Supreme Court on HC’s power of judicial review in administrative matters.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 05.12.2018, in the matter of Sanjay Kumar Jha v. Prakash Chandra Chaudhary & Ors. pronounced that in case of a writ petition under Article 226 of the constitution, the High Court cannot act as an appellate authority over the findings of fact based on evidence, recorded by an administrative authority. Even in cases where the High Court finds an apparent factual error which goes to the root of the decision, the appropriate course of action would be to give the opportunity to the authority concerned to rectify the error.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

It is well settled that in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court cannot sit as a Court of Appeal over the findings recorded by a competent administrative authority, nor reappreciate evidence for itself to correct the error of fact, that does not go to the root of jurisdiction. The High Court does not ordinarily interfere with the findings of fact based on evidence and substitute its own findings. (Para 16)

In exercise of discretionary power of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court might interfere with administrative matters only if the decision is violative of fundamental or basic principles of justice and fair play or suffers from any patent or flagrant error. (Para 19)

It is true that the High Court might rectify, in exercise of its power of judicial review, an error of law or even an error of fact, for sufficient reasons, if the error breaches fundamental or basic principles of justice or fair play or if the error is patent and/or flagrant, but not otherwise. However, even in cases where the High Court finds an apparent factual error which goes to the root of the decision, the appropriate course of action would be to give the opportunity to the authority concerned to rectify the error. It is only in the rarest of cases, where the factual error is so obvious that it is rectifiable by the Court itself, that the Court might, to prevent delay and consequential denial and/or miscarriage of justice, rectify the error. (Para 19)

Copy of the judgement: Judgement 05th-Dec-2018

-Tushar Kaushik

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