The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled no government or authority, including the "chief justice", has any "unfettered discretion" or "unaccountable action" and any such exercise is subject to judicial review.
A bench of justices R V Raveendran and Markandeya Katju held that in a democracy where the rule of law prevails, even the prerogative power is subject to judicial review.
"At the outset, we may note that in a democracy, governed by rule of law, where arbitrariness in any form is eschewed, no government or authority has the right to do whatever it pleases.
"Where rule of law prevails, there is nothing like unfettered discretion or unaccountable action. Even prerogative power is subject to judicial review, but to a very limited extent," justice Raveendran, writing the judgement, said.
The apex court passed the ruling while upholding an appeal filed by West Bengal government challenging a decision of the Calcutta high court chief justice to grant additional pay benefits to about 50 employees of the high court even though the government rules did not permit them.
The chief justice had passed the said order in 2003 after a three-judge committee suggested the increased pay structure as one Gopinath Dey, a junior lower division clerk, was erroneously given higher pay over the other employees. The idea behind the decision was to rectify the anomaly.
When the government's Pay & Accounts Department raised objection, a single judge of the high court set aside the chief justice's administrative order. However, a division bench quashed the single judge's order and ruled that the chief justice's power was equivalent to that of the state governor and hence not subject to judicial review.
Aggrieved, the State had appealed in the apex court.