctrine delegatus non potest delegare, that is, a delegatee cannot further delegate, comes into play. Thus, if a law confers power on the Central Government to make rules, it cannot further delegate that power to any other officer, unless the parent law itself gives authority to the Government to that effect.”

In The State vs Kunja Behari Chandra And Ors., the Patna High Court while referring to the above maxim held that “Because of the legislative power of the government is vested exclusively in the legislature, the general rule enunciated by Cooley is that the legislature cannot surrender or abdicate such power and any attempt to do so will be unconstitutional and void. There is also the well-known maxim delegatus non potest delegare, which means that the power to make laws cannot be delegated by the legislature to any other authority.”