Conferring of Power and Recording of Reasons

India– Whenever any statute confers any power on any statutory authority including a delegatee under a valid statute, howsoever wide the discretion may be, the same has to be exercised reasonably within the sphere that statute confers and such exercise of power must stand the test of judicial scrutiny. This judicial scrutiny is one of the basic features of the Constitution. The reason recorded truly discloses the justifiability of the exercise of such power. The question is whether the power has been exercised validly by the delegatee; if yes, then it can only be for the furtherance of that policy.
When such a wide power is given to any statutory authority including a delegatee then it is obligatory on the part of such authority to clearly record its reasons in the order itself for exercising such a power. Application of mind of such authority at that point of time could only be revealed when the order records its reasons. Even if the section is silent about recording of reasons, it is obligatory on the Government while passing orders to record the reasons.
When such a wide power is vested in the Government it has to be exercised with greater circumspection. Greater is the power, greater should be the caution. No power is absolute, it is hedged by the checks in the statute itself. Existence of power does not mean to give one on his mere asking.
The entrustment of such power is neither to act in benevolence nor in the extra-statutory field. Entrustment of such a power is only for the public good and for the public cause. While exercising such a power the authority has to keep in mind the purpose and the policy of the Act and while granting relief has to equate the resultant effect of such a grant on both, viz. the public and the individual. So long as it does not materially affect the public cause, the grant would be to eliminate individual hardship which would be within the permissible limit of the exercise of power. However, where it erodes the public safety, public convenience, public health etc. the exercise of power could not be for the furtherance of the purpose of the Act. Minor abrasion here and there to eliminate greater hardship, may in a given case, be justified but in no case affecting the public at large. So every time the Government exercises its power it has to examine and balance this before exercising such a power. Even otherwise, every individual right including fundamental right is within, reasonable limit but if it makes inroads into public rights leading to public inconveniences it has to be curtailed to that extent. So no exemption should be granted affecting the public at large. Thus, whenever any power is to be exercised, the Government must keep in mind, whether such a grant would recoil on the public or not and to what extent. If it does, then exemption is to be refused. If the effect is marginal compared to the hardship of an individual that may be considered for granting.

Where a statutory provision confers rights and also states mandatory or implied conditions which would have to be satisfied before the claim can culminate into a relief, such considerations or conditions are relevant for the purposes of interpretation as well. A power conferred by the statute often contains an express condition for its exercise and, in absence of, or in addition to the express condition, there are also implied conditions for exercise of power. Exercise of statutory power in breach of express or implied conditions will be illegal, if the conditions breached are mandatory. This principle, to a large extent, is applicable to exercise of rights arising from beneficial legislations, when an owner claims benefits under statutory provisions, it is for him to show that what is contemplated under the conditions attached thereto has been satisfied, particularly when such legislative intent is clear from the bare reading of the provisions. Like the cases in hand, it is for the claimants to show that, to award the compensation payable under the statutory provisions, they have brought on record evidence to satisfy the criterion and conditions required to be fulfilled for such a claim.
Please see the following judgments on this topic: Consumer Action Group v. State of T.N. (Supreme Court of India, 2000); Land Acquisition Officer v. Karigowda (Supreme Court of India, 2010)


Author: Vikrant Narayan Vasudeva
Photo by Armando Torrealba/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Advertisements