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Published : March 03, 2014 | Author : Neethi Chacko
Category : Constitutional Law | Total Views : 5210 | Rating :

Neethi Chacko
I finished my BA.LLB from SDM LAW College and NOw Pursuing LLM from Christ University, Bangalore.

Classification of Administrative Actions; The Application of Natural Justice while Discharging Administrative Actions

In modern times the administrative process has become a product of intensive form of government powers and combines into one all the powers which were traditionally exercise by three different organs of the state. Therefore this is the general agreement among the writers on administrative law that any attempt of classifying administrative functions on any conceptual classification of administrative action can be classified into four categories:
1. Rule-making action / Quasi-legislative
2. Rule decision action / Quasi-judicial
3. Rule-application action / Administrative action
4. Ministerial action

Rule-making action / Quasi-legislative
American constitution expressly confers to legislature the rule making action while it is implied under Indian Constitution. Combination effect of article 107 to111 and 196 to 201 is that the law making power can be exercised for the union by parliament and for the state by respective state legislatures. It is the intention of the constitutional makers that this law making power must be exercised by those bodies alone with which this power must be vested. But in this twentieth century these legislative bodies cannot give that quality and the quantity of laws which are required for the efficient functioning of a modern intensive form of the government. Therefore, the delegation of law-making power to the administration is a compulsive necessity, when administration authority exercised the law making action of the administration or quasi-legislative action.

Rule-making action part takes all characteristics of legislative action but these characteristics are not without exception. In some cases, administrative rule making may be particularized, retroactive and based on evidence, according to Chinappa Reddy.J., a legislative action has four characteristics (1) generality (2) prospective (3) public interest (4) rights and obligation flow from it.

In State of Punjab v. Tehal Singh
There was a declaration determining the territorial area of a Gram Sabha & thereafter establishing the Gram Sabha – the question was whether it is a quasi-legislative act?
* Where the provisions of statute provide for legislative activity
* Where the power exercised does not concern an interest of the individual or relate to particular situation but relates to public in general
* Where it lays down future course of action

Rules of Natural Justice do not apply except reasonableness & fair play
Apex court held that such action will generally hold to quasi judicial legislation action of the authority. It is on the basis of these characteristics that one can differentiate between quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial action. A quasi-judicial action is essentially based on the facts of the case and declares a pre existing right. However, in certain situation like wage or wage fixing, it is not capable of easy differentiation.

In Express News Paper(p) Ltd. V. Union of India, the SC left the question open as to whether the function of the wage commission under the working journalists’(condition of service) Act,1956 is quasi-judicial or quasi-legislative. However, the delegation to the government of the power to fix the price of levy sugar was held to be quasi-legislative functions

The committee of the ministers’ powers which was appointed in England in 1928 distinguished between administrative and quasi-legislative action on the ground that where the former is a process of performing particular acts or of making decision involving the application of general rule of conduct without references to particular cases and usually for future operation.

Though the rules of natural justice do not apply to legislatives actions yet reasonableness and fair play in action must be observed as article 14 of the constitution equally applies to legislative action.

Rule decision action / Quasi-judicial
This is regarded more with the decisions from administrative agencies exercising adjudicating powers. The reason seems to be since the administrative decision-making is also a by-product of the intensive form of government, the traditional judicial system cannot give to the people that quantity and quality of justice which is required in a welfare state.

There are certain powers to perform acts which are administrative in nature but incidentally require some judicial control. On the basis of the definition of quasi judicial action, the following functions of the administrative have been held to be quasi-judicial functions:

1. Disciplinary proceedings against student.
2. Disciplinary proceedings against an employee for misconduct.
3. Confiscation of goods under the sea customs act, 1878.
4. Determination of statutory disputes.
5. Determination of citizenship.
6. Forfeiture of pensions and gratuity.
7. Grant of permit by regional transport Authority.

A quasi judicial act involves the first two determinants, may or may not involve the third but never involves the fourth determinant, because the place of the fourth determinant is in fact taken by the minister’s free choice involving expediency, discretion and policy consideration.

And the approach given by the committee seems fallacious because the judges cannot be regard as mere norm-producing slot machines. They consider policy, socio-economic & political factors, expediency and also under their discretion. Here administrative authorities may apply law & dispose of the case

Ex: Tax Quasi-judicial need not follow strict procedure.

The distinguishing feature of a quasi-judicial proceeding on this behalf is that the authority concerned is required by law under which it is functioning, to act judicially. Duty to act judicially was spelt out in R. v. Electricity Commissioners. In this, Lord ATKINS thus:

“whenever anybody of the persons having legal authority to determine questions affecting the rights of the subjects and having the duty to act judicially, acts in excess of its legal authority , they are subjects to the controlling jurisdiction of the kings Bench Division.”

In India the judicial research for the duty to act judicially was sometimes made within the corners of the statuteunder which the authority exercised powers and sometimes in the tenuous material , remote and extraneous, such as , lis inter parties including proposition and opposition, implications arising from the nature of the functions and the rights affecting thereby.

This doctrine approach of the courts in India and England not only made the law confused and uncertain but also eluded justice in many cases.

However turning point came with RIDGE V. BALDWIN where the Lord Reid pointed out that “ if the Lord Heyward meant that it is never enough that a body has a duty to determine what the rights of the individual should be, but that there must always be something more to impose on it a duty to act judicially, then that appears to me impossible to reconcile with the earlier authorities.” It was held that the duty to act judicially must arise from the very nature of the function intended to be performed and it need not be shown to be superadded.

The development of law is traceable in India also where the Supreme Court even earlier than RIDGE v. BOWLDEN with the view that if there is power to decide and determine to the prejudice of a person, the duty to act judicially is implicit in the exercise of such power.

