Judicial review of judgement of Tribunal; Scope of.

Finality assigned to the decision of Tribunal:

Judicial review of error of law committed by a tribunal:

Visitor of a university acting as a judge has exclusive jurisdiction and that his decision is final in all matters within his jurisdiction. The common law courts have through three centuries consistently resisted all attempts to appeal decisions of the visitor. The courts have however been prepared to confine the visitor to his proper role as a judge of the internal
affairs of the foundation by the use of the writs of prohibition and mandamus.

Can Courts judicially review such decision?

per Lord Browne (Lord Kieth concurring) (Majority decision): The court has no jurisdiction to review the decision of a visitor made within his jurisdiction.
per Lord Grriffith: It is in my opinion important to keep the purpose of judicial review clearly in mind. The purpose is to ensure that those bodies that are susceptible to judicial review have carried out their public duties in the way it was intended they should. In the case of bodies other than courts, in so far as they are required to apply the law they are required to apply the law correctly. If they apply the law incorrectly they have not performed their duty
correctly and judicial review is available to correct their error of law so that they may make their decision upon a proper understanding of the law.

In the case of inferior courts, that is courts, of a lower status than the High  Court, such as the Justices of the Peace, it was recognised that their learning and understanding of the law might sometimes be imperfect and require correction by the High Court and so the rule evolved that certiorari was available to correct an error of law of an inferior court. At first it was confined to an error on the face of the record but it is now available to correct any error of law made by an inferior court. But despite this general rule Parliament can if it wishes confine a decision on a question of law to a particular inferior court and provide that the decision shall be final so that it is not to be challenged either by appeal or by judicial review.

 per Lord Slynn (Lord Mustill, concurring) (Minority view): With deference to the contrary view of the majority of your Lordships, in my opinion if certiorari can go to a particular tribunal it is available on all the grounds which have been judicially recognised. I can see no reasons in principle for limiting the availability of certiorari to a patent excess of power (as where
a Visitor has decided something which was not within his remit) and excluding review on other grounds recognised by the law. If it is accepted, as I believe it should be accepted, that certiorari goes not only for such an excess or abuse of power but also for a breach of the rules of natural justice there is even less reason in principle for excluding other established grounds. If therefore certiorari is generally available for error of law not involving abuse of power (as on the basis of Lord Diplock’s speeches I consider that it is so available) then it should be available also in respect of a decision of a Visitor. 
I am not persuaded that the jurisdiction of the Visitor involves such exceptional considerations that this principle should be departed from and that some grounds be accepted and others held not to be available for the purposes of judicial review.
[Source: Regina v. Lord President of the Privy Council  ex. p. ]
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Inspection of place of offence by Magistrate

Local Inspection by Magistrate:

Considerations for local inspection of the place of offence by Magistrate himself:

Section 310 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 (corresponding to  Section 539 of Criminal Procedure Code) provides about inspection is as under:

310. Local inspection. (1) Any Judge or Magistrate may, at any stage of any inquiry, trial or other proceeding, after due notice to the parties, visit and inspect any place in which an offence is alleged to have been committed, or any other place which it is in his opinion necessary to view for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence given at such inquiry or trial, and shall without unnecessary delay record a memorandum of any relevant facts observed at such inspection.
(2) Such memorandum shall form part of the record of the case and if the prosecutor, complainant or accused or any other party to the case, so desires, a copy of the memorandum shall be furnished to him free of cost.

Scope of power of local inspection:

If a Magistrate makes use of knowledge derived from a local inspection without affording the accused an opportunity to cross-examine or to explain the points against him, he acts with material irregularity sufficient to vitiate the trial. It was also held that a local inspection of the Magistrate is permitted for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence in this case and cannot take the place of evidence itself. [Source: Tirkah v. Nanak AIR 1927 All. 350]

In another case the Magistrate visited the spot on the evening and came to the conclusion that there was sufficient light to enable anybody to mark closely the features of a stranger. The High Court held that the learned Magistrate assumed that the condition of the light and atmosphere were the same on the night that he went to the spot as they were at the time of the occurrence. It was held that the Magistrate had gone beyond the scope of Section 539(b) and result of such inspection could not be made the basis of conviction. [Source: Sheik Badasah v. Emperor, (1939) 40 Crl. Law Journal 624]

The only purpose of local inspection being to properly appreciate the evidence given at the trial and it is only reasonable that the local inspection should, as a rule, come after all the evidence is recorded…. Even that should be resorted to very sparingly, the Court taking special precautions to prevent itself becoming a witness unconsciously. On some occasions, it is practically impossible for the Court to make a local inspection, and not import new materials collected by it. The moment the Court collects new materials it becomes a witness, and as it cannot cross-examine itself, it cannot try the case.

