Judicial Review: Meaning, Purposes And Principles

Table Of Contents

1. Meaning Of Judicial Review
2. Purposes Of Judicial Review
3. Principles Guiding The Judicial Review Of Administrative Bodies Actions

Judicial Review Of Administrative Actions Done In Excess Of Power.

Judicial Review which which is property called judicial control is the power of the court to review the actions of other branches or levels of government especially the courts power to invalidate legislative and executive actions as being unconstitutional.

It also include a Superior Court review of a lower court’s or an administrative body’s fectual or legal findings. It is a general power to review the legality of the exercise (or non-exercise) of any statutory functions. The essence is to the power of inferior bodies and administrative agencies to ensure that they observe the law, fulfill public duties and do not act beyond the scope of their powers.

Purposes Of Judicial Review

The purposes for which judicial review may be invoked by a person whose property or liberty is adversely affected by actions taken in excess of power are:

1. To obtain damages or another private law remedy (e.g. Injunction) for a civil wrong such as breach of contract or a tort.

2. To have an order, act or decision of a public body quashed or declared invalid on the ground but that is ultra vires or outside jurisdiction.

3. To procure on appeal, the reversal or variation of an order or determination for error of law.

4. To restrain the performance or continuance of unlawful actor. This may be achieved by an application for an order of prohibition, or proceedings for an injunction or a declaration.

5. To obtain release from unlawful detention. The appropriate remedy will be either appeal or an application for habeas corpus.

6. To secure an authoritative statement of a law governing a specific legal dispute by means of a binding declaration awarded by the courts.

7. To sure the performance of a public duty for example to make imbursement, to exercise a discretion according to law to hear an application or appeal within a tribunal jurisdiction usually, the judicial remedy for a wrongful omission will be an order of mandamus, a declaration or even a mandatory injunction. Non-performane of public duty will give rise, sometimes to an action for damages.

8. To defend oneself in proceedings which rely on the validity of an administrative act or order. For instance, if one is prosecuted for breach of a bye-law one can set up the defence that the bye-law is Ultra Vires.

Principles Guiding The Judicial Review Of Administrative Bodies Actions

The principles guiding the review of the administrative bodies actions being challenged by a person claiming to be aggrieved is laid down by the Supreme Court in Military Governor, Imo State V. Nwauwa (1997) 2 NWLR (Pt. 490) 675 at 680 as follows:

1. Judicial review is not an appeal.

2. The Court must not substitute its judgement for that of the public body whose decision is being reviewed.

3. The correct focus is not upon the decision reached.

4. What matters is legality and not correctness of the decision.

5. The reviewing Court is not concerned with the merit of a target activity.

6. In a judicial review, the Court must not stray into the realms of appellate jurisdiction for that would involve the Court in a wrongful usurpation of power.

7. What the court is concerned with is the manner by which the decision being impurged was reached. It is its legality, not its Wisdom that the Court has to look into for the jurisdiction being exercised by the Court is not an appellate jurisdiction but rather a supervisory one.

Note that in the case of the Military governor, Imo State V. Nwauma mentioned above the Supreme Court held that, the Court of Appeal exceeded its jurisdiction in trying to substitute its own opinion or views for the views of the panel. The Supreme Court therefore set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal which was in favour of the plaintiff/respondent (Nwauma) and restored the judgement of the trial High Court which was in favour of the defendant/Appellant (The Military Governor of Imo State).

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