June 13, 2021

Definition, Nature, Scope and Significance of Administrative Law

administrative law

Introduction of Administrative Law

Apart from the traditional functions of maintaining law and order, administering justice, and protecting its citizens from aggression, states have taken on a variety of functions in modern times that did not previously fall within their purview. The states have implemented various development, planning, and welfare schemes that affect every aspect of human life. During this process, enormous powers had to be conferred on the government, without which the welfare state’s objectives could not have been met. Thus, administrative law is a by-product of the state’s expanding socioeconomic functions and increased powers.

Concept and Definition of Administration Law

Administrative law is a subset of public law that deals with the various powers, responsibilities, rights, and liabilities of government agencies involved in public administration. Various attempts to provide a definitive definition have been made, but none have been successful. “Administrative law is as to determine the ends to which sovereign powers shall be exercised and the modes in which those powers shall be exercised,” according to Austin.

They shall be exercised in the following ways:

  1. Directly by the sovereign member’s monarch
  2. Directly by subordinate political superiors to whom portions of those are delegated or committed in trust.

Administrative law, according to Jennings, is “A law relating to the administration, powers and duties of administrative authorities.”

Nature of Administrative Law

Administrative law is, in the true sense of the word, a law. However, it is not a law in the sense of “property law,” “land laws,” “labour laws,” and so on. It includes the study of things that aren’t technically laws, such as administrative circulars, policy statements, resolutions, memorandums, administrative circulars, policy statements, and so on. Aside from that, it includes “higher law; natural justice” in its research. In contrast to private law, which deals with individual inter se relationships, administrative law is a branch of public law. As a result, administrative law is primarily concerned with the interaction of individual and organized power.

Administrative law also covers the structure and powers of administrative and quasi-administrative agencies. This emphasis on organizational study is only necessary to the extent that it is required by the powers, characteristics of actions, procedures for exercising those powers, and control mechanisms provided therein. As a result, not only administrative agencies are included in the research. The importance of studying Organization is only emphasized to the extent that understanding the powers and control mechanisms provided therein is required. As a result, it includes not only administrative agencies like corporations, but also boards, universities, and other institutions in its research.

Scope of Administrative Law

Administrative law is primarily concerned with official actions that include:

  • Making rules is an action.
  • Adjudicatory action or rule decision action.
  • The action of applying the rule.

Aside from the main action, the study also includes actions that are incidental to the main action, such as investigative, supervisory, advisory, and declaratory actions. Administrative law also encompasses the mechanisms for keeping administrative agencies within their bounds and ensuring that they are effectively serving individuals. The review process is the technical name for this control mechanism.

Its scope includes the following administrative actions:

  1. Writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition are used by courts to exercise jurisdiction.
  2. Suits, injunctions, and declaratory actions are used by courts to exercise ordinary judicial powers.
  3. Administrative authorities at a higher level
  4. In the twentieth century, public opinion and the media were also important controls on any administration that could not be ignored.
  5. Access to justice also acts as a deterrent to bureaucratic overreach in the exercise of public power.
  6. The goal of administrative law is to reconcile democratic safeguards and fair play standards with effective government conduct in the field of administrative action.

General Principles of Administrative Law

The first step in administrative law is to determine the legal validity or authority of the government official’s action. This entails examining the legal authority to act’s foundation, that is, the specific law that grants that administrator the legal authority to act. Constitutional law primarily concerns who has the authority to make laws. Administrative law is concerned with the actions of government officials who have been given authority by these laws. As a result, constitutional and administrative law are inextricably linked. If the law that empowered the government official to act is found to be unconstitutional and thus invalid, any actions taken by the government official under that law will be invalid as well. As a result, an individual who has been harmed by this action may be able to seek legal redress.

The Rule of Law

It is based on the concept of rule of law, which supports Natural Justice, i.e., judging based on impartiality, justice, and the prescribed laws and legal methods rather than on the government’s arbitrariness and abuse of official power while serving the people and deciding cases brought before its Tribunals, etc. Natural justice is used in situations where there are no laws in place; in these cases, the individual must be given an opportunity to be heard, and the judgment must be based on the facts and circumstances of the case, and it must be free of bias. Its purpose is to prevent officials in power from violating people’s rights.

