Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design


Kapur, Devesh, and Pratap Bhanu Mehta. 2005. Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design. Oxford University Press. Copy at


The modern state secures legitimacy and carries out its tasks of governance and development through a diverse range of institutions. This volume analytically assesses the design, performance, and adaptability of the principal institutions of governance in India and their critical role in a democratic polity.

It is axiomatic that societies are well governed and well organized to the extent that their public institutions can adequately manage the demands imposed on them. In India, it is commonly held that a modest record in development and governance is explained by the somewhat limited utility of many public institutions.

The volume looks at the parliament, presidency, institutions of internal accountability, the judiciary, police, and the civil service in addition to economic institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, as also several regulatory bodies, paying special attention to the variables like autonomy, accountability, and information sharing that have affected the performance of different institutions across time.

Also included are essays that explore the critical role played by institutions in enhancing economic performance, strengthening federalism, and deepening the democratic impulse in India. In addition, they look at how electoral uncertainty has given a new lease of life to "referee institutions" like the Election Commission and the Supreme Court.

Further, the volume looks at the variations in institutional performance of the Indian State across time, and evaluates if the state has the capacity to adapt to a changing environment.

Providing detailed and original insights into the working of institutions and assessing the manner in which they assist, strengthen, thwart, manipulate, and subvert each other, this unique volume will be of interest to a scholarly audience in political science, public administration, and political sociology in addition to bureaucrats and policy planners, journalists, activists, and an informed general audience.