In all the countries with developed or developing democracy, the main goal is to
achieve an efficient and effective administrative system. In India
administrative law was given recognition in the mid-20th century. Administrative
law is neither legislative nor judicial, it is a quasi-judicial and
quasi-legislative system that deals with the relationship between individuals
n simple words, it governs the actions of the administrative
authorities and determines the organization, powers, and duties of such
authorities. The administrative law is a species of constitutional law and
cannot exercise its powers over and beyond. However, it becomes necessary for
the judiciary to check upon the administrative actions and their
constitutionality as the scope of administrative law is wide in comparison
with the other laws.
The main purpose of judicial control is to protect the
rights of individuals from the abuse of powers by administrative authorities by
ensuring the legality as well as the constitutionality of the actions undertaken
Scope Of Judicial Control Over Administration
In India, the constitution provides for independent judicial and legislative powers. There is a
system of separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judiciary. The Indian
constitution incorporates many provisions to ensure that there is an effective and efficient
system of separation of powers. For example- the executive appoints the judges of the apex
court but within the limits of guidelines provided thereby.
And after such an appointment, the
executive has no control over the discharge of functions by the judiciary. Similarly. though
the judiciary has the power to control administrative actions of the authorities such control
cannot be exercised on their own accord, but can only be exercised when relief is sought.
Judicial Intervention or control is restrictive in nature which narrows down the scope of its
Generally, such control is confined to the following cases:
- Lack of jurisdiction:
When any public official or administrative authority acts over
and beyond its jurisdiction, the court has the power to declare such an act to be ultra vires. For instance- In an organization, a particular authority is vested with the power
to take certain decisions or actions and any authority other than the competent
authority exercises such power of decision making then one can seek court's
intervention under the provision of jurisdictional error.
The general principle is that the powers conferred by administrative
authorities are exercised reasonably. But if an administrative authority gives a
decision that overrides the moral standards of the society and is such that which is
absent under law then a such decision can be held to be unreasonable. This can also be
called misfeasance in law.
The concept of irrationality as a ground for judicial control was established through
the case law Associated Provincial Picture House vs. Wednesbury (1947). This case
is also known as the Wednesbury test as the court laid down three tests to determine
whether or not a court has the right to intervene on the basis of irrationality:
The court also stated that any court could not intervene simply on the ground of
- If the defendant has not taken into consideration any fact which was to be
taken into consideration.
- If the defendant has taken into consideration any fact was which was not
be taken into consideration.
- If the decision is such that any reasonable authority would not have
into consideration of imposition of such decision after reasonable
application of mind.
- Procedural Impropriety:
It means the failure of an administrative authority to comply
with the laid rules and procedures or the common law. In the case of procedural
impropriety, the judiciary has the power to intervene even if the principles of natural
justice are not denied.
Under the case of Council of civil service unions vs. Minister for the civil service
Lord Diplock considered procedural impropriety as one of the heads to determine
whether or not any administrative action is subject to judicial intervention.
It means that whatever action is taken by the administrative authority
should be limited to the proportion of the objective of the decision. Before upholding:
This could also be referred to as "Wednesbury Unreasonableness". It applies to a
decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it.
Any action by an administrative authority it is necessary for the court to consider its
advantages as well as disadvantages.
Unless, the court is satisfied that the action is
necessary in the interest of public at large, it shall not be upheld. If any such authority
takes any action which is for its personal gains and does not benefit the public
interest, the court's intervention can be sought.
Forms Of Judicial Control Over Administration
- Judicial Review
- Statutory Appeal
- Suits Against The Government
- Criminal And Civil Suits Against Public Officials
- Extraordinary Remedies
Judicial review is one of the most significant powers of High courts and the Supreme
court. It is basic requirement of a developing civilization to protect and safeguard the
rights of the public by checking upon the administrative actions and their contitutionality
as well as legality.
This doctrine prevails in the countries where the constitution is
considered as their supreme law, for eg- USA, India, Australia etc. The power of courts to
conduct judicial review is restricted by constitution. However, the Legislature cannot
exclude judicial review if the administrative action is ultra vires to the constitution or
harms public interest.
