While disposing of a batch of appeals of policemen filed against the common verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a Supreme Court bench comprising justices SJ Mukhopadhaya and AK Sikri in its 37-page verdict, said besides the judiciary, an earlier wrong and illegal orders can be reconsidered and annulled by the administrative authorities also, which has similar power to review its decisions like that of the judiciary.
The bench said that if courts can set aside the wrong and illegal acts by applying the parameters of judicial review, then administrative authorities too can undo the same mischief by reviewing such an order if found to be ultra vires, and while doing it, obviously it would require to follow the principles of natural justice.
The decision of the DGP, Haryana, who reviewed the decisions of his predecessor to remove adverse remarks from the Annual Confidential Reports of some policemen during the period of 1999-2002 that too after significant lapse of time and without any valid reasons, was upheld by the High Court. The decision of the High Court was upheld by the apex court which stated that respondents (state government officials) were open to take corrective measures by annulling the palpably illegal order of the earlier DGP, Haryana. The bench observed that the second representation preferred by the appellant, in which the ACRs were expunged, was not permissible. It was of the opinion that the High Court rightly rejected the contention as the representations were made after the lapse of substantial time.
The apex court commented on powers of the successor DGP, Haryana, in annulling 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 by stating that the general principle is that the cases decided by his predecessor cannot be reviewed and reopened, merely because there is a change in the regime or when the successor assumes the office. Without stating any sympathetic grounds, in fact undue sympathy is an unfair act administrative action should always be fair and free from the vice of arbitrariness.