Administrative discretion

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HomeBrud.gifAdministrative LawBrud.gifAdministrative discretion

According to Lord Halsbury, Administrative discretion 'includes the case in which the ascertainment of fact is legitimately left to the administration determination'.

Legislature is often compelled to confer vast discretionary powers because it is not always possible to lay down standards or norms for the exercise of administrative power.

Types of Administrative Discretion

  • Individualizing decisions: The authority to make individualizing decisions in the application of general rules
  • Executing decisions: Freedom to fill gaps in delegate authority in order to execute assigned administrative functions
  • Policymaking decision: Power to take action to further societal goals
  • Unbridled discretion: If no review is permitted, the agency is exercising this discretion.
  • Numinous discretion: If the decision cannot by its very nature be reviewed, the agency is said to be exercising this discretion.

Problems in judicial review of administration

Related Cases / Recent Cases / Case Laws

  • Raunaq International Ltd. vs. I.V.R. Construction Ltd. & Ors. (1999) 1 SCC 492: Supreme Court said the principle governing the process of judicial review and held that the writ court would not be justified in interfering with commercial transactions in which the State is one of the parties except where there is substantial public interest involved and in cases where the transaction is mala fide.
  • Union of India & Anr. vs. International Trading Co. & Anr.,(2003) 5 SCC 437
  • Parbhani Transport Coop. Society Ltd. v. Regional Transport Authority
  • Shree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. Union of India
  • Hari Chand Sarda v. Mizo District Council
  • Krishnan Kakkanth v. Govt. of Kerala
  • Jespar I. Slong vs. State of Meghalaya & Ors., (2004) 11 SCC 485: Supreme Court held that “17……fixation of a value of the tender is entirely within the purview of the executive and courts hardly have any role to play in this process except for striking down such action of the executive as is proved to be arbitrary or unreasonable……”
  • Association of Registration Plates vs Union of India & Ors., (2005) 1 SCC 679
  • Reliance Airport Developers (P) Ltd. vs. Airports Authority of India & Ors., (2006) 10 SCC 1: Supreme Court held that while judicial review cannot be denied in contractual matters or matters in which the Government exercises its contractual powers, such review is intended to prevent arbitrariness and must be exercised in larger public interest.
  • Jagdish Mandal vs. State of Orissa and Others, (2007) 14 SCC 517
  • Tata Cellular vs. Union of India, (1994) 6 SCC 651: Supreme Court held the need to find a right balance between administrative discretion to decide the matters on the one hand, and the need to remedy any unfairness on the other.
  • UP State Road Transport Corporation vs Mohd. Ismail, AIR 1991 SC 1099: Supreme Court of India held that:
    • The administrative discretion should be used according to rules of reason and justice and not according to private opinion, according to law and not humor.
    • It is not to be arbitrary, vague and fanciful but legal and regular.
    • It must be exercised within limit to which an honest man competent to the discharge of his office ought to confine himself.
  • East Suffock Rivers Catchment Bd vs Kent, (1941) AC 74: Refusal to exercise discretionary power where it imposes a duty to exercise it entitles a liability to damages.
  • AIR 1957 AP 830, 832: When an authority concerned exercises his discretion honestly and in the spirit of the statute, no mandamus will be issued directing him to exercise his discretion in a particular way.
  • Ratlam Municipality vs Vardhichand, AIR 1980 SC 1622: A case in which the extent to which statutory authority is compelled to exercise its statutory discretionary duty.
  • Veerappa vs Raman (1952) SCR 583: A transport authority under Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, has general discretion to refuse even where an applicant complies with the conditions specified in the Section 12 of the Act.
  • Mahboob Sheriff & Sons vs Mysore State Transport Authority, AIR 1960 SC 321: '.. No order commanding the Regional Transport Authority as to what order it should pass and what period should be substituted in place of the order passed by the Supreme Court and all that this court can do is quash the order and leave it to the Regional Transport Authority to reconsider the matter and exercise its discretion keeping in view the law as laid down by this court'
  • Union of India vs Indo-Afghan Agencies, AIR 1968 SC 718: In a case where the area of discretion has been delimited to such an extent that the authority concerned could take only one decision under it, the Court may specifically direct the authority to act in that particular way.

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