In France as also in almost all the states in Europe, a distinction is made between ordinary law and administrative law. Ordinary citizens are tried under ordinary law of the land, whereas public officials are tried under administrative law.
The latter are not amenable to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts for offences committed in their official capacity. They have a right to be tried by special courts known as administrative courts.
The French Jurisprudence is largely based upon the Roman Law. It is accordingly held that those who serve the state in their official capacity are not amenable to the ordinary laws of the land and as such they cannot be used in ordinary courts of law.
Private individuals who have certain grievances against public officials can have them redressed not in an ordinary court but in special courts known as administrative courts.
In English speaking countries no such general distinction is, however, made. Their legal system is based on the Anglo-Saxon Law which further based on the principle that all officials of the state, save the
highest, are subject to ordinary laws of the land and are amenable to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts. There arc no separate legal systems for ordinary people and the officials of the state.
All arc treated alike by the law. All state officials, right from the Prime Minister to the peon, are to : be tried in ordinary courts in the ordinary manner. Dicey characterizes it as the ‘rule of law’, which in his opinion is an essential guarantee of individual liberty’.
The French system is looked upon with great disfavour; by the Anglo-American critics who point out that administrative law docs not and cannot safeguard individual liberty. Under this system, the executive enjoys a special privilege because an executive officer cannot ; be tried in any ordinary court of law and can be tried only in specially created administrative courts.
Administrative court are always favourably inclined towards the officials. Individuals cannot expect justice from these courts if government policy demands a certain decision.
The criticism leveled against administrative law appears to be unduly exaggerated. The French people regard it as the cornerstone of their liberty. There is no justification for suspecting the impartiality of these courts.
The French courts have established healthy practice of independence, neutrality and impartiality and have protected the citizens against the arbitrary use of executive powers. The supporters of this legal system further assert that it is the only proper system of redressing the grievances of the people against state officials.
These courts possess expert knowledge about the technique of administration which an ordinary court is not expected to know and understand. The judges of ordinary courts are laymen and are liable to commit errors of judgement.
Further, in France it is the state which pays the penalty if an officer is found guilty, whereas in England or elsewhere, it is the official himself who is to pay off damages. It is, therefore, not possible to obtain actual redress. It has also been found that law suits arc quickly disposed off these courts.
The cost of litigation is lower and the procedure is simple than that in ordinary courts. We may conclude with the remarks of Garner who stated, “It can now be said without possibility of contradiction, that there is no other country in which the rights of private individuals arc! well protected (as in France) against the arbitrariness, the abuses, and the illegal conduct of administrative authorities, and where people arc so sure of receiving reparation for injuries sustained on account of such conduct.”
Points to Remember
1. The administrative law is that body of rules which regulate the relations between the state and the individual. In France and some other European states, a distinction is maintained between ordinary law and administrative law.
Ordinary citizens are tried under ordinary law of the land, whereas public officials are tried under administrative law. The English speaking nations, however, do not make any distinction between any ordinary law and an administrative law. All state officials right from the Prime Minister to the peon are amenable to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts.
The French system is looked upon with great disfavour by the Anglo-American critics who point out that administrative law does not and cannot safeguard individual liberty.
The French people on the other hand, regard it as the corner-stone of their liberty. The French courts have established healthy practices of independence, neutrality and impartiality as well as quicker and speedier justice.