The essential symbiosis between Judicial, Quasi-Judicial and Parental Acts is much needed for any civilized polity. In a country like India, a 1.3 billion population and such a vast land area, it becomes extremely difficult and time-consuming for the judiciary to effectively manage all those issues and cases brought up before it. Also, the judiciary cannot essentially regulate the activities and roles of every other citizen of the country such as reformation. This, in the Indian context, we are talking about a judiciary that is backlogged with almost 3.5 crore cases as of August 2019. Without much ado, let us try to understand the basics of all the same before analysing certain extended intrinsic detailing pertaining to the same.
A Judicial Act?
A judicial act as defined by Merriam Webster, reads as follows, “an act deriving from the normal exercise of judicial power within the proper jurisdiction”.
Thus, this boils down to the actions exercised by the courts comprising the judiciary of India.
This includes the lower courts, special courts, High Courts of the states and the superior most court of the land, the Supreme Court of India. Any action initiated by the aforementioned courts of the land shall constitute a judicial Act. A judicial Act shall essentially hold key importance over other actions such as quasi-judicial acts. A judicial act can include an order for arrest. Some essential features of a judicial act or a judicial authority include the presence of a judge who exercises his powers in accordance with the established law.
The Court is essentially bound by a lot of codified laws which it has to stick by and follow strictly in the process of initiating a judicial act. In the Indian context, this includes various codified laws such as the Civil Procedure Court of 1908, the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, The Indian Penal Code of 1860, The Indian Evidence Act of 1872, so on and so forth. Thus, the evidence is taken on oath in the process of a judicial act. Further, As lies inter parties, i.e., a dispute between two parties is an essential characteristic feature of every judicial action.
Also, plenty of doctrines and maxims which are put into strict practice in the process of a judicial act. This includes intrinsic, vital doctrines such as stare decisis, Nemo judex in causa sua, among many others. The former is also known as the doctrine of precedents where in judge and a court of law are bound by the precedents set in earlier cases by another court of law. The latter can also be read as no man can be a judge in his own cause, i.e., to initiate a judicial act, the judge must be completely alienated to the case and must hold no interest in the cause, no matter whatsoever the outcome of the act may be. Formal proceedings, hearings (for example summons) and court fees are mandated as a standard. Thus, the court is essentially the real forum of judicial proceedings and only a court of law can initiate a judicial act. These are certain essential features, aspects, and mandates of a judicial act.
Extended Reading – Judicial act in judicial immunity
The categorization of an act as a judicial act is of prime relevance to ensure the independence of a judiciary. Imagine a system, wherein judicial acts initiated by judges are challengeable against their personal capacities! That would lead to a system of chaos. Thus, any and all acts undertaken by a judge, in a court of law, is a judicial act. The judge is ensured judicial immunity on the basis of the same. In the words of Joseph Romagnoli in his work titled ‘What Constitutes a Judicial Act for Purposes of Judicial Immunity?’, it reads as follows, “Under the established doctrine of judicial immunity,’ a judge is absolutely immune from a suit for damages for his judicial acts taken within or even in excess of his jurisdiction” Thus, judicial immunity for those undertaken judicial acts is absolute.
Having discussed at length about the judicial acts, quasi-judicial acts, as the name signifies, a quasi-judicial act can be defined as any activity undertaken by public administrative agencies or tribunals established by law. These agencies can be statutory, constitutional, regulatory in nature and have their powers limited to an extremely specific area of expertise and authority.
One also needs to keep in mind that there exists a thin line of difference between quasi-judicial acts and administrative acts though the difference is blurred and not distinct. In A.K. Kraipak vs. The Union of India, it was established that acts which are to, subjectively satisfy the administrative authority, are termed as administrative acts, while acts, which are to objectively satisfy the administrative authority, are termed as quasi-judicial acts. Thus, this is distinct from the rule-making powers conferred upon these authorities and can be summed up as an act undertaken by an agency, that has legal validity, though the same can be challenged before a court of law.
The initiation of a quasi-judicial act is usually not bound by the strict provisioning of the evidence laws, so on and so forth, though the same can be implemented, as and when required. The formal mandate of a judiciary-initiated act such as the doctrines of stare decisis, nemo judex in causa sua may be adhered to but are not mandates for initiation of a non-judicial act. This is because at any point in time, a quasi-judicial authority can reverse its stand from a decision it had taken at a previous point of time.
Also, quasi-judicial bodies can be a party in the matter and yet be the decision-making / quasi-judicial act initiating authority in the same issue. Formal hearings are again not mandated unless and until the governing laws, rules, or regulations mandates for the same.
A quasi-judicial act is usually initiated by depending on the pre-established set of guidelines, following which the facts are corroborated with the same and results in a decision that is legally enforceable within its jurisdiction. Quasi-judicial acts can include arrests in accordance with the provisions to arrest a private person granted under Section of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973. However, a quasi-judicial act cannot constitute an order for arrest. However, as stated earlier, the same can be subject to judicial review, before a court of law, which would be a judicial act.
Some examples of quasi-judicial authorities, listed with powers to initiate judicial acts include the National Company Law Tribunal, Central Information Commission of India, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, National Human Rights Commission, among many others. Thus, the act of an officer presiding over the proceedings in a tribunal, though he might be the judge of the tribunal, does not qualify as a judicial act. Thus, summing up, quasi-judicial acts are acts initiated a panel or body of people that may resemble courts of law but are limited in their authority compared to judicial bodies that exercise judicial acts.
Extended Reading- Quasi-Judicial Act and Quasi-Judicial Immunity
Quasi-judicial immunity, though guaranteed, is not absolute along the lines of judicial immunity guaranteed. The dilemmas surrounding granting of immunity for quasi-judicial acts have been around for a long time. The major concern surrounding the same remains the fact that they are not designated judges. The same along with other limitations of granting quasi-judicial immunity has been discussed as early as in 1976 by one Mr. Sorensen in his titular work, Quasi-Judicial Immunity: Its Scope and Limitations in Section 1983 Actions,
Quasi Parental Act and Parental Act?
Parental and quasi-parental acts read in the extended form are extremely important for the development of a holistically sound society which in turn acts as an intrinsic part of the Indian polity. Parental Act is one that is initiated or enforced by a parent, with the sole purpose of enforcing/initiating such an act is reform/ correct the child/individual. This is an intrinsic right vested with the parents and the act of a parent in this regard, cannot be challenged before the law unless and until it is beyond reasonable ambits.
However, the reasonable act shall not constitute arbitrary punishments or unlawful commands to the child. As far as quasi parental authorities are concerned, the law is settled that any entity, such as a parent/tutor having lawful control over a child/ young individual is considered as a quasi-parental authority and acts initiated by them are known as quasi-parental acts.
Both parental and quasi-parental acts are initiated to uphold the principles of care, chastisement, control, and correction of the child, in accordance with the legal duties bestowed upon these individuals. This being said, quasi parental authorities have not custodial rights vested in them even though they might be natural guardians of the child. They can, however, initiate and perform acts in accordance with the natural guardian principle. Sankunni v. Swaminatha Pattar was a landmark case that discussed the extent to which quasi-judicial bodies can initiate acts such as corporal punishments.
Extended Reading – Relevance in Tort Law
This being said, parental acts and quasi-parental acts find relevance in the law of torts and are available as general defences in tort law cases wherein defence is provided to parental and quasi parental authorities in case of suits initiated by the child/the concerned student/individual.
This article is written by Pascal Sasil R, 2nd Year, B.A. L.LB Hons. at School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore.