NATURE AND SCOPE OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW
Introduction – The nature of administrative law is concerned with protection that public decision-makers act within the law and are, on this basis, accountable before the law, its development is due largely to a desire on the part of the courts to restore the balance of power and to safeguard the rights and interests of citizens. Administrative law is also anxious about ensuring there will be an element of fairness operating in public decision making and generally ensuring proper administration. This is not only for the betterment of the individual citizen but it is for the advantage of government also .
The motive of this writing is to discuss the nature and scopes of Administrative law and to find out how it can be differentiated from Constitutional law.
Definition of Administrative Law – Administrative law manages with the legal control of the government and related administrative powers. In other terms, we can define administrative law as the body of rules and regulations and orders and decisions created by administrative agencies of government.
Administrative law is part of the division of law commonly referred to as public law, the law which regulates the relationship between the citizen and the state and which involves the exercise of state power. So, it is a part of the legal framework for public administration. Public administration is the day-to-day implementation of public policy and public programs in areas as diverse as immigration, social welfare, defence, and economic regulation—indeed in all areas of social and economic life in which public programs operate.
Administrative law consists of grievance respecting government action that adversely affects an individual. Thus, administrative law involves determining the legitimacy of government actions. There is a two-fold analysis: the legality of the specific law itself and the legitimacy of particular acts purportedly authorized by the specific law.
Governments cannot perform any act by itself. Governments act through government officials who must take action within certain limitations. A government’s power to act comes from the legislation. Thus, government officials must take action within the parameters (or scope) of such legislation which give their actions lawful authority. These are lawful actions. If government officials take action outside the scope of their legal authority and individuals are affected by these acts, then the principles of administrative law provide individuals with the ability to seek judicial review of the administrative action and viable remedies for the wrongful acts.
Nature and Scopes of Administrative Law – Administrative law determines the powers and duties of administrative authorities. The significance of Administrative Law is on procedures for formal judgment based on the principles of Natural Justice and for rulemaking. Administrative law also resolves the nature and scope of the powers deliberated to the government official by the specific legislation. Through legislation, the Parliament delegates specific powers as well as duties to government officials to enable them to act on behalf of the government.
The Administrative law is concerned with the structure, functions and powers of the Administrative structures. It also states the methods and procedures which are to be followed by them during the course of remedies which are available to the persons whose rights and other freedoms are damaged by their operations. Administrative law frames the rights and liabilities of private individuals in their dealings with public officials and also specifies the procedures by which those rights and liabilities can be enforced by those private individuals. It provides accountability in the administrative functioning. Also, there are prescribed laws and rules and regulations that guide and direct the internal administration relations like hierarchy, division of labour etc.
General Principles of Administrative Law – In the administrative law context, the first step is to determine the legality or authority of the action by the government official. This includes looking at the basis of the legal authority to act, that is, the specific law that gives that administrator the lawful authority to act. Constitutional law essentially deals with who has the ability to make laws. Administrative law is handled with the government officials who have been empowered by these laws to act. so, there is a close relationship between constitutional and administrative law. Particularly, if the law that empowered the government official to act was itself found to be unconstitutional, and therefore invalid, then any actions by the government official under that law will also be invalid. This may affect a legal remedy for an individual adversely affected by this action.
The Rule of Law – It is based on the notion of rule of law that supports Natural Justice, i.e. to judge based on impartiality, unjustness and the prescribed laws and legitimate methods instead of arbitrariness and abuse of official power on the part of the government. while serving the people and deciding cases brought before its Tribunals etc. Natural justice is primarily applied in cases where there are no laws prescribed, here the individual has to be given an opportunity to be heard and the judgment is to be taken into consideration the specific facts and cases of the case and the judgment should be free from bias. It is to ward off violation of people’s rights by officials in power. One of the best definitions of rule of law is that of Professor A V Dicey contained in his famous book The Law of the Constitution. He believed that the Rule of Law requires the recognition of the predominance of the regular law (as opposed to arbitrary or wide discretionary powers), equality before the law and that the constitution is the outcome of the ordinary law. In essence, therefore, the Rule of Law requires that there should be a government according to law and an avoidance of arbitrary action.
Delegation of Powers – Delegation of powers from the legislators to administrators is necessary given the great importance of the business of government. Due to the volume of decisions required, it is not possible for the Parliament to decide all issues in a country. Another important reason for the delegation of power is that laws by their very nature need to be broad since the wording of laws cannot encompass all specific and often changing circumstances that occur. Thus, the application of the law may require some aspect of discretion in order to apply to specific circumstances, and the laws themselves must set out criteria for the application of such discretion to ensure fairness and consistency. Almost all laws passed by Parliament identify specific powers for various government entities or officials such as a cabinet, a specific minister or civil servant, or a judge. Giving the importance of the delegation of powers, Parliament has developed control guidelines for their own delegation of powers to administrators.
Characterization of Powers and Sub-Delegation of Powers – Characterization of the function of the legislative powers enables the determination of the scope of these powers and the duties they grant, and the procedures the delegate is required to follow to lawfully exercise these powers. In turn, this determines the available remedies in court if the impugned act is found to be unlawful.
Powers can be characterized as:-
• Judicial (or quasi-judicial) or
• Administrative (or executive)
If the delegated power is legislative or judicial in nature, the general rule in administrative law is that such powers must be exercised by the exclusive person identified in the legislation. Such a person (government official) is prohibited from sub-delegating these powers and duties to another person. By contrast, powers distinguished as administrative can be sub-delegated.
Characterization of Duties and Discretionary Powers – Another main principle of administrative law distinguishes between delegated powers that are duties that the delegate must perform and delegated powers that are discretionary in nature. Some powers are mainly set out in the legislation with some discretionary feature to enable the delegate to apply the broad principle to specific circumstances. The rationale behind such discretionary powers includes the difficulty of providing a general rule that would apply to all circumstances; the difficulty in anticipating all possible factors for all situations; and the difficulty in ascribing weight of all factors in a broad legislation. Discretionary powers in general compose either the delegate being authorized to exercise discretion on an ad hoc basis or the delegate being authorized to enact “subordinate legislation” to govern specific types of cases. Examples of subordinate legislation include regulations, codes, and bylaws. In administrative law, it is mainly to determine the scope of discretion of public authority in order to examine the validity of their acts, especially given that discretionary powers are generally granted within specific limits.
Administrative Boards or Tribunals – Federal and provincial laws have expressly generated administrative boards or tribunals as decision-making bodies for a variety of areas. The underlying rationale is to make the governmental decision-making process more efficient and accessible to the general public. The balances for these decision-making bodies are provided by the provincial superior courts who oversee them by providing judicial review of the administrative actions of the boards and tribunals.
Administrative Remedies – In reviewing the legitimacy of a challenging act , if a court determines that the act was beyond the legal authority it has the following remedies available: declarations; injunctions; damages; statutory appeals to a court or another administrative section; or prerogative remedies.