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Power vested in Public Authority

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      Tina DU

      It has been said that power, wherever vested, in a public
      authority or agency, must be exercised fairly and justly:
      “Any law made or action taken by the employer, corporate
      statutory or instrumentality under Article 12 must act fairly,
      justly and reasonably. Right to fair treatment is an essential inbuilt
      of natural justice. Exercise of unbridled and uncanalised
      discretionary power impinges upon the right of the citizen; vesting
      of discretion is no wrong provided it is exercised purposively
      judiciously and without prejudice. ..” (Delhi Transport
      Corporation v DTC Mazdoor Congress AIR 1990 SC 101).
      Every public authority is also under a duty to act within the bounds of
      the power conferred or vested in him, to further the objectives for which
      such powers are created and take into consideration only relevant
      circumstances, bona fide and reasonably. Sans any of these, the exercise
      of power is colourable, as held in State of Punjab v Gurdial Singh,
      AIR 1979 SC 319:
      “considerations, foreign to the scope of the power or extraneous
      to the statute, enter the verdict or impel the action, mala fides
      or fraud on power, vitiates the acquisition or other official act.”
      The matter was put even more forcefully in Ravi Yashwant Bhoir v.
      District Collector, Raigad & Ors., AIR 2012 SC 1339, as follows:
      “37… Legal malice” or “malice in law” means something done
      without lawful excuse. It is a deliberate act in disregard to the
      rights of others. It is an act which is taken with an oblique or
      indirect object. It is an act done wrongfully and wilfully without
      reasonable or probable cause, and not necessarily an act done
      from ill-feeling and spite. Mala fide exercise of power does not
      imply any moral turpitude.
      It means exercise of statutory power for “purposes foreign
      to those for which it is in law intended.” It means conscious
      violation of the law to the prejudice of another, a depraved
      inclination on the part of the authority to disregard the
      rights of others, where intent is manifested by its injurious
      acts. Passing an order for unauthorized purpose constitutes
      malice in law.”


      1. Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan [1997(7) SCC 323].
      2. Delhi Transport Corporation vs. DTC Mazdoor Congress
        AIR 1990 SC 101.
      3. D.V. Kapoor vs. Union of India AIR 1990 SC 1923.
      4. D.S. Nakara vs. Union of India 1983 (2) SCR 165.
      5. State of Punjab vs. Gurdial Singh, AIR 1979 SC 319.
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