AskDefine | Define commissioner

Dictionary Definition



1 a government administrator
2 a member of a commission

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A member of a commission.
  2. Someone commissioned to perform certain duties.
  3. An official in charge of a government department, especially a police force.


member of a commission

Extensive Definition

Commissioner is a designation that may be used for a variety of official positions, especially referring to a high-ranked public (administrative or police) official, or an analogous official in the private sector (e.g. the highest executive position of many North American sports leagues).

Domestic public official

A Commissioner within a modern state generally holds his office by virtue of a commission from the head of state or a Council of Elected Representatives (or appointed by non-elected officials in the case of dictatorships).

Imperial China

Senior Public Servants, Commissioners and other high ranking bureaucrats referred to collectively as Mandarins.

Canadian territories

A Commissioner is the formal head of one of the territories of Canada (i.e. those areas within the country without the constitutional status of a province). Unlike the Governor General or a Lieutenant-Governor, who are representatives of the Queen of Canada, Commissioners are not vice-regal representatives, although they too perform duties akin to such including reading the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the territorial Legislature. They are appointed by the federal government as a delegate of cabinet. Under the federal statutes governing the territories, the Commissioners act in accordance with written instructions from cabinet or the minister responsible (currently the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development). While commissioners used to have a direct day-to-day role in administration and government and chaired the Executive Council of the territory, today they are under instruction to act more like a provincial lieutenant-governor as territorial assemblies have taken on more and more responsibility.
A Commissioner of a Territory is eligible to present the Vice-Regal Commendation to any Canadian Forces Members as any Lieutenant-Governors for long-term or outstanding service to the Office of a Lieutenant-Governor or Commissioner.

Current Canadian commissioners


Maintenance of Law and Order The Commissioner is responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in his Division. For this purpose, gives directions to the District Administration. Under the Police rules, the Commissioner has the right to call reports from the District Magistrate and Police Superintendents for crimes and disorders. In some cases, can call for the following kinds of reports:- Seeks reports from Superintendent of Police and Roznamchas(daily reports) Monthly Crime Reports. Annual Police Reports.
Supervision of District Administration Although the control and supervision of the District Administration is vested with the State Government, yet in reality owing to over involvement and over burden of the state government, no effective control is possible. Therefore, actual effective control is exercised by the Commissioner and acts as a liaison between the State and the District.
Work of Co-ordination A large number of departments and agencies are working in each District. The Commissioner very tactfully and cleverly coordinates their work and tries to solve departmental or personal differences and clashes. the Commissioner makes them work for the best interest of the State. Sometimes there are some differences between the Deputy Commissioners or other departmental heads of the adjoining districts and tries to coordinate their activities.
Departmental Coordination The Commissioner has been given the duty of coordinating the work of various departments, so that he/she can properly supervise the work of the various departments. Although technically the departmental heads are free and exercise their powers without any restraint, but in general matters the Commissioner exercises control and supervision over them. If there is a dispute between the District Authorities and the departmental heads, the Commissioner gives his/her decision. For example, if there is a dispute between Deputy Commissioner and Divisional Canal Officer about the role of flow of water, then the decision is given by the Commissioner.
As Liaison Officer Between the State and Local Military The Commissioner, also functions as a State Liaison Officer to keep liaison between the army and the Civil Administration. the Commissioner has to deal with special problems relating to the India-Pakistan border. During emergency(war), has to work round the clock with a view to mobilizing the entire civil administration machinery, creating confidence among the public and boosting the defense effort in the division.
Ex-officio Chairman The Commissioner is also the Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority and House Allotment Committee which allots houses to the various Officers.
Miscellaneous Functions In addition to the above functions, a Commissioner performs some other functions. Amongst these, some may be enumerated here:
  1. Writes confidential reports of Deputy Commissioners, Sub Divisional Officers, Tehsildars. He gives his views about their efficiency, conduct and character.
  2. At the time of natural calamities like floods, famines, earthquakes and fires, leads and helps the Deputy Commissioners.
  3. In land acquisition cases, the Commissioner is empowered to accord sanction
Thus the Commissioner of a Division plays an important role in the administrative structure of the Division. He/she enjoys revenue powers and is a court of appeal and revision in revenue cases. He coordinates the work of the different functionaries. He/she is responsible for maintaining proper law and order in the Division. In case of war, he performs many functions during the emergency. He takes an active part in the execution of various developmental projects. Principal Staff Officer to the Commissioner is overall in charge of the staff in the office and assists the Commissioner in all spheres of work. Generally a senior officer of the Punjab Civil Service is appointed as Principal Staff Officer. The Office Superintendent is responsible for the proper supervision and disposal of work of the office.