The doctrine of Judicial review was first established on February 24, 1803 by the U.S
Supreme Court in the case of Marbury vs. Madison when it declared an act of legislative
Following Are The Mechanisms Of Judicial Review:
- Judicial Review Of Legislative Actions.
- Judicial Review Of Judicial Decision.
- Judicial Review Of Administrative Action.
In the cases of Keshvananda Bharti, Chandra Kumar vs. UOI
judicial review was held
to be necessary and was declared to be an essential and integral part of the Indian
In Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs Union Of India
, the first amendment act of 1951 was
challenged but the Apex court rejected the contention by conceding absolute powers to the
parliament to amend the constitution.
In the landmark case of Golaknath v. State of Punjab
"The supreme court reversed its
decision as it observed that Article 368 does not provide the power to amend the
The statutes and laws made by the legislature themselves provide for seeking judicial
intervention in case of any grief or harm. The aggrieved party has the right to appeal to a
higher administrative tribunal than the original decision-making tribunal. For instance, any
person aggrieved by the decision of a session court can appeal to the high court for intervention.
The apex court or the supreme court is the highest court and hence, no right to appeal lies
against its decisions.
Suits Against The Government
There are certain limitations with regard to constituting suits against the government. The
liability of the government under the contract law is similar to that of the citizens subject to
the limitations which can be regulated by the parliament under the constitution. However, the
government is liable for only those acts of their officials for which they are answerable. The
government can be held liable for the actions of its officials in regard to non-sovereign functions
Civil And Criminal Suits Against Public Officials
The laws related to civil and criminal proceedings against public official's acts vary from
country to country. In India, the code of criminal procedure creates the personal liability of
public officials for the acts done by them in such capacity and allows suits to be filed against
such acts with two months prior notice. However, certain authorities except the ministers are
immune to such civil suits such as the President and the governor. In Britain, the monarch and
in the USA the president is immune from such legal proceedings.
Apart from the abovementioned types of judicial controls, the Indian constitution provides a
few additional remedies by way of the writs under Article 13 and Article 226. The court has
discretionary powers to provide these remedies except the writ of habeas corpus when no
other remedy is available.
These writs are issued by the supreme court in order to protect only the fundamental rights of
the citizens but the High court is empowered to issue these writs for the protection of other
rights also. The writ of injunction is not specifically provided under the Indian constitution
but yet it is provided as a remedy by the supreme court. The writ of injunction is of two
types- preventive and mandatory. The mandatory writ is somehow similar to the writ of
mandamus and the preventive is similar to that of prohibition. The writ of injunction is issued
against executive authorities.
The Remedies By Way Of Writs Are As Follows:
- Habeas corpus:
It is derived form a Latin term which means "you may have the
body". It is used to secure a person who is unlawfully or illegally detained. Through
this writ the Supreme Court or the High Court can order another person who has
unlawfully detained another person, to present the body of the latter before the court.
The court requires the detaining person to provide valid ground for detention and if he
fails to do so then the person who was detained will be released by the court. This
writ can be issued against both public and private authorities.
Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibitions, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.
In the case of Ichhu Devi v. Union of India the Supreme Court held that even an
application through postcard by any pro bono publico will be considered for order to
issue writ of habeas corpus.
It is an order by the Supreme Court and High court to lower or
subordinate courts, tribunals or public authorities. This writ can be issued to any government, court, corporation or public authority, if they fail to do their respective duties.
In the case of John Paily & Ors. v. State of Kerala the Supreme Court held that the
court cannot direct any state legislature to establish a tribunal by issuing the writ of
mandamus. The petition cannot be entertained and was dismissed.
- Quo Warranto:
This writ is issued against a private individual when he assumes office
of a public servant on which he has no right. The power to issue this writ is
discretionary and it's up to the discretion of the court whether to issue this writ or not.
This writ can only be issued when a substantive public office is involved and can't be
issued against private or ministerial offices.
