Among the three organs of State, the legislature makes law; the executive
ensures its enforcement; and the judiciary interprets the law so as to apply it
to a given situation. Judiciary also ensures that exercise of power by State or
its instrumentalities, do not breach the statutory and constitutional limits.
In a welfare State, in view of wider role assumed by State, the executive is
required to discharge functions which have trappings of a judicial act- called
Identifying Quasi-Judicial Acts
A question arises as to what are the circumstances when an executive act would
be treated as exercise of quasi-judicial.
In Province of Bombay v. Khushaldas S. Advani & Ors.
 decided by learned
6-Judge Bench of Supreme Court, Justice S.R. Das in his concurring opinion
outlined following principles to identify quasi-judicial act:
80.1 that if a statute empowers an authority, not being a court in the ordinary
sense, to decide disputes arising out of a claim made by one party under the
statute which claim is opposed by another party and to determine the respective
rights of the contesting parties who are opposed to each other, there is a lis
and prima facie and in the absence of anything in the statute to the contrary it
is the duty of the authority to act judicially and the decision of the authority
is a quasi-judicial act; and
80.2 that if a statutory authority has power to do any act which will
prejudicially affect the subject, then, although there are not two parties apart
from the authority and the contest is between the authority proposing to do the
act and the subject opposing it, the final determination of the authority will
yet be a quasi-judicial act provided the authority is required by the statute to
A 5-Judge Bench of Supreme Court in Radeshyam Khare & anr. v. States of M.P. &
., speaking through Justice S.R. Das, held:
11. � celebrated definition of a quasi-judicial � insists on three requisites
each of which must be fulfilled in order that the act of the body may be said to
be quasi-judicial act, namely, that the body of persons:
- must have legal authority,
- to determine questions affecting the rights of parties, and
- must have the duty to act judicially.
Since a writ of certiorari can be issued
only to correct the errors of a court or a quasi-judicial body, it would follow
that the real and determining test for ascertaining whether an act authorised by
a statute is a quasi-judicial act or an administrative act is whether the
statute has expressly or impliedly imposed upon the statutory body the duty to
act judicially as required by the third condition in the definition given by
In Gullapalli Nageswara Rao & Ors. V. A.P. State Road Transport Corporation &
, decided by another 5-Judges of Supreme Court, Justice K. Subbarao,
speaking for the majority, held as under:
21. The aforesaid three decisions lay down that whether an Administrative
Tribunal has a duty to act judicially should be gathered from the provisions of
the particular statute and the rules made thereunder, and they clearly express
the view that if an authority is called upon to decide respective rights of
contesting parties or, to put it in other words, if there is a lis, ordinarily
there will be a duty on the part of the said authority to act judicially.
Yet another 5-Judge Bench of Supreme Court in Board of High School and
Intermediate Education, U.P. Allahabad v. Gnahshyam Das Gupta & Ors
speaking through Justice K.N. Wanchoo, noting that the principles summarized by
Justice S.R. Das in Province of Bombay v. Khushaldas S. Advani & Ors.
, has been
followed in later cases, stated:
8. � . Now it may be mentioned that the statute is not likely to provide in so
many words that the authority passing the order is required to act judicially;
that can only be inferred from the express provisions of the statute in the
first instance in each case and no one circumstance alone will be determinative
of the question whether the authority set up by the statute has the duty to act
judicially or not.
The inference whether the authority acting under a statute
where it is silent has the duty to act judicially will depend on the express
provisions of the statute read along with the nature of the right affected, the
manner of the disposal provided, the objective criterion if any to be adopted,
the effect of the decision on the person affected and other indicia afforded by
the statute. A duty to act judicially may arise in widely different
circumstances which it will be impossible and indeed inadvisable to attempt to
define exhaustively : (vide observations of Parker, J., in R. v. Manchester
Legal Aid Committee
[1952 2 QB 418] .
In Jaswant Sugar Mills Ltd., v. Lakshmi Chand
, the following criteria was
noted to make a decision or an act, judicial:
- It is in substance a determination upon investigation of a question by the application objective standards to facts found in the light of pre-existing legal rules;
- It declares rights or imposes upon parties obligations affecting their civil rights; and
- That the investigation is subject to certain procedural attributes contemplating an opportunity of presenting its case to a party, ascertainment of facts by means of evidence if a dispute be on questions of fact, and if the dispute be on a question of law on the presentation of legal argument, and a decision resulting in the disposal of the matter on findings based upon those questions of law and fact.
One more 5-Judge Bench in A.K. Kraipak & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors
considered the distinction between administrative power and a quasi-judicial
power and held:
13. The dividing line between an administrative power and a quasi-judicial power
is quite thin and is being gradually obliterated. For determining whether a
power is an administrative power or a quasi-judicial power one has to look to
the nature of the power conferred, the person or persons on whom it is
conferred, the framework of the law conferring that power, the consequences
ensuing from the exercise of that power and the manner in which that power is
expected to be exercised. �.
