The Supreme Court on September 17, 2019, in the case of Municipal Council Neemuch v. Mahadeo Real Estate and Ors., has reiterated that the High Court, while exercising its powers of judicial review of administrative action, could not interfere with the decision unless the decision suffers from the vice of illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety.
A Bench comprising of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.R. Gavai observed thus while setting aside a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment that had interfered with an order passed by Revenue Commissioner of Ujjain in a matter of issuing tenders for allotment of land on lease, for a period of 30 years.
The Court referred to the judgments in Tata Cellular v. Union of India and West Bengal Central School Service Commission v. Abdul Halim, and observed that: “The scope of judicial review of an administrative action is very limited. Unless the Court comes to a conclusion, that the decision maker has not understood the law correctly that regulates his decision-making power or when it is found that the decision of the decision maker is vitiated by irrationality and that too on the principle of "Wednesbury Unreasonableness" or unless it is found that there has been a procedural impropriety in the decision-making process, it would not be permissible for the High Court to interfere in the decision making process. It is also equally well settled, that it is not permissible for the Court to examine the validity of the decision but this Court can examine only the correctness of the decision-making process.”
“An interference by the High Court would be warranted only when the decision impugned is vitiated by an apparent error of law, i.e., when the error is apparent on the face of the record and is self evident. The High Court would be empowered to exercise the powers when it finds that the decision impugned is so arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person would have ever arrived at. It has been reiterated that the test is not what the court considers reasonable or unreasonable but a decision which the court thinks that no reasonable person could have taken. Not only this but such a decision must have led to manifest injustice,” the Court observed.
Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, the Bench concluded that the interference by the High Court was totally improper as the decision of the Commissioner which was set aside by the High Court was undoubtedly in larger public interest, which ensured that the Municipal Council earns a higher revenue by enlarging the scope of the competition. By no stretch of imagination, the decision of the State Government or the Commissioner could be termed as illegal, improper, unreasonable or irrational, which parameters only could have permitted the High Court to interfere, the Court held.