In A.K. Kraipak V/s Union of India, in this case the Supreme Court held that though the action of making selection for the government services is administrative, yet the selection committee is under a duty to act judicially. The court observed that the dividing line between an administrative powers and quasi-judicial power is quite thin and is being gradually obliterated.

In D.K. Yadav V/s J.M.A Indiustries Ltd the Supreme Court further observed that the distinction between quasi-judicial and administrative action which had become thin lined is now totally eclipsed and obliterated. Proceeding with a step further the Supreme Court clearly held in Chandra Bhavan And Lodging Banglore V/s State of Mysore that it is not necessary to classify an action of the administrative authority as quasi-judicial or administrative because the administrative authority is bound to follow the principles of natural justice in any case. In this case, the question was whether the power to fix a minimum wage under the minimum wages Act is quasi- judicial or administrative.

Elaborating the law further, the court identified three characteristics of quasi-judicial action : (1) it is in the substances a determination upon investigation of a question by the application of an objective standard to facts found in the light of pre-existing rules (2) it declares rights and imposes upon parties obligation affecting their civil rights and imposes upon parties obligation their civil rights : (3) that the investigation is the subjects to certain procedures attributes contemplating facts and if the disputes to be on question of law on the presentation of legal argument, and a decision resulting in the disposal of the matter on findings on those question of law and facts.

In Manju Verma V/s State Of U.P, the court observed that the chief justice could not have allowed the plea without hearing the affecting party and without determining on objective criteria and upon investigation, whether the case is transferable and should be transferred.

The decision of the chief justice would have direct bearing on the right of the appellant to choose “forum convenience”, hence the action is quasi-judicial subject to review by the higher forum.

3. Rule-application action / Administrative action

Though the distinction is narrow it is relevant in determining the measure of Natural Justice.

Rule application action is neither legislative nor judicial. If two persons are wearing similar coat, it does not mean that there is no differences between them. The difference between quasi judicial and administrative action may still be relevant in determining the measure if natural justice is applicable in a given situation.

In state of A.P. V/s S.M.K Parasurnama Gurukul question arose whether the power of the government to appoint trustee under section 15 of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions’ and Endowment Act, 1966 is quasi judicial or administrative the court held that function as administrative and laid down that if there is lis between parties and the opinion is to be formed on objective satisfaction, the action is quasi judicial, otherwise administrative.

Administrative action is the residuary action, which is neither legislative nor judicial. It is concerned with treatment of a particular situation and is devoid of generality. It has no procedural obligation of collective evidence and weighing argument and it is based upon subjective satisfaction where decision is based on policy and expediency. It does not mean that principle of natural justice can be ignored completely when the authority is exercising “administrative powers”. Unless the statute provides contrary, a minimum of the principle of natural justice must always be observed depending on the factual situation of each case, and impose administrative duty, that while taking “administrative action” the authority must act “fairly”.

No exhaustive list of such actions may be drawn. However, a few may be noted for the sake of clarity:
1. Issuing directions to subordinate officers not having the force of law.
2. Interment, exterment and deportion.
3. Fact finding action.
4. Acquisition and allotment.
5. Function of the selection committee.

Administrative action may be statutory, having the force of law, or non-statutory, devoid of such legal force. The bulk of the administrative action is statutory because a statute or the constitution gives it a legal force but in some cases it may be non-statutory. It is based on subjective satisfaction, however, that the administrative authority must act fairly, impartially and reasonably.

Ministerial action
Action as a matter of duty - Devoid of discretion or judgment
Ex: Collection of revenue, Annual report etc.

In ministerial action, area of action is very limited. However, the area of such action is highly limited because of the effective discharge of a governmental authority. Gordon classifies the functions of administrative authorities into judicial and non-judicial. Judicial functions involve the decision of legal standards which forms a material part of the function. Non- judicial functions are further divided into administrative function by meeting out policy and expediency with unfettered discretion. When an administrative agency is acting ministerially it has no power to consult its own wishes but when it is acting administratively its standard are subjective and it follows its own wishes.

Administrative rule-making action is controlled by parliament and and the courts. In the condition of quasi-judicial action, only that classifying determinant can be reasonable which is institutional rather than functional. There are administrative bodies exercising adjudicatory powers which are as full courts. It is only the will of the legislation that these are not classified. However, it does not mean that because purple is the confused mixture of red and blue, there is no distinction between red and blue. Administration decision-making action is not required to follow the elaborate judicial procedure, rather, it is sufficient if, in the absence of any statutory requirement, the action is rendered by the following the minimum procedure of natural justice.

Books Referred

2. Jain, M.P. : Indian Constitutional Law,1999,page 476-669
3. Sathe , Administrative Law
4. Thakkar, c.k.: Administrative law, Eastern Book Company, chap. 3 and 9

# Delhi law acts, In re, AIR 1951 SC 332
# AIR (2002) 2SCC7
# AIR 1958SC 578
# Shri sitaram Sugar co. ltd. V. Union of india,(1990)3 scc 223
# shri sitaram Sugar co. ltd. V. Union of india,(1990)3 scc 223
# (1924) 1 KB 171
# Province of Bombay v. khushaldas advani, AIR 1950 SC 222
# G. nageswara rao v. APSRTC, AIR 1959 SC 222
# Babul Chandradas v. chief justice&judges of patna highcourt, AIR 1954 SC 524
# 1964 AC 40
# Board of high school, u.p. v. ghanshyam, AIR 1962 SC 110
# (1969) 2 SCC 262
# (1993) 2 SCC 262
# (1969) 3 SCC 84
# (1973) 3 SCC 232

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