Courts 'have right to review administrative decisions' - 16/1/2004

From The Times

In a preliminary judgment in a case filed by seven nurses, the First Hall of the Civil Court has ruled that the courts have jurisdiction to examine the administrative actions of the prime minister and chief government medical officer.

A writ against the Prime Minister and the CGMO was filed by Bernardette Agius, Joseph Bartolo, Alexandra Falzon, Jane Inguanez, Catherine Micallef, Mary Grace Scerri and Therese Decelis.

Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi yesterday heard that the nurses, who were employed by the Health Department, had over a period of time been assimilated into the grade of enrolled nurses at scale 11. The nurses had been informed of this in writing by the department but after some time they were told that their assimilation had taken place in error.

Furthermore, they were requested by the department to refund the payments they had received since their assimilation at this scale.

All seven nurses requested the court to provide them with a remedy and to condemn the government to pay them damages.

The government pleaded that the courts had no jurisdiction to review such an administrative act, nor did they have the jurisdiction to confirm the progression of the nurses' employment.

Mr Justice Azzopardi declared that this case fell within the jurisdiction of the courts, for the nurses were claiming that the government was not entitled to take such action in their regard.

It would be a grave mistake were the courts to renounce to their right to review administrative decisions for this renunciation had not been done even when the courts had decided cases concerning the colonial government.

Quoting from case law, the court ruled that the executive was subject to the law and to the ordinary courts that administered the law.

Mr Justice Azzopardi then ordered the case to continue to be heard on the merits

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