A Delegated Authority Does not Have Legal Sanctity or Significance in the Absence of Rules and Conditions as Mandated by the Statute. SC

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A Delegated Authority Does not Have Legal Sanctity or Significance in the Absence of Rules and Conditions as Mandated by the Statute. SC

A case was brought before the Supreme Court by a petitioner against the judgment of the LHC, wherein the LHC had dismissed the Writ Petition of the petitioner and maintained the decision of the Chairman PEMRA who had imposed Rupees 500000/ fine on the petitioner for violating the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015,ย  by airing objectional content/program.

The SC analyzed the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002, the Code of Conduct, 2015, and the scope of the delegating authority of the PEMRA. The Court was told that the said fine has been imposed by the Chairman PEMRA on the recommendation of the Council of Complaint: an adjudicatory cum recommendatory body of the PEMRA which is mandated to receive complaints and recommend fines or punishments. The Chairman PEMRA approved the recommended fine of Rupees 500000/ while exercising delegated powers by the PEMRA .

PEMRA has the power to delegate any of its powers, responsibilities or functions to the Chairman or any other staff member subject to rules and conditions imposed by the rules to control the exercise of the said discretion.ย  The Court was told that PEMRA in its meeting dated 31.07.2007 has delegated the power to approve the minutes and recommendations of the meeting of the COC to the Chairman. The Court was also told that no rules has been farmed nor any condition has been imposed on the said discretionary power of the Chairman. The said power has been actually delegated in the absence of the rules which the statute mandates to be framed for delegation of powers or responsibilities to the Chairman.

The Court at this juncture noted that PEMRA, in it meeting held on 31.07.2007, has actually delegated the very power which was given to it by the Parliament to the Chairman, specifying no conditions and framing no rules. This is actually a blanket delegation of powers in one person without any conditions which is not allowed in law.ย  The Court held that delegationย  of powers must take place in the presence of rules and conditions imposed through those rules. The delegation must meet the criteria of reasonableness and non-arbitrariness. The reasonableness of the said exercise of the discretion must be gauged by the same principles as the exercise of any other administrative discretion.

The important point the Court noted is that the more important the power or function is being considered for delegation, the higher must be the threshold for not imposing the conditions on the exercise of the said power.

The Court at the end allowed the CLPA and held that Chairman PEMRA cannot exercise the delegated power in the absence of conditions imposed on it. The conditions can be imposed by the rules which have not been framed yet. Thus, the said power to approve the recommendations of the COC cannot be considered to be validly delegated to the Chairman.

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