Courts cannot interfere with policy decision by adding something to the policy by way of mandamus

Supreme Court: Holding the decision of the Madras High Court where the authorities were directed to take measures to conduct caste-wise census in the country, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, R.F. Nariman and U.U. Lalit held that the said direction was irrefragably against the power conferred on the court thereby amounting to a colossal transgression of power of judicial review.

R.R. Suri, the counsel for the appellants, urged that the direction issued by the Division Bench tantamounts to interference in a policy decision as framed under Section 8 of the Census Act, 1940 (the Act) as the policy stipulates for carrying out the census which includes scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, but not the other castes. The Court hence held that the Act has conferred power on the Central Government to issue Notification regarding the manner in which the census has to be carried out and the Central Government has issued Notifications, and the competent authority has issued directions and that it is not within the domain of the Court to legislate. It further added that courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law unconstitutional where it is called for and may also fill up the gaps in certain spheres applying the doctrine of constitutional silence or abeyance. But, the courts are not to plunge into policy making by adding something to the policy by way of issuing a writ of mandamus.

The Court was of the opinion that it is clear as noon day that it is not within the domain of the courts to embark upon an enquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise and acceptable or whether a better policy could be evolved. The court can only interfere if the policy framed is absolutely capricious or not informed by reasons or totally arbitrary and founded ipse dixit offending the basic requirement of Article 14 of the Constitution. Census Commissioner v. R. Krishnamurthy, decided on 07.11.2014

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