In the case of Niranjan Kumar Goenka v. The University of Bihar, Muzzafarpur
the court observed that the writ of quo warranto cannot be issued if the person is not
holding the public office.
It is issued by a superior court to the inferior courts. It is corrective in
nature and its work is to correct the errors. It is issued when there is excess of
jurisdiction to the inferior court or the superior court wants to decide a matter himself
in any case.
In the case of A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India the Supreme Court laid down the
distinction between quasi-judicial authorities and administrative authority. The
Supreme Court quashed the decision by issuing the writ of certiorari.
This writ is not issued often and it is an extraordinary remedy which the
superior court issues to an inferior court or tribunal for stopping them to decide a case
as they have no jurisdiction. If the court or tribunal does not have a jurisdiction and
still decides the case, the decision will be invalid because for an act to be legal it must
have sanction of law. This writ can only be issued against judicial and quasi-judicial
In the case of Prudential Capital Markets v. State of A.P. and Others the question
that was raised was that "can the writ of prohibition be issued against district
forums/state commissions which had already passed the judgement regarding
consumer cases?" The court held that after the execution of the order, the writ of
prohibition cannot be issued and neither the judgement can be stopped nor prevented.
Limitations Of Judicial Control Over Administration
- With High volume of cases already piled up in courts, it becomes difficult for the
courts to cope up such burden. The excessive delay in justice discourages justice
seekers to approach the court. The old saying "justice delayed is equal to justice
denied" still holds good in such cases.
- As the courts cannot interfere in the administrative acts in their own accord and can
only intervene when justice is sought, this delays the process of justice. As in most of
the cases the judiciary is able to interfere only when enough damage is already done
and in such cases there is no method to undo the harm already born by the aggrieved.
- Due to the high costs of the judicial processes most of the time only rich people are
able to get relief against the administrative actions and the poor people are denied
justice and become victims of such administrative actions and justice denial.
- The courts in India are bound by certain statutory limitation and cannot act against
them. Few administrative actions are out of judicial control and cannot be reviewed.
- The lack of general awareness also becomes one of the limitation for judicial control.
In a country like India where the illetracy is high, people are also deprived of the
general knowledge of remedies provided by the judiciary in case of grievances. For
the courts who can only act when relief is sought, it becomes difficult in this case to
provide justice to the citizens.
Recent Case Laws Related To Judicial Control
- In the recent case of Azizur Rahaman vs. The state of WB & ors. The Calcutta
High Court held that the judiciary's power of judicial review is to check upon the
legality and the constitutionality of the administrative act and not the wisdom or
soundness of such act. The judiciary will only exercise its powers if the acts is
completely arbitrary or for personal gains or affects the interest of public.
- The Supreme Court in the case of I.R. Coelho (Dead) By Lrs v. State of Tamil Nadu
& Ors., held that laws that are added to the 9 th schedule of the constitution by way
of amendments after April 24, 1973 can be amended if they are ultra vires of the
The main purpose of judicial control is to protect the rights of individuals from the
abuse of powers by administrative authorities by ensuring the legality as well as
constitutionality of the actions undertaken by them. The Indian Constitution provides
various methods of judicial control like judicial review, statutory appeal etc., and
along with these various types of judicial controls, the Indian constitution also
provides a few additional remedies by way of writs under Article 13 and Article 226.
However, the court has discretionary powers to provide these remedies except the writ
of habeas corpus when no other remedy is available.
These writs are issued by the
supreme court in order to protect only the fundamental rights of the citizens but the
High court is empowered to issue these writs for the protection of other rights also.
Judicial Intervention or control is restrictive in nature which narrows down the scope
of its application. Although Judicial Control is one of the most essential parts of the
structure of Constitution, it comes with certain limitations as well.
- https://www.legalpedia.co.in/ (article on judicial review)
Judicial Review of Administrative Actions An Overview
Abuse of Administrative Discretion
Role of Writs In Administrative Law
Judicial Review Of Administrative Actions In India
Supreme Court Power Of Judicial Review Of Administrative Tribunal