The concept of rule of law would lose its vitality if the instrumentalities of
the State are not charged with the duty of discharging their functions in a fair
and just manner. The requirement of acting judicially in essence is nothing but
a requirement to act justly and fairly and not arbitrarily or capriciously.
The procedures which are considered inherent in the exercise of a judicial power
are merely those which facilitate if not ensure a just and fair decision. In
recent years the concept of quasi-judicial power has been undergoing a radical
change. What was considered as an administrative power some years back is now
being considered as a quasi-judicial power.
Recently, Supreme Court in Orissa Administrative Tribunal Bar Association v.
Union of India & Ors., having adverted to precedents, noted following principles
of distinction between quasi-judicial and administrative acts while emphasizing
that the distinction between the two is not always well defined and its
application may not always be certain:
59. From the above decisions, it emerges that:
- The decision of an authority is prima facie, and in the absence of any other factor, a quasi-judicial act when there is a lis before it, with two parties with competing claims;
- When the authority has the power to do something which will prejudicially affect the subject, the decision it takes is a quasi-judicial act even in the absence of a lis and two parties with competing claims, when the authority is required by the statute in question to act judicially. The express provisions of the statute, the nature of the right affected, the manner of disposal, the objective criterion (if any) to be adopted while deciding one way or the other, the effect of the decision, and other signs in the statute may be considered when evaluating whether there is a duty to act judicially; and
- The decision of an authority is quasi-judicial when it is made in accordance with rules. The decision is administrative when it is dictated by policy and expediency.
Implications of Quasi-Judicial Functioning
Having understood what constitutes quasi-judicial acts, a question arises as to
the consequence flowing from an action being a quasi-judicial. Some are
- An authority exercising quasi-judicial power is required to adhere to
principles of natural justice including: (i) No one shall be a judge in his
own case; (ii) No decision shall be given against a party without affording
him a reasonable hearing; (iii) the quasi-judicial enquiries must be held in
good faith, without bias and not arbitrarily or unreasonably; (iv) An
administrative authority, exercising judicial or a quasi-judicial power,
must record reasons for its decision. Even if particular statute or rules
made thereunder do not provide for hearing or an opportunity, before the
decision affecting the rights of a party is taken, the requirement of
adherence to principles of natural justice would be read into.
- Personal hearing enables the authority concerned to watch the demeanor
of the witness and clear up his doubts during the course of arguments and
the party appearing to persuade the authority by reasoned argument to accept
his point of view. In a quasi-judicial proceedings the person hearing the
arguments must decicide. If one persons hears and another decides, then personal hearing
becomes an empty formality.
- Power to view a decision not being inherent, quasi-judicial authority
cannot review its decision unless the statute provides for the same
expressly / specifically or by necessary implication.
- Sec.21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 allows Executive having power to
issue notifications, orders, rules or byelaws under any law, the authority
to add to, amend, vary any such notifications, orders, rules or byelaws so
issue. However, said Sec.21 of General Clauses Act cannot be pressed into
service to vary, amend or review a quasi-judicial order, or notification. A
order or notification cannot be rescinded by relying upon Sec.21.
- A quasi-judicial order made under the provisions of a statute does not
require authentication under Article 166 of Constitution.
- A writ of certiorari lies to control statutory body which acts without
jurisdiction or in its excess or in violation of principles of natural
justice or commits an error apparent on the face of records, provided that
the body is a quasi-judicial body entrusted with quasi-judicial function.
Certiorari may not lie to correct the errors of a statutory body which is
entrusted with purely administrative functions.
It is critical for an authority exercising quasi-judicial function to identify
its contours and implications including adherence to principles of natural
justice, so as to avoid challenge to and interference with its decision.
- 1950 SCR 621
- 1959 SCR 1440
- 1959 Supp (1) SCR 319
- 1962 Supp 3 SCR 36
- 1963 Supp (1) SCR 242
- (1969) 2 SCC 262
- 2023 SCC OnLine SC 309
- Manohar v. State of Maharashtra & another (2012) 13 SCC 14
- NHAI v. Madhukar Kumar, (2022) 14 SCC 661
- Udit Narain Singh Malpaharia v. Board of Revenue 1963 Supp 1 SCR 676
- Gullapalli Nageswara Rao & Ors. V. A.P. State Road Transport Corporation & anr. 1959 Supp (1) SCR 319 and Sayaji Hotels Ltd. v. Indore Municipal Corpn., 2020 SCC OnLine MP 4175
- Naresh Kumar & Others v. Government (NCT of Delhi) (2019) 9 SCC 416
- Indian National Congress (I) v. Institute of Social Welfare (2002) 5 SCC 685
- State of Maharashtra v. Basantilal, (2003) 10 SCC 620
- Radeshyam Khare & anr. v. States of M.P. & Ors. 1959 SCR 1440