There is a thin line of difference between Administrative Acts and Quasi-Judicial Acts: SC [Case Brief]

The powers between the Union and the state government has been distributed under Part XI of the Indian Constitution. These powers are further classified into Legislative, Administrative and Judicial powers. An administrative law, as defined under Black’s Law Dictionary 8th Edn., is “An act made in a management capacity esp., an act made outside the actor’s usual field (as when a judge supervises court personnel). An Administrative Act is often subject to greater risk of liability than act within the actor’s usual field.” 

While a Quasi-Judicial Act clearly suggests that there must be two or more contending parties and an outside authority to decide those disputes.Thus a presence of lis or two rival parties is must in order to hold the statutory authority as quasi- judicial body.Thus there is a very thin line of difference between both. In circumstances where there are no two rival parties, it is a judicial procedure which is required to be followed in Quasi-Judicial acts and not in Administrative acts.

A.K. Kraipak & Ors. Etc vs Union of India & Ors

Before Supreme Court of India

Decided on: 29 April 1969

Bench: Hidayatullah, M. (CJ.), Shelat, J.M., Bhargava, Vishishtha, hedge, K.S., Grover, A.N.

Author of the judgement: Justice Hegde

Advocates for petitioners:

  • K. Sen and E.C. Agrawala (in W.P. No. 173 of 1967)
  • Frank Anthony, E.C. Agrawala and A.T.M. Sampat (in W.P.No. 174 of 1967)
  • K. Daphtary, E.C. Agrawala, A.T.M. Sampat, S.R. Agarwala and Champat Rai (in W.P.No. 175 of 1967)

Advocates for Respondent:

  • Niren De, Attorney-General, N.S. Bindra and R.N. Sachthey ( For respondents no. 1 to 6) (in all petitions)
  • R. Gokhale and Harbans Singh (For Respondent Nos. 7 and 26) (in all petitions)

Brief Facts:

  • These petitions are brought by some of the gazetted officers serving in the forest department of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • All of them feel aggrieved by the selection made from among the officers serving in the forest department of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to Indian Forest Service, a service constituted in 1966 under s. 3(1) of the All India Services Act, 1951 and the rules framed thereunder.
  • They wanted the courts to quash this selection notification as according to them the selection was violative of Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution and on a further ground, the selection in question are vitiated by the contravention of the principal of Natural Justice.
  • They are also challenging the vires of section 3 of the All India Services Act, rule 4 of the rules framed under that act and regulation 5 of the Indian Forest Service (initial Recruitment) regulations 1966, framed under the aforementioned rule 4.

Issue:

  • Is section 3 of the All India Services Act, rule 4 of the rules framed thereunder and Regulation 5 of the Indian Forest Service (initial Recruitment) Regulations 1966, void?
  • Principles of Natural Justice apply to administrative proceedings?

Arguments of Petitioner:

  • The power conferred on the selection board under rule 4 read with regulation 5 was a quasi-judicial power.
  • Emphasis was laid on the language of rule 4 as well as the regulation 5 which prescribe that the selection should be made after adjudging the suitability of the officers belonging to the state services.
  • According to them, the word ‘adjudge’ means ‘to decide or to judge’.
  • It was contended that such power is essentially a judicial power and the same has to be exercised in accordance with the well-accepted rules relating to the exercise of such powers.
  • Emphasis was also laid on the fact that the power is question was exercised by a statutory body and a wrong exercise of that power is likely to affect the careers of the officers that are not selected.

Arguments for the Respondents:

  • The power in question is purely administrative power
  • Though the selection board was a statutory body, as it was not required to decide about any right, the proceedings before it cannot be considered as quasi-judicial; its duty was mere to select officers who in its opinion were suitable for being absorbed in the Indian Forest Service.
  • The word ‘adjudge’ means ‘found worthy of selection’
  • The selection board was only a recommendatory body. Its recommendations had first to be considered by the Home Ministry and thereafter by the U.P.S.C.
  • The mere fact that one of the members of the selection board was biased against some of the petitioners cannot vitiate the entire proceedings.
  • Under any circumstances, no case is made out for disturbing the selection of officers in junior scale

Held:

  • The power exercise by the selection board was an administrative power.
  • The real question is not whether Naquishbund was biased but whether there was a reasonable ground for believing that he was likely to have been biased. In deciding the question of bias, it is necessary to take into consideration:
    • Human probabilities
    • Ordinary course of human conduct
  • There was nothing to doubt that the board in making the selections must necessarily have given weight to the opinion expressed by Naqishbund.
  • Because of Naquishbunds participation in the deliberations of the selection board, there was a conflict between his interest and his duty.
  • The impugned selections are set aside and the Union and the state government were directed to pay the cost to the petitioners.

Ratio:

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