In the words of Kenneth Culp Davis, a legal scholar, “administrative law is the law concerning the powers and procedures of administrative agencies, including especially the law governing judicial review of administrative action”. Due to administrative agencies being Governmental entities which affect the right of private parties through administrative adjudication and rulemaking, it is evident that within lies a constitutional element. Our legal system allows the private party, which is subject to adjudication, the possibility for a judicial review of an administrative act.

An administrative act challengeable under article 469A includes any issuing of orders, licences, permits, warrants, decisions, and refusals to demands made by a public authority. Such actions to impugn an administrative act shall be done within 6 months of when the administrative act was made aware to the interested person. An action impugning an administrative act may also include tortious damages.

Article 469A can be used to annul an administrative action when:

  • the act is unconstitutional;
  • the act is ultra vires[1];
  • the act is of arbitrary power; and
  • the act is in violation of the law.

In Cini vs. Superintendent of Public Health et[2], the plaintiff submitted an application for the granting of a licence to operate as a pharmacy, which was rejected by the Medicines Authority because there was already another pharmacy within 300 metres. The applicant filed this administrative review on this basis that this distance was improperly measured. The Court had no discretion to grant the licence but declared the administrative act null, the measurement incorrect, and ordered the application to be reconsidered.

In Calleja vs. Transport Malta[3], this case involved an administrative action of violent dispossession whereby Transport Malta planned to open a road which would pass from the plaintiff’s land. It resulted that works had commenced prior to expropriation and the works were not covered by an expropriation order. The Court in this case exemplified that even civil remedies are available to private parties against public authorities.

Moreover, article 469B provides the ability for a private party to institute a judicial review of a decision by the Attorney General (hereinafter “AG”) when:

  • the AG makes a decision to not prosecute in accordance to the powers conferred upon him; and
  • the AG decides not to allow the inspection or issuing of copies of the process-verbal or of any dispositions or documents filed.

[1] Beyond its powers

[2] Joanne Cini vs. Superintendent of Public Health et – Court of Magistrates Gozo Superior Jurisdiction – decided 14th April 2011

[3] Ines Calleja vs. Transport Malta – Decided – First Hall Civil Court – 14 December 2011

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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