JUDICIAL BEHAVIOR AND ADMINISTRATIVE DISCRETION IN INDIA: Though courts in India have developed a few effective parameters for the proper exercise of discretion, the conspectus of judicial behavior still remains halting, variegated and residual, and lacks the activism of the American courts. Judicial control mechanism of administrative discretion is exercised at two stages:
- at the stage of delegation of discretion;
- at the stage of the exercise of discretion.
The exercise of discretion must not be arbitrary, fanciful and influenced by extraneous considerations. In matters of discretion the choice must be dictated by public interest and must not be unprincipled or unreasoned. It has been firmly established that the discretionary powers given to the governmental or quasi-government authorities must be hedged by policy, standards, procedural safeguards or guidelines, failing which the exercise of discretion and its delegation may be quashed by the courts.
This principle has been reiterated in many cases. Thus within the area of administrative discretion the courts have tried to fly high the flag of Rule of Law which aims at the progressive diminution of arbitrariness in the exercise of public power. In India the administrative discretion, thus, may be reveiwed by the court on the following grounds.
- Abuse of Discretion.
Now a day, the administrative authorities are conferred wide discretionary powers. There is a great need of their control so that they may mot be misused. The discretionary power is required to be exercised according to law. When the mode of exercising a valid power is improper or unreasonable there is an abuse of power. In the following conditions the abuse of the discretionary power is inferred: –
- Use for improper purpose: – The discretionary power is required to be used for the purpose for which it has been given. If it is given for one purpose and used for another purpose. It will amount to abuse of power.
- Malafide or Bad faith: – If the discretionary power is exercised by the authority with bad faith or dishonest intention, the action is quashed by the court. Malafide exercise of discretionary power is always bad and taken as abuse of discretion. Malafide (bad faith) may be taken to mean dishonest intention or corrupt motive. In relation to the exercise of statutory powers it may be said to comprise dishonesty (or fraud) and malice. A power is exercised fraudulently. If its repository intends to achieve an object other than that for which he believes the power to have been conferred. The intention may be to promote another public interest or private interest.
- Irrelevant consideration: – The decision of the administrative authority is declared void if it is not based on relevant and germane considerations. The considerations will be irrelevant if there is no reasonable connection between the facts and the grounds.
- Leaving out relevant considerations: – The administrative authority exercising the discretionary power is required to take into account all the relevant facts. If it leaves out relevant consideration, its action will be invalid.
- Mixed consideration: – Sometimes the discretionary power is exercised by the authority on both relevant and irrelevant grounds. In such condition the court will examine whether or not the exclusion of the irrelevant or non-existent considerations would have affected the ultimate decision. If the court is satisfied that the exclusion of the irrelevant considerations would have affected the decision, the order passed by the authority in the exercise of the discretionary power will be declared invalid but if the court is satisfied that the exclusion of the irrelevant considerations would not be declared invalid.
- Unreasonableness: – The Discretionary power is required to be exercised by the authority reasonably. If it is exercised unreasonably it will be declared invalid by the court. Every authority is required to exercise its powers reasonably. In a case Lord Wrenbury has observed that a person in whom invested a discretion must exercise his discretion upon reasonable grounds. Where a person is conferred discretionary power it should not be taken to mean that he has been empowered to do what he likes merely because he is minded to do so. He is required to do what he ought and the discretion does not empower him to do what he likes. He is required, by use of his reason, to ascertain and follow the course which reason directs. He is required to act reasonably
- Colourable Exercise of Power: – Where the discretionary power is exercised by the authority on which it has been conferred ostensibly for the purpose for which it has been given but in reality for some other purpose, It is taken as colourable exercise of the discretionary power and it is declared invalid.
- Non-compliance with procedural requirements and principles of natural justice: – If the procedural requirement laid down in the statute is mandatory and it is not complied, the exercise of power will be bad. Whether the procedural requirement is mandatory or directory is decided by the court. Principles of natural justice are also required to be observed.
- Exceeding jurisdiction: – The authority is required to exercise the power with in the limits or the statute. Consequently, if the authority exceeds this limit, its action will be held to be ultra vires and, therefore, void.
- Failure to exercise Discretion
In the following condition the authority is taken to have failed to exercise its discretion and its decision or action will be bad.
- Non-application of mind: – Where an authority is given discretionary powers it is required to exercise it by applying its mind to the facts and circumstances of the case in hand. If he does not do so it will be deemed to have failed to exercise its discretion and its action or decision will be bad.
- Acting under Dictation: – Where the authority exercises its discretionary power under the instructions or dictation from superior authority. It is taken, as non-exercise of power by the authority and its decision or action is bad. In such condition the authority purports to act on its own but in substance the power is not exercised by it but by the other authority. The authority entrusted with the powers does not take action on its own judgement and does not apply its mind. For example in Commissioner of Police v. Gordhandas the Police Commissioner empowered to grant license for construction of cinema theatres granted the license but later cancelled it on the discretion of the Government. The cancellation order was declared bad as the Police Commissioner did not apply his mind and acted under the dictation of the Government.
- Imposing fetters on the exercise of discretionary powers: – If the authority imposes fetters on its discretion by announcing rules of policy to be applied by it rigidly to all cases coming before it for decision, its action or decision will be bad. The authority entrusted with the discretionary power is required to exercise it after considering the individual cases and if the authority imposes fetters on its discretion by adopting fixed rule of policy to be applied rigidly to all cases coming before it, it will be taken as failure to exercise discretion and its action or decision or order will be bad.