What is Judicial Act

It is said that one of the best definitions of a Judicial act, as distinguished from an administrative act is that given by May C.J. in the Irish case or Reg. vs. Doyblen Corporation, (1878) 2 L.R. Ir. 371 The question raised in that case was whether a borough rate levied by a Corporation was illegal or not. It was fund that the borough fund of the Corporation was otherwise sufficient for all legitimate purposes, but it was rendered insufficient by reason of certain illegal payments made out of it. To make up the deficiency, the Corporation levied a borough rate, the legality at which was challenged and writ of certiorari was prayed for to quash all the orders and resolutions of the Corporation in connection with the imposition of the rate. The writ was granted and May C. J. while discussing in his judgment the meaning of the expression ‘judicial act’ observed as follows:

“In this connection the term ‘Judicial’ does not necessarily mean acts of a Judge or legal tribunal sitting for the determination of matters of law, but for purpose of this question, a judicial act seems to be an act done by competent authority upon consideration of facts and circumstances and imposing liability or affecting the rights of others. And if there be a body empowered by law to enquire into facts, make estimates to imposes a rate on a district, it would seem to me that the acts of such a body involving such consequence would be judicial acts.”

63. This definition was approved by Paller C.B. in Re. Local Government Board; Ex parts Kenstinhton Commissioners, 16 D.N.Ir. 150 and was quoted in extenso by Lord Atkinion in Froms United Brewerist Co. vs. Bath Justices, (1926) A.C. 586.

64. In the passage quoted above, the learned Chief Justice really describes what may be called the judicial process. There cannot indeed be a judicial act which does not create rights or imposes obligations; but an act, as has been already pointed out is not necessarily judicial because it affects the rights of subjects. Every judicial act presupposes the application of judicial process. There is a well-marked distinction between forming a personal or private opinion about a matter, and determining it judicially. In the performance of an executive act, the authority has certainly to apply his mind to the materials before him; but the opinion be forms is a purely subjective matter which depends entirely upon his state of mind. It is of course necessary that he must act in good faith, and if it is established that he was not influenced by any extraneous consideration, there is nothing further to be said about it. In a judicial proceeding on the other hand, the process or method of application is different. “The judicial process involves the application of a body of rules or principles by the technique of a particular psychological method. Robeon’s Justice and Administrative law p. 33.” It involves a proposal and an opposition, and arriving at a decision upon the same on considerations of the facts and circumstances according to the rules of reason and justice. Vide R.v. London Country Council (1931) 2 K.B. 215 at p.233:(100 L.J.K.B. 760). It is not necessary that the strict rules of evidence should be followed:the procedure for investigation of facts or for reception of evidence may vary according to the requirements of a particular case. There need not be any hard and fast rule on such matters, but the decision which the authority arrives at must not be his ‘subjective,’ ‘personal’ or ‘private’ opinion. It must be something which conforms to an objective at stand or criterion laid down or recognised by law, and the soundness or otherwise of the determination must be capable of being tested by the same external standard.

 This is the essence of a judicial function which differentiates it from an administrative function ; and whether an authority is required to exercise one kind of function or the other depends entirely upon the provisions of the particular enactment. Where the statute itself is clear on this point, no difficulty is likely to arise, but where the language of the enactment does not indicate with precision what kind of function is to be exercised by an authority, considerable difficulties are bound to be experienced. There are numerous decided cases, which deal with question of this character, and quite a number of them were cited to us by the learned counsel on both sides. As they relate to the powers and duties of various types of authorities under various statutes and war regulations, dealing with different subject-matters and not uniformly worded, they are of no direct assistance to us in the present case.[ SUPREME COURT OF INDIA- Province of Bombay  Versus Khushaldas S. Advani AIR 1950 SC 222 : (1950) SCR 621 : (1950) SCJ 451]