Judicial Process

The scope of interference in the matter of policy framed by the Government by Courts

The scope of interference in the matter of policy framed by the Government by courts is well settled. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the decision reported in (2001) 3 SCC 635 (Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. v. Delhi Administration and ors) has held as follows:-

“18. …..It is well settled that the Courts, in exercise of their power of judicial review, do not ordinarily interfere with the policy decisions of the executive unless the policy can be faulted on grounds of mala fide, unreasonableness, arbitrariness or unfairness etc. Indeed, arbitrariness, irrationality, perversity and mala fide will render the policy unconstitutional. However, if the policy cannot be faulted on any of these grounds, the mere fact that it would hurt business interests of a party, does not justify invalidating the policy….”

In the aforesaid paragraph the Hon’ble Supreme Court has further held that the Courts are not expected to express their opinion as to whether at a particular point of time or in a particular situation any such policy should have been adopted or not. It is best left to the discretion of the State.

In the case of Ms. Aruna Roy and others v. Union of India and others, reported in (2002)7 SCC 368, Hon’ble the Supreme Court has held as follows:-

“96….It is ultimately for Parliament to take a decision on the National Education Policy one way or the other. It is not the province of the Court to decide on the good or bad points of an education policy. The Court’s limited jurisdiction to intervene in implementation of a policy is only if it is found to be against any statute or the Constitution…”

It has further held in paragraph 97 of said judgment as follows:

“It cannot, however, compel that a particular practise or tradition followed in framing and implementing the policy, must be adhered to. The Court has to keep in mind the above limitations on its jurisdiction and power. It is true that if a policy framed in the field of education or other fields runs counter to the constitutional provisions or the philosophy behind those provisions, this Court must, as part of its constitution duty, interdict such policy.”

In the case of Union of India and another v. International Trading Co. and another, reported in (2003) 5 SCC 437, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as follows:

“15.While the discretion to change the policy in exercise of the executive power, when not trammelled by any statute or rule is wide enough, what is imperative and implicit in terms of Article 14 is that a change in policy must be made fairly and should not give impression that it was so done arbitrarily on by any ulterior criteria. The wide sweep of Article 14 and the requirement of every State action qualifying for its validity on this touchstone irrespective of the field of activity of the State is an accepted tenet. The basic requirement of Article 14 is fairness in action by the state, and non-arbitrariness in essence and substance is the heart beat of fair play. Actions are amenable, in the panorama of judicial review only to the extent that the State must act validly for discernible reasons, not whimsically for any ulterior purpose. The meaning and true import and concept of arbitrariness is more easily visualised than precisely defined. A question whether the impugned action is arbitrary or not is to be ultimately answered on the facts and circumstances of a given case. A basic and obvious test to apply in such cases is to see whether there is any discernible principle emerging from the impugned action and if so, does it really satisfy the test of reasonableness.”

In the case of Delhi Development Authority and another v. Joint Action Committee, Allottee of SFS Flats and others, reported in (2008) 2 SCC 672, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as follows:-

“64. An executive order termed as a policy decision is not beyond the pale of judicial review. Whereas the superior courts may not interfere with the nitty gritties of the policy, or substitute one by the other but it will not be correct to contend that the court shall like its judicial hands off, when a plea is raised that the impugned decision is a policy decision. Interference therewith on the part of the superior court would not be without jurisdiction as it is subject to judicial review.

In the case of Villianur Iyarkkai Padukappu Maiyam v. Union of India and others, reported in (2009) 7 SCC 561, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as follows:-

“168. In a democracy, it is the prerogative of each elected Government to follow its own policy. Often a change in Government may result in the shift in focus or change in economic policies. Any such change may result in adversely affecting some vested interests. Unless any illegality is committed in the execution of the policy or the same is contrary to law or malafide, a decision bringing about change cannot per se be interfered with by the court.

“169. It is neither within the domain of the courts nor the scope of judicial review to embark upon an enquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise or whether better public policy can be evolved. Nor are the courts inclined to strike down a policy at the behest of a petitioner merely because it has been urged that a different policy would have been fairer or wiser or more scientific or more logical……”

In the case of State of H.P and others v. Himachal Pradesh Nizi Vyavsayik Prishikshan Kendra Sangh (2011) 6 SCC 597, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as follows:-

“With regard to the importance of human resources, especially manpower requirement in various professional and technical fields, the Government is free to frame its policy, alter or modify the same as to the needs of the society…..”

In the case of Krishna Kakkanth v. Government of Kerala (1997) 9 SCC 495, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held unless the Government policy is demonstrably arbitrary, capricious, irrational, discriminatory or violative of the Constitutional or Statutory provisions, it cannot be struck down by the Courts and the Wisdom of public policy is irrelevant.

In the case of Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India reported in 2012 (3) SCC 1, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in paragraphs 99 &100 of the judgment has held as follows:-

“In majority of the judgments relied upon by the learned Attorney General and the learned counsel for the respondents, it has been held that the power of judicial review should be exercised with great care and circumspection and the Court should not ordinarily interfere with the policy decisions of the Government in financial matters…….”

In the case of Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India & Others 2012 (6) SCC 502, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held in paragraphs 96 & 99 as follows:-

“It is a settled principle of law that matters relating to framing and implementation of policy primarily fall in the domain of the Government. It is an established requirement of good governance that the Government should frame policies which are fair and beneficial to the public at large. The Government enjoys freedom in relation to framing of policies. It is for the Government to adopt any particular policy as it may deem fit and proper and the law gives it liberty and freedom in framing the same. Normally, the courts would decline to exercise the power of judicial review in relation to such matters. But this general rule is not free from exceptions. The courts have repeatedly taken the view that they would not refuse to adjudicate upon policy matters if the policy decisions are arbitrary, capricious or mala fide. It is also a settled cannon of law that the Government has the authority and power to not only frame its policies, but also to change the same. The power of the Government, regarding how the policy should be shaped or implemented and what should be its scope, is very wide, subject to it not being arbitrary or unreasonable. In other words, the State may formulate or reformulate its policies to attain its obligations of governance or to achieve its objects, but the freedom so granted is subject to basic constitutional limitations and is not so absolute in its terms that it would permit even arbitrary actions.”