Supreme Court of India on Government Policies
It is not for the Courts to examine the relative merits of different policies, and consider whether a wiser or better one can be evolved. Nor are Courts inclined to strike down a policy merely because it is urged that a different policy would have been fairer or wiser or more scientific or more logical. (BALCO Employees’ Union (Regd.) v. Union of India (2002) 2 SCC 333). It is not in the domain of the Court to embark upon the unchartered ocean of public policy. Greater judicial deference must be shown towards a policy relating to economic activities. The fact that an economic policy may be troubled by crudities, inequities, uncertainties or the possibility of abuse cannot form the basis for striking it down. (Natural Resources Allocation, In Re, Special Reference No.1 OF 2012 (2012) 10 SCC 1; R.K. Garg v. Union of India, (1981) 4 SCC 675). The judiciary cannot engage in an exercise of comparative analysis of the fairness, logical or scientific basis, or wisdom of a policy. The wisdom and advisability of policies are, ordinarily, not amenable to judicial review unless the policies are contrary to statutory or constitutional provisions or is arbitrary or irrational or an abuse of power. (Natural Resources Allocation, In Re, Special Reference No.1 of 2012; Narmada Bachao Andolan). The Court is not the forum where conflicting policy claims may be debated, as it is only required to adjudicate the legality of a measure which has little to do with the relative merits of different economic theories. (Natural Resources Allocation, In Re, Special Reference No.1 of 2012; Rustom Cavasjee Cooper (Banks Nationalisation) v. Union of India (1970) 1 SCC 248).
This Court would not, ordinarily, examine in judicial review proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, policy choices of the Executive. Policy is not static but is dynamic. (T.N. Education Deptt. Ministerial & General Subordinate Services Assn. v. State of T.N. (1980) 3 SCC 97). The Court is called upon to consider the validity of a public policy only when a challenge is made that such policy decision infringes the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India or any other statutory right. (Premium Granites). It is not within the scope of judicial review to embark upon an enquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise or whether a better public policy can be evolved. The court cannot examine the relative merits of different policies and strike it down merely on ground that another policy would have been fairer and better. (Villianur Iyarkkai Padukappu Maiyam).
If the policy cannot be faulted on grounds of malafides, unreasonableness, arbitrariness or unfairness, the mere fact that it would hurt business interests does not justify invalidating the policy. Courts should not express their opinion 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. (Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. v. Delhi Admn. (2001) 3 SCC 635). No direction can be given or expected from the Court regarding the “correctness” of an executive policy unless, while implementing such policies, there is infringement or violation of any constitutional or statutory provision. (Ugar Sugar Works Ltd). The Court would not substitute its opinion for that of the policy makers, and would defer to the wisdom of those who are entrusted with the task of framing the policies. (Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India (2000) 8 SCC 606).
It is neither desirable nor advisable for the Court to direct or sermonise the Government to adopt a particular policy which it deems fit or proper, as it does not have effective means to decide which alternative, out of the many competing ones, is the best in the circumstances. (State of Jharkhand v. Ashok Kumar Dangi (2011) 13 SCC 383). In respect of public policies of the Government, the Court should not become the authority to accord approval. When two or more options or views are possible, and after considering them the Government takes a policy decision, it is then not the function of the Court to examine the matter afresh or sit in appeal over such a policy decision. (Narmada Bachao Andolan; BALCO Employees’ Union (Regd.). While the Court may even review the policy of the executive if it is clearly demonstrated that such policy is contrary to any statutory provision or the Constitution, it cannot consider the relative merits of different policies and decide for itself whether a wiser or a better policy can be evolved. (Statewide Recognised (RTA) Agents Welfare Association v. Govt. of A.P. 2003(3) ALD 212 (DB).
Article 14 cannot be interpreted in a doctrinaire or dogmatic manner. Excessive interference by the judiciary in the functions of the executive is not proper. In view of the inherent complexities involved in modern society, some free play must be given to the executive. (Transport and Dock Workers Union; Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Co. v. May 48 Rs. Ed 971; Aravali Golf Club v. Chander Hass (2008) 1 SCC 683). If a decision has been taken in a bona fide manner, although not strictly following the norms laid down by Courts, such decisions are upheld on the principle that Courts, while judging the validity of executive policy decisions, must grant certain measure of freedom or “play in the joints” to the executive. (Sterling Computers Ltd.). The Government has, while taking a policy decision, the right to ‘trial and error’ as long as both trial and error are bona fide and within the limits of authority. (BALCO Employees’ Union (Regd.); Netai Bag; Ram Singh Vijay Pal Singh).