Judicial Review of Administrative Actions: Principles

The system of judicial review of administrative actions has been inherited from Britain. It is on this foundation that the Indian courts have built the superstructure of control mechanism. The whole law of judicial review of administrative actions has been developed by judges on case-to-case basis. Consequently, a thicket of technicality and inconsistency surrounds it. However, the present trend of judicial decisions is to widen the scope of judicial review of administrative actions and to restrict the immunity from judicial review to a class of cases, which relate to deployment of troops and entering into international treaties, etc.

Judicial review may take four shapes:

  1. Legislative review: Here the court reviews the constitutionality of law passed by the legislature or rules framed by the administrative authorities.
  2. Judicial review: Here the court reviews the decisions of lower courts and its own decisions.
  3. Constitutional review: In this case court reviews the constitutionality of a constitutional amendment.
  4. Administrative action review: In this case court reviews the constitutionality of administrative action and also examines its fairness, reasonableness and justness.

 

JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT

Under Articles 32 and 136

In any democratic society, primary control on government is by the people but experiences have proved the weakness of this control, especially where majority of the people are disempowered, hence auxiliary control becomes imperative and this auxiliary control is the “Judiciary with a power of judicial review”. Judicial review is alternative to force. It is based on general principles of rule of law, separation of power, federalism and fundamental rights.

India has a hierarchical judicial system in which the Indian Supreme Court is the Apex Court. It is the final interpreter of law and the ultimate court of appeal in all civil, criminal and constitutional matters. It is also the final protector of people’s fundamental rights. Judicial review is thus not only an integral part of the Constitution but also a basic structure of the Constitution, which cannot be abolished or whittled down even by an amendment of the Constitution. In any democratic society, judicial review is the soul of the system because without its democracy and the rule of law cannot be maintained. Thus, extraordinary jurisdiction of the court under Articles 32 or 136 of the Constitution cannot be taken away by legislation or the principle of election or estoppel or even by amending the Constitution.

Thus, in India, there are no “no-go” areas for the judiciary, and there is no limit on its power of judicial review except self-restraint. However, this does not mean that judicial power is without limits. Bold lines of the Constitution bind the judiciary in the same manner as they bind other organs of the State. The Supreme Court is invested with the power of judicial review under Article 32. Article 32(1) guarantees the right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights, and Article 32(2) invests the Supreme Court with the power to issue directions, orders or writs for the enforcement of these rights. The right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of any fundamental right is itself a fundamental right, and the court has no power to refuse in its discretion the grant of an appropriate remedy, if the violation of any fundamental right is proved. Therefore, it is not only the right and power but also the duty of the Supreme Court to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of the people. Where no fundamental right of a person is violated, court can decline jurisdiction. It is for this reason that in Federation of Bar Assn. v. Union of India, the court declined relief in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition for the establishment of High Court Benches at other places in Karnataka.

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