New Delhi: Administrative authorities, like judiciary which has the power to review its decisions, can also have a re-look and undo earlier "wrong and illegal" orders, the Supreme Court has ruled.
"If wrong and illegal acts, applying the ...Parameters of judicial review can be set aside by the courts, obviously the same mischief can be undone by the administrative authorities themselves by reviewing such an order if found to be ultra vires."
"Of course, it is to be done after following the principles of natural justice," a bench comprising justices SJ Mukhopadhaya and AK Sikri said, adding such reviews are permissible to rectify "irrational and unreasonable" decisions.
The court`s observation came in the judgement by which it disposed of a batch of appeals of policemen filed against the common verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The High Court had upheld the decision of the DGP, Haryana, who reviewed the decisions of his predecessor to expunge adverse remarks from the Annual Confidential Reports of some policemen during the period of 1999-2002 that too after substantial lapse of time and without any "valid reasons".
The DGP had, on June 21, 2006, ordered "restoration or reconstruction" of earlier adverse remarks, which were expunged by his predecessor, by holding that the expunction was "wrongful".
Upholding the High Court decision, the bench, in its 37-page verdict, said: "We are of the considered opinion that it was open to the respondents (state government officials) to take corrective measures by annulling the palpably illegal order of the earlier DGP, Haryana."
Dealing with the sequence of events in one of the appeals, it said the Superintendent of Police, Hissar, raised question on the integrity of a constable in his ACR for his conduct during 1989-1990. His plea for expunction was rejected by the superior authority in 1993.
The constable maintained "stoic silence" for almost nine years and then made another representation to the DGP who, in 2002, ordered expunction.
The bench said that "after the change of regime when new the Director General of Police took charge, he noticed this phenomena where the adverse remarks were expunged after substantial lapse of time and/ or for no valid reasons and in some cases even after all the departmental remedies had been exhausted by those officials, unsuccessfully."
"It is manifest that after the change of guards, the appellant took a chance by making another representation to the new DGP and got favourable orders," it said.
"We find that on the face of it, the second representation preferred by the appellant, in which the ACRs were expunged, was not permissible, it said, adding the representations were made after the lapse of substantial time and "the High Court rightly rejected the contention...".
"We would like to make certain comments, at this juncture, on the powers of the successor DGP, Haryana, in overturning the decision of his predecessor who had accepted the representation and expunged the adverse remarks in a petition which was not maintainable and wholly unwarranted."
"The general principle is that merely because there is a change in the regime or when the successor assumes the office, he would not be entitled to review and reopen the cases decided by his predecessor....," it said.
"Undue sympathy, that too without stating any such sympathetic grounds would be anathema to fairness. There has to be fairness in the administrative action and it should be free from the vice of arbitrariness," it said.