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Coordinates: 22°01′55″N 74°54′30″E / 22.03185°N 74.90825°E / 22.03185; 74.90825

A Collectorate complex in Guntur.

The District Collector is a Central Indian Government appointee who is in charge of the governance of a district in a state.



A District Collector/Magistrate during the weekly administrative meeting in the state of U.P, India

District Collectors are officers of the Indian Administrative Service and are the most powerful government officials of the district. They are entrusted the task of handling law and order, revenue collection, taxation, the control of planning permission and the handling of natural and man-made emergencies. A collector was a crucially important colonial officer placed at the district level and entrusted with the responsibility of revenue collection and other civil duties.


In spite of many structural changes in the office of the district collector ever since its inception in 1772 by Warren Hastings, the district collector functioned as the most decisive officer of the administration throughout the British period. It was through this officer that the colonial state used to execute its commands, and maintained local control. Originally, the business term 'collector' was given to the European district officer to make other powers in Bengal feel that he was not really a ruler, but merely an officer for revenue collection which was the duty of the British East India Company as the Diwan of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. For many years the Company pretended to be the diwan, and not the sovereign of the country. But the term became so much a part of the colonial system that it was retained down to the end of British rule.


However, the office of collector had undergone considerable structural and functional changes during the period of British rule. Besides revenue collection, the district collector exercised civil, judicial and military powers in districts until 1792, when the judicial and magisterial powers were separated from him and transferred to the district judge. During William Bentinck's administration, the magisterial duties were separated from the district judge and annexed to the district collector who was given the designation of district magistrate and collector. During the same period the posts of deputy collector was created to help the office of the district magistrate and collector. Until the later part of the nineteenth century, no native was eligible to become a district collector. But with the introduction of competitive examinations for the Indian civil services, no bar to the post remained, though no native ever became a district collector until the very end of the nineteenth century. For colonial reasons, the post of district judge was more open to native civilians than that of the district magistrate and collector. During the Pakistan period the institution of district magistrate and collector retained much of the powers and glories of the colonial era. But the nomenclature was changed. The post was renamed as deputy commissioner. Today there are district commissioners, but due to constitutional government they do not now have the despotic powers as exercised in the colonial and Pakistan period.

A Deputy Commissioner is the chief administrative and revenue officer of a district. The office of the deputy commissioner traces its origin to the district collector system of the early phase of British rule. The district supervisor was appointed with limited functions in 1769. Warren Hastings introduced the district collector system in 1772. The system was, however, repealed in the following year, but restored again in 1787.

Under the Regulation of 27 June 1787, the collector was vested with the powers of a judge and magistrate. The collector had also some authority over the police. With the introduction of the permanent settlement in Bengal in 1793, the collector was stripped of his judicial and police powers, but by 1831 he was reinvested with judicial powers. Since then, the collector was known in Bengal as the district magistrate and collector or just as the district magistrate. The term deputy commissioner was used during the British colonial days in a different context to describe the chief revenue and executive officer of districts in what was known as non-regulation provinces. The regulation provinces signified the settled areas of Bengal where a legalistic system based on comprehensive acts or regulations governed the working of the district administration. The non-regulation provinces meant newly acquired territories which, because of unstable conditions, demanded a more authoritarian pattern of administration. In East Bengal districts, the appellation district magistrate and collector was uniformly used.

The designation "district magistrate" is used in the criminal procedure code to denote the principal magistrate of the district. The term 'collector' is derived from the land revenue laws. The designation district magistrate and collector was used during the British colonial days for districts except in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as a non-regulation district where the term deputy commissioner was used. However, after 1960, the district magistrate and collector came to be redesignated throughout the country as deputy commissioner. It is important to note that during the early years, the deputy commissioner's office was concerned with internal security and revenue administration.

Over time, however, the office became increasingly occupied with the general welfare of the people in the district. To that end, The Deputy Commissioner's role was conceived of as the general controlling authority for all other activities in the district. The universality of the deputy commissioner's role since the early 20th century came to be affected by the introduction of elected legislatures and the creation of specialised departments having their own officers in the districts. The deputy commissioner is, however, still looked upon as the eyes and ears of the government in such areas as law and order, land administration, disaster management and elections, both general and local. The deputy commissioner works under the general guidance and supervision of the divisional commissioner. They are under the administrative control of the cabinet division although their posting and transfer are made by the ministry of establishment. The deputy commissioners are drawn from the members of the Bangladesh Civil Service (Administration). The selection of deputy commissioners is made through a committee consisting of the cabinet secretary as chairman, and secretaries to the ministries of establishment, home and land as members.


The major problems associated with the institution of the District Collector in India are: Frequent transfers, Work overload, Political interference, Lack of interdepartmental coordination, Increasing law & order duties resulting in lesser time available for developmental work.

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