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Courts cannot interfere with govt's policy decisions: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that high courts cannot interfere in the government's policy decisions. They cannot intercede even if they have an alternative view

The Supreme Court (SC) of India has ruled that high courts cannot interfere with policy decisions of the government. The apex court cautioned the lower courts against intervening in the executive's administrative actions, since the scope of judicial review is limited in questioning such decisions.

"The scope of judicial inquiry is confined to the question (as to) whether the decision taken by the government is against any statutory provisions or is violative of the fundamental rights of citizens or is opposed to the provisions of the Constitution," said the bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice C K Thakker.

"The correctness of the reasons which prompted the government in decision-making, taking one course of action instead of another, is not a matter of concern in judicial review and the court is not the appropriate forum for such investigation," said the SC bench. "Thus the position is that even if the decision taken by the government does not appear to be agreeable to the court, it cannot interfere," the bench ruled.

The Supreme Court ruling was made on July 17, 2006, while dismissing petitions filed by the Ekta Shakti Foundation, Surya Society and Jay Gee Society against the Delhi government's policy decision to implement the Integrated Child Development Scheme. The petitions questioned the rationality and legality of certain terms in inviting offers for supplying nutrition to children of anganwadis in Delhi under the scheme.

Maintaining that policy decisions must be left to the government, as it alone can decide which policy should be adopted after considering all points from different angles, the SC said: "So long as the infringement of fundamental rights is not shown (the) court will have no occasion to interfere and the court will not and should not substitute its own judgment for the judgment of the executive in such matters."

The bench noted that, "while exercising the power of judicial review of administrative action, the court is not the appellate authority and the Constitution does not permit the court to direct or advise the executive in matters of policy or to sermonise on any matter, which under the Constitution lies within the sphere of the legislature or the executive, provided these authorities do not transgress their constitutional limits or statutory powers".

The bench added that even if the court does not agree with the decision taken by the government, it could not interfere. In matters of policy decisions, the court should not substitute its own judgment for the executive's judgment.

The bench also ruled out the possibility of a review of the correctness of the reasons for the government adopting a particular course of action, saying, "In assessing the propriety of a decision of the government the court cannot interfere even if a second view is possible".

Source: The Hindu, July 20, 2006
The Indian Express, July 20, 2006