Prior to the Acts of Union 1707, an elected member of the Estates (parliament) of Scotland held the office of Commissioner, representing a constituency (the equivalent of a Member of Parliament in the contemporaneous Parliament of England). There were Burgh Commissioners and Shire or Stewartry Commissioners.

United States

In many U.S. states, the legislative and executive decision-making bodies of counties are called the board of commissioners or county commission. In Minnesota, Alaska, New York and Tennessee, the heads of statewide cabinet-level departments are called "commissioners".

International public and colonial context

British and Commonwealth overseas possessions

The title of Commissioner, as such, was used by the (gubernatorial) chief British official in:

European Union

The European Commissioners are the members of the European Commission, the highest executive organ of the European Union, which is the closest EU equivalent to a government. Each Commissioner is assigned a portfolio, but they make most important decisions collegially, often subject to approval by the European Parliament and/or the Council of the European Union.

French colonies

The French equivalent, Commissaire, was used for various officials employed at different levels of the colonial administration in several French-ruled countries.

Russian Empire

After on 17 April 1914 Tannu Tuva (ethnically Mongolian) was declared a Russian 'protected' area (Uryanhay [Urjanhaj] kray), two subsequent Russian Commissioners for the Affairs of Urjanhai Kray (1914 - 1915 A.P. Cererin (Tsererin) and 1915 - 1917 Yu.V. Grigoryev) were appointed, alongside the last native tribal Paramount chief (title Ambyn-noyon), followed by a single Commissar of the Provisional Government (October 1917 - 16 March 1918 Aleksey Aleksandrovich Turchaninov) until czarist rule collapsed for good, giving way to the Soviet regime

United Nations administration

A UN Commissioner appointed in 1949 supervised the transition of the UN Trust territory of Libya (a former Italian colony; actually Tripolitania and Cyrenaica each were under a British Administrator, in 1949 restyled Resident, Fezzan under a French Military Governor, in 1950 also restyled Résident) to independence as a united monarchy in 1951


In many North American sports leagues, including nearly all professional leagues, the commissioner is the highest executive position. The exact powers of the commissioner depend on the constitution and/or rules of the league. Commissioners are elected by the owners of the league's clubs, and handle matters such as discipline, arbitration of disputes between the clubs, etc.
The title was first used in 1920, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed Commissioner of Baseball in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal. Landis was titled "Commissioner" partly to distinguish his office from that of the "President" of the American and National Leagues. Landis' title derived from the National Commission, the ruling body for baseball established in 1903, which were largely autonomous organizations at the time. Eager to restore public confidence in their sport's integrity, baseball owners gave Landis absolute power and a lifetime contract, which permitted the former judge to assume more power over the sport than a commissioner in any sport has held since.
The other major professional sports leagues of North America followed suit, replacing their positions of league president with that of commissioner. The National Football League appointed its first commissioner in 1941, the National Basketball Association in 1967, and the National Hockey League in 1993. However, the commissioners' powers and responsibilities in these leagues are not substantially different from those of the presidents that preceded them. Although baseball's subsequent commissioners have not had the absolute power that Landis did, current Commissioner Bud Selig has succeeded in centralizing authority over Major League Baseball in the commissioner's office, relegating the position of league president to an honorary title and giving baseball's commissioner competencies similar to those of his colleagues in the other major sports.
Many minor professional and amateur leagues throughout the United States and Canada have also appointed commissioners. The title has not caught on outside North America. In addition to Selig, the other current commissioners of the North American major professional leagues are Roger Goodell in the NFL, David Stern in the NBA and Gary Bettman in the NHL.
commissioner in German: Kommissar
commissioner in French: Commissaire
commissioner in Italian: Commissario

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

G-man, MP, alderman, archon, bailie, bailiff, beadle, beagle, bound bailiff, burghermaster, burgomaster, cabinet member, cabinet minister, captain, catchpole, chancellor, chief of police, city councilman, city father, city manager, commissar, commissary, commissionaire, constable, councillor, councilman, councilwoman, county commissioner, county supervisor, delegate, deputy, deputy sheriff, detective, elder, emissary, envoy, fed, federal, flic, gendarme, government man, headman, herald, induna, inspector, legate, legislator, lictor, lieutenant, lord mayor, mace-bearer, magistrate, maire, marshal, mayor, messenger, minister, minister of state, mounted policeman, narc, officer, patrolman, peace officer, police captain, police commissioner, police constable, police inspector, police matron, police officer, police sergeant, policeman, policewoman, portreeve, reeve, roundsman, secretary, secretary of state, selectman, sergeant, sergeant at arms, sheriff, superintendent, supervisor, syndic, tipstaff, tipstaves, trooper, undersecretary, warden
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