The ability of the court to control abuses of administrative power is critical to Dicey’s Rule of Law. The fact that not all administrative action is contained in statute amenable to judicial interpretation demonstrates that the courts are incapable of performing this control function. Administrative functions are dissipating at an increasing rate, particularly as privatization progresses. In this and many other governmental contexts, some functions are carried out through contracts governed by private contract law rather than public administrative law.

Delegation of Authority

Given the importance of government business, delegation of powers from legislators to administrators is necessary. Parliament cannot decide all issues in a country due to the large number of decisions that must be made. Another important reason for delegating powers is that laws must be broad by definition, as the wording of laws cannot encompass all specific and frequently changing circumstances that arise.

As a result, the application of the law may necessitate some discretion in order to apply to specific circumstances, and the laws themselves must establish criteria for exercising such discretion in order to ensure fairness and consistency. Almost every law passed by Parliament specifies the powers and responsibilities of various government entities or officials, such as the cabinet, a specific minister or civil servant, or a judge. Because delegation of powers is so important, Parliament has developed control guidelines for its own delegation of powers to administrators.

Important Case Laws

1.      Ram Jawaya Kapoor v. State of Punjab 1955

Whether Fundamental Right of the petitioner was violated or infringed and what is the extent of executive power?

  • Supreme Court held that the action of the government did not amount to violation of the Art. 19(1) (c) and 19(1) (g).
  • Separation of powers under Article 77/162.
  • Motilal vs. State of UP.
  • Executive power connotes the residue of government function that remain after legislative and functions are taken away.
2.      Asif Hameed v. J&K 1989

Does High Court has power to issue directions to the State Government to Constitute ‘statutory body’ for making admissions

  • Court followed the State of HP v A Parent of a Student of Medical College, Shimla AIR 1985 3 SCC 1669.
  • While exercising power of judicial review of administrative action the Court is not an appellate authority.
  • The Constitution does not permit the Court to direct or advise the executive in matter of policy or to sermonize qua any matter which under the Constitution lies with the sphere of legislature or executive, provided these authorities do not transgress their constitutional limits or statutory powers.
  • Separation of power is not an absolutely rigid concept.
  • Judicial review is an important tool.
3.      State of MP v. Bharat Singh
  • Supreme Court upheld the order of the High Court and held 3(1)(b) of the Act as unconstitutional on the ground that it invested the govt with very wide discretion without any procedural safeguards as a person could have even be interned in a place which could render him a destitute without any means of livelihood.
  • This violated the principles of natural justice.
  • It cannot be arbitrary even in case of Article 358.
  • Rule of Law- Dicey/ No continental system, only British Common Law system.
  • Govind Chhagan Lal Patel v. A.P.M Committee AIR 1976 SC 263

Issue: Whether the publication of notification u/s 6(5) if the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1964 covering additional varieties of agricultural produce (like ginger and onion), must not only be published in official gazette but must be published in vernacular i.e., Gujarati Newspaper?

  • The question whether statue is mandatory or directory depends upon the intent of the legislature and not upon the language in which the intent is clothed
  • Khub Chand v. State of Raj 1967 referred
  • Held publication in the local news is mandatory
  • The notification could affect valuable rights if the traders
  • Violations could subject them to penal consequences
  • Absence of prober and adequate publicity the right of the traders and agriculturalist hampered without offering them an opportunity to offer objections and suggestions.
  • Publication in the Newspaper attracts greatest attention of the public than in OG.


“Administrative law, as the term implies, is limited to law governing the powers and procedures of administrative agencies, particularly the law governing judicial review of administrative actions,” says Prof. K.C Davies. It excludes the massive amount of substantive law produced by the agencies, much of which is beyond the comprehension of lawyers.

Author: Kartikey Garg (Galgotias University)

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