The principle of giving reason for decision means that every quasi-judicial or administrative body while making a decision is bound to support their decision by giving some reasons which shows why the decision was made and ultimately it supports the decision. This recording of reasons in support of the order is considered to be a part of NATURAL JUSTICE.
The benefits of giving reasons for decisions Giving reasons for administrative decisions provides the following benefits:
1. More public confidence in the decision;
2. More consistency in decision making; and
3. Fairness and transparency in decision making.
WHY SHOULD REASONS FOR DECISIONS BE GIVEN?
When a decision is made, there is at least one alternative decision that could have been made. Giving reasons should enable the people affected by the decision to understand why a particular decision was made.
Giving reasons is important:
1. To inform a person why a decision was made and to explain the decision;
2. To meet any requirements under the legislation under which the decision was made;
3. To help the person affected by the decision make a choice about exercising their right of review or appeal; and
4. To comply with public authority customer service charters.
CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN REASONS ARE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT
There are circumstances when giving reasons is particularly important. These include when:
1. The decision is not in accordance with a relevant established policy or guideline;
2. The decision is likely to detrimentally affect the rights or interests of an individual or organisations to any material extent; and/or
3. To explain the conditions imposed on an approval, consent, permit, or licence.
Where a decision maker makes a decision which is not in accordance with a relevant established policy or guideline, the reasons for the decision and the reasons for not following the policy should be recorded, either in the minutes of the meeting where the decision was made, in a report on the proposal in which the decision was recommended, or in a file note or memorandum attached to the relevant file.
HOW AND WHEN SHOULD REASONS BE COMMUNICATED?
The legislation under which the decision is being made may provide details about the form in which the reasons are required to be provided. For example, a prescribed form may exist in Regulations that must be used to communicate the decision. Generally, reasons are communicated in writing. This might form part of a document in which the decision is communicated rather than forming a separate statement.
Reasons should be drafted with the potential audience in mind:
1. Reasons for decisions should be written in a style that can be easily understood by the person receiving it so that they understand the reasons for the decision and why the decision was made;
2. Sentences should be short and plain English should be used;
3. The language should be clear and unambiguous; and
4. Technical terms and abbreviations should be avoided if they are not likely to be understood by the person receiving the statement of reasons.
Providing written reasons is always desirable. In some cases, reasons may not be required under legislation when the decision is made. For example, for some decisions that are reviewed by administrative appeal tribunals, the decision maker is not required to provide the reasons for a decision until requested by the tribunal after an appeal or request for a review of the decision is received. However, in such cases, providing written reasons at the time the decision is made is good administrative practice.
GIVING REASONS ENHANCES TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND QUALITY
Giving reasons can improve transparency, accountability & the quality of the decision which is beneficial for the people on whom the decision applies.
A person affected by a decision is better able to see:
1. The facts and reasoning that were the basis for the decision;
2. That the decision was not made arbitrarily or based on speculation, suspicion or on irrelevant information;
3. To what extent any arguments put forward have been understood, accepted or formed a basis for the decision;
4. Whether they have been dealt with fairly; and
5. The issues they will need to address if they decide to request a review of the decision or to lodge an appeal on the decision.
1. When required to give reasons, there is a greater incentive for decision makers to base their decisions on acknowledged facts;
2. Supervisors and managers are better able to see if legal requirements, agency/government policies and standard practices have been complied with; and
3. People or bodies with an external review role are in a better position to assess the decision, for example, whether it was reached lawfully, based on relevant considerations and based on the merits of the case.
1. When required to give reasons, there is a greater incentive for decision makers to rigorously and carefully identify and assess relevant issues and to justify recommendations and decisions; and
2. Other decision makers are able to apply decisions to future cases by using the reasons as guidance for the assessment or determination of similar issues.
7. APPLICABILITY IN INDIA
In India the Law Commission recommended that a general legislation must be made according to which all quasi-judicial and administrative decisions should to be accompanied by reasons. The applicability of this doctrine in India can be understood through the case laws which are discussed underneath.
In India all quasi-judicial authority including an administrative tribunal is bound to record reasons in support of the orders passed by it.
In the leading case of M.P. INDUSTRIES LTD. V. UNION OF INDIA, Subba Rao J observed:
In the context of a welfare state, administrative tribunals have come to stay.
Indeed, they are the necessary concomitant of a welfare state. But arbitrariness in their functioning destroys the concept of a welfare state itself. Self-discipline and supervision exclude or at any rate minimise arbitrariness. The least a tribunal can do is to disclose its mind. The compulsion of disclosure guarantees consideration. The condition to give reasons introduces clarity and excludes or at any rate minimises arbitrariness; it gives satisfaction to the party against whom the order is made; and it also enables an appellate or supervisory Court to keep the tribunals within bounds.
A reasoned order is a desirable condition of judicial disposal.
Dealing with the contention regarding disposal of matters even by Crown's Courts in limine without recording reasons, His Lordship rightly observed:
It is said that this principle is not uniformly followed by appellate courts, for appeals and revisions are dismissed by appellate/and revisional Courts in limine without giving any reasons. There is an essential distinction between a court and an administrative tribunal. A Judge is trained to look at things objectively, uninfluenced by considerations of policy or expediency; but an executive officer generally looks at things from the stand-point of policy and expediency. The habit of mind of an executive officer so formed cannot be expected to change from function to function or from act to act. So, it is essential that some restrictions shall be imposed on tribunals in the matter of passing of orders affecting the rights of parties; and the least they should do is to give reasons for their orders.
Reiterating this aspect and emphasising on recording of reasons, in S.N.MUKHERJEE V. UNION OF INDIA , the Supreme Court said:
Giving of reasons is an essential element of administration of justice.
A right to reason is, therefore, an indispensable part of a sound system of judicial review.
Reasoned decision is not only for the purpose of showing that the citizen receiving justice, but also a valid discipline for the tribunal itself. Hence, Statement of reasons is one of the essentials of justice.
The principle of giving reasons for decision is a part of natural justice which prevents administrative authorities to make arbitrary decisions. Giving reasons also increases QUALITY, TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY, of the decision-making authority. This practice also prevents violation of Fundamental rights at a large scale. If the authorities are not required to give reasons for their decisions then no-one would be there to question why that decision was taken. Reasons also helps to give people a sense of security that arbitrary actions without any reasons won’t be taken against them.
Law Commission of India, Fourteenth Report , vol. II, pp. 394-95 (1958).
AIR 1966 SC 671 (1966) I SCR 466
Ibid, AIR 677.
Ibid, AIR 675.
AIR 1990 SC 1984.