The word ‘adjudge’ we were told means “to judge or decide”. It was contended that such a power is essentially a judicial power and the same had to be exercised in accordance with the well accepted rules relating to the exercise of such a power.
Emphasis was also laid on the fact that the power in question was exercise of that power is likely to affect adversely the careers of the officers not selected. On the other hand it was contended by the learned Attorney-General that though the Selection board was a statutory body, as it was not required to decide about any right, the proceedings before it cannot be considered quasi-judicial; its duty was merely to select officers who in its opinion were suitable for being absorbed in the Indian Forest Service. According to him the word ‘adjudge’ by Rule 4 as well as Regulation 5 means “found worthy of selection”.
13. The dividing line between an administrative power and a quasi-judicial power is quite thin and is being gradually obliterated.
For determining whether a power is an administrative power or a quasi-judicial power one has to look to the nature of the power conferred, the person or persons on whom it is conferred, the framework of the law conferring that power, the consequences ensuing from the exercise of that power and the manner in which that power is expected to be exercised. In a welfare State like ours it is inevitable that the organ of the State under our Constitution is regulated and controlled by the rule of law. In a welfare State like ours it is inevitable that the jurisdiction of the administrative bodies is increasing at a rapid rate. The concept of rule of law would lose its validity if the instrumentalities of the State are not charged with the duty of discharging their functions in a fair and just manner. The requirement of acting judicially in essence is nothing but a requirement to act justly and fairly and not arbitrarily or capriciously. The procedures which are considered inherent in the exercise of a judicial power are merely those which facilitate if not ensure a just and fair decision. In recent years the concept of quasi-judicial power has been undergoing a radical change. What was considered as an administrative power some years back is now being considered as a quasi-judicial power. The following observations of Lord Parker, C. J. in Reg. vs. Criminal Injuries Compensation Board; Ex parte Lain, 1967-2 QB 864 at page No. 881 are instructive.
“With regard to Mr. Bridge’s second point I cannot think that Akin L. J. intended to confine his principle to cases in which the determination affected rights in the sense of enforceable rights. Indeed, in the Electricity Commissioners case, the rights determined were at any rate not immediately enforceable rights since the scheme laid down by the commissioners had to be approved by the Minister of Transport and by resolutions of Parliament. The commissioners nevertheless were held amenable to the jurisdiction of this court. Moreover, as can be seen from Rex vs. Postmaster-General; Ex parte Carmichael, 1928-1 KB 291 and Rex vs. Boycott; Ex parte Keasley, 1939 2 KB 651 the remedy is available even though the decision is merely a step as a result of which legally enforceable rights may be affected.
The position as I see it is that the exact limits of the ancient remedy by way of certiorari have never been and ought not to be specifically defined. They have varied from time to time being extended to meet changing conditions. At one time the writ only went to an inferior court. Later its ambit was extended to statutory tribunals determining a lis inter parties. Later again it extended to cases where there was no lis in the strict sense of the word but where immediate or subsequent rights of citizen were affected. The only constant limits throughout were that it was performing a public duty. Private or domestic tribunals have always been outside the scope of certiorari since their authority is derived solely from contract, that is from the agreement of the parties concerned.
Finally, it is to be observed that the remedy has now been extended see Reg. vs. Manchester Legal Aid Committee Ex parte R.A. Brand and Co. Ltd., 1952-2 QB 313, to cases in which the decision of an administrative officer is only arrived at after an inquiry or process of a judicial or quasi-judicial character. In such a case this court has jurisdiction to supervise that process.
We have as it seems to me reached the position when the ambit of certiorari can be said to cover every case in which a body of persons of a public as opposed to a purely private or domestic character has to determine matters affecting subjects provided always that it has a duty to act judicially. Looked at in this way the board in my judgment comes fairly and squarely, within the jurisdiction of this court. It is, as Mr. Bridge said, ‘a servant of the Crown charged by the Crown, by executive instruction, with the duty of distributing the bounty of the Crown’. It is clearly, therefore, performing public duties”.
14. The Court of Appeal of New Zealand has held that the power to make a zoning order under Dairy Factory Supply Regulation 1936 has to be exercised judicially, see New Zealand and Dairy Board vs. Okita Co-operative Dairy Co. Ltd., 1953 NZLR 366. This Court in Purtabpore Co. Ltd. vs. Cane Commissioner of Bihar, Civil Appeal No. 1464 of 1968, D/- 21-11-1968 (SC) held that the power to alter the area reserved under the Sugar-Cane (Control) Order, 1966 is a quasi-judicial power. With the increase of the power of the administrative bodies it has become necessary to provide guidelines for the just exercise of their power. To prevent the abuse of that power and to see that it does not become a new despotism, Courts are gradually evolving the principles to be observed while exercising such powers. In matters like these public good is not advanced by a rigid adherence to precedents. New problems call for new solutions. It is neither possible nor desirable to fix the limits of a quasi-judicial power. But for the purpose of the present case we shall assume that the power exercised by the selection board was an administrative power and test the validity of the impugned selections on that basis.
Source: A. K. Kraipak and others-AIR 1970 SC 150 : (1970) 1 SCR 457 : (1969) 2 SCC 262