Though the distinction between quasi-judicial and administrative action has become blurred, yet it does not mean that there is no distinction between the two. If two persons are wearing a similar coat, it does not mean that there is no difference between them.
The difference between quasi-judicial and administrative action may not be of much practical consequence today but it may still be relevant in determining the measure of natural justice applicable in a given situation. In A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India, the Court was of the view that in order to determine whether the action of the administrative authority is quasi-judicial or administrative, one has to see the nature of power conferred, to whom power is given, the framework within which power is conferred and the consequences. Therefore, administrative action is the residuary action which is neither legislative nor judicial. It is concerned with the treatment of a particular situation and is devoid of generality. It has no procedural obligations of collecting evidence and weighing argument. It is based on subjective satisfaction where decision is based on policy and expediency. It does not decide a right though it may affect a right.
However, it does not mean that the principles of natural justice can be ignored completely when the authority is exercising “administrative powers”. Unless the statute provides otherwise, a minimum of the principles of natural justice must always be observed depending on the fact situation of each case. No exhaustive list of such actions may be drawn; however, a few may be noted for the sake of clarity: 1) Making a reference to a tribunal for adjudication under the Industrial Disputes Act. 2) Functions of a selection committee. Administrative action may be statutory, having the force of law, or non statutory, devoid of such legal force.
The bulk of the administrative action is statutory because a statute or the Constitution gives it a legal force but in some cases it may be non-statutory, such as issuing directions to subordinates not having the force of law, but its violation may be visited with disciplinary action. Though by and large administrative action is discretionary and is based on subjective satisfaction, however, the administrative authority must act fairly, impartially and reasonable.
Therefore, at this stage it becomes very important for us to know what exactly is the difference between Administrative and quasi-judicial Acts.
Thus broadly speaking, acts, which are required to be done on the subjective satisfaction of the administrative authority, are called ‘administrative’ acts, while acts, which are required to be done on objective satisfaction of the administrative authority, can be termed as quasi-judicial acts. Administrative decisions, which are founded on pre-determined standards, are called objective decisions whereas decisions which involve a choice as there is no fixed standard to be applied are so called subjective decisions.
The former is quasi-judicial decision while the latter is administrative decision. In case of the administrative decision there is no legal obligation upon the person charged with the duty of reaching the decision to consider and weigh, submissions and arguments or to collate any evidence. The grounds upon which he acts and the means, which he takes to inform himself before acting, are left entirely to his discretion. The Supreme Court observed, “It is well settled that the old distinction between a judicial act and administrative act has withered away and we have been liberated from the pestilent incantation of administrative action.