[Source: Dwaraka Prasad v. Ram Nath Modi, AIR 1951 Vindhyapradesh 1]

Code provides for the Judge making a local inspection himself. That inspection can be used by him for properly appreciating the evidence in the case and for no other purpose. It cannot be used for preparation of the background for appreciating the evidence of the witnesses because preparation of the background has to be made by the parties themselves by letting in evidence forthat purpose and the Judge is not expected to supply that lacuna in evidence. Preparation of the background to appreciate the evidence of witnesses is not the same as “properly appreciating the evidence’contemplated by the Section.  …If the impressions gained by the Judge on controversial matters are allowed to get in without being tested by cross-examination there is the likelihood of miscarriage of justice resulting from it.

[Source: State of Kerala v. Chandran 1973 KLT 625 DB: 1974 Crl. Law Journal 52.]

In Pritam Singh v. State of Punjab a three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that a Magistrate is not entitled to allow his views or observations to take the place of evidence because such view or observation cannot be tested by cross-examination.

A local inspection may be made for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence given during the trial. The magistrate should not, in making the local inspection, do any thing which would reduce him to the position of a witness.

In the present case, it is seen from the notes of the learned Magistrate pertaining to his local inspection, that he did not stop merely at observing the spot where the occurrence is alleged to have taken place, He seems to have conducted some sort of an investigation at the spot to find out whether a hole in the ground was or was not of recent origin. He also seems to have taken certain measurements. He appears also to have made enquiries of the people there, including the accused and the complainant. That he did all these things can be seen, from his notes pertaining to his local inspection.
He has repeatedly referred in his judgment to a sketch prepared by him. That sketch does not appear to have been put into evidence at all; but the learned Magistrate has not hesitated to make liberal use of that sketch. It does not appear to have been in the mind of the learned Magistrate that the local inspection should have been confined only to the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence on record.

What Section 539-B contemplates is the local inspection of the topography of the place in which the offence was alleged to have been committed or its local peculiarities for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence which was already on record.

[Source: State of Uttar Pradesh v. Het Ram and Ors. AIR 1976 SC 2124]

Normally a Court is not entitled to make a local inspection and even if such an inspection is made, it can never take the place of evidence or proof but is really meant for appreciating the position at the spot. In the present case the Sessions Judge by making a local inspection converted himself into a witness in order to draw full support to the defence case by what he may have seen. By doing so the Sessions Judge exceeded his jurisdiction.

[Source: Keisam Kumar Singh and Anr. v. State of Manipur ]

…the local inspection envisaged under Section 310 Cr.P.C. is for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence already recorded during the trial. Memorandum of spot inspection recorded by the trial Judge has to be appreciated in conjunction with the evidence already recorded. Any omission and/or commission in the memorandum recorded by the trial Judge by itself would not constitute material irregularity, which would vitiate the prosecution case.

[Source: State of H.P. v. Mast Ram (Supreme Court of India)]

The Magistrate has power to conduct a local inspection that can only be for the purpose of appreciating the evidence on record and that shall not be done in a manner so as to reduce the Magistrate as a witness.

[Source: Sr. Abaya vs Unknown,  2006 CriLJ 3843, 2006 (2) KLT 1001 Ker.]

Abuse of power is not mere error of law.

Error of law is not abuse of power:

Abuse of power by subordinate Tribunal:

What is abuse of power? Inability to apply law properly? Exercise of power in excess of what was intended? Exercise of power for a collateral purpose? These question however have to wait till decided in appropriate case. Presently the view of Lord Griffiths is that mere error of law is not abuse of power. In his own words:

The common law has ever since the decision in Philips v.Bury (1694) Holt K.B. 715 recognised that the visitor acting as a judge has exclusive jurisdiction and that his decision is final in all matters within his jurisdiction. The common law courts have through three centuries consistently resisted all attempts to appeal decisions of the visitor. The courts have however been prepared to confine the visitor to his proper role as a judge of the internal affairs of the foundation by the use of the writs of prohibition and mandamus. When I said in Thomas v. University of Bradford [1987] A.C. 795:

“I have myself no doubt in the light of the modern development of administrative law, the High Court would have power, upon an application for judicial review, to quash a decision of the visitor which amounted to an abuse of his powers”

I used the words “an abuse of his powers” advisedly. I do not regard a judge who makes what an Appellate Court later regards as a mistake of law as abusing his powers. In such a case the judge is not abusing his powers; he is exercising them to the best of his ability albeit some other court thinks he was mistaken. I used the phrase “abuse of his powers” to connote some form of misbehaviour that was wholly incompatible with the judicial role that the judge was expected to perform. I did not intend it to include a mere error of law.
[Source: Regina v. Lord President of the Privy Council ex. p. Page (per Griffiths J.)]