Naresh Chandra Agrawal vs Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of India 2024 INSC 94 :: [2024] 2 S.C.R. 194 – Subordinate Legislation – Grounds To Challenge

Subordinate Legislation – Legal principles that may be relevant in adjudicating cases where subordinate legislation are challenged on the ground of being ‘ultra vires’ the parent Act: (a) The doctrine of ultra vires envisages that a Rule making body must function within the purview of the Rule making authority, conferred on it by the parent Act. As the body making Rules or Regulations has no inherent power of its own to make rules, but derives such power only from the statute, it must necessarily function within the purview of the statute. Delegated legislation should not travel beyond the purview of the parent Act. (b) Ultra vires may arise in several ways; there may be simple excess of power over what is conferred by the parent Act; delegated legislation may be inconsistent with the provisions of the parent Act; there may be noncompliance with the procedural requirement as laid down in the parent Act. It is the function of the courts to keep all authorities within the confines of the law by supplying the doctrine of ultra vires. (c) If a rule is challenged as being ultra vires, on the ground that it exceeds the power conferred by the parent Act, the Court must, firstly, determine and consider the source of power which is relatable to the rule. Secondly, it must determine the meaning of the subordinate legislation itself and finally, it must decide whether the subordinate legislation is consistent with and within the scope of the power delegated. (d) Delegated rule-making power in statutes generally follows a standardized pattern. A broad section grants authority with phrases like ‘to carry out the provisions’ or ‘to carry out the purposes.’ Another sub-section specifies areas for delegation, often using language like ‘without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power.’ In determining if the impugned rule is intra vires/ultra vires the scope of delegated power, Courts have applied the ‘generality vs enumeration’ principle. (e) The “generality vs enumeration” principle lays down that, where a statute confers particular powers without prejudice to the generality of a general power already conferred, the particular powers are only illustrative of the general power, and do not in any way restrict the general power. In that sense, even if the impugned rule does not fall within the enumerated heads, that by itself will not determine if the rule is ultra vires/intra vires. It 24 must be further examined if the impugned rule can be upheld by reference to the scope of the general power. (f) The delegated power to legislate by making rules ‘for carrying out the purposes of the Act’ is a general delegation, without laying down any guidelines as such. When such a power is given, it may be permissible to find out the object of the enactment and then see if the rules framed satisfy the Act of having been so framed as to fall within the scope of such general power confirmed. (g) However, it must be remembered that such power delegated by an enactment does not enable the authority, by rules/regulations, to extend the scope or general operation of the enactment but is strictly ancillary. It will authorize the provision of subsidiary means of carrying into effect what is enacted in the statute itself and will cover what is incidental to the execution of its specific provision. In that sense, the general power cannot be so exercised as to bring into existence substantive rights or obligations or disabilities not contemplated by the provisions of the Act itself. (h) If the rule making power is not expressed in such a usual general form but are specifically enumerated, then it shall have to be seen if the rules made are protected by the limits prescribed by the parent Act. (Para 32)

Chartered Accountants Act, 1949; Section 29A – Chartered Accountants’ (Procedure of Investigation of Professional and Other Misconduct and Conduct of Cases) Rules, 2007; Rule 9(3)(b) – Whether Rule 9(3)(b) of the Rules, 2007 is inconsistent with and beyond the rule-making power of the Central Governmen? Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that Rule 9(3) cannot be saved under Section 29A(2)(c), as it directly relates to furthering the purposes of the Act in ensuring that a genuine complaint of professional misconduct against the member is not wrongly thrown out at the very threshold, it can be easily concluded that the impugned Rule falls within the scope of the general delegation of power under Section 29A(1). (Para 37)

Subordinate Legislation – A subordinate legislation can be challenged under any of the following grounds: (a) Lack of legislative competence to make the subordinate legislation. (b) Violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India. (c) Violation of any provision of the Constitution of India. (d) Failure to conform to the statute under which it is made or exceeding the limits of authority conferred by the enabling Act. (e) Repugnancy to the laws of the land, that is, any enactment. (f) Manifest arbitrariness/unreasonableness (to an extent where the court might well say that the legislature never intended to give authority to make such rules) – Referred to State of Tamil Nadu and Anr. v. P. Krishnamurthy and Ors. (2006)
4 SCC 517. (Para 21)

Principle of ‘generality vs enumeration’ -When a general power to make regulations is followed by a specific power to make regulations, the latter does not limit the former – even if specific topics are not explicitly listed in the statute, the formulation of rules can be justified if it falls within the general power conferred, provided it stays within the overall scope of the Act. (Para 24-28)

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