The appellants were Nigerian nationals who were subject to deportation orders which had not been signed personally by the Minister for Justice. They contended that that breached the Immigration Act 1999 which, they said, required the Minister to make such orders personally. The High Court held, by reference to the Carltona principle, pursuant to which acts of ministerial officials are imputed to the relevant minister, that the Minister was not required to make the orders personally. The appellants appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the High Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court observed that, whilst the Carltona principle was not of “general application,” it was nonetheless one where a court had to analyse carefully the scope of the administrative decision-making power in the context of the relevant statute. The intention of the Oireachtas in any given case was expressed in the statute and to exclude the Carltona principle required very clear words. It could be disapplied only where the Oireachtas clearly intended or implied in the legislation in question that the Minister, and the Minister alone, should make the decision.
The court held that there was nothing either express or implied in the Act of 1999 to suggest that the Minister was obliged to have signed the deportation orders personally or that the decisions in question were of such gravity as to require him to have done so. Although s. 3(6) of the Act of 1999 referred to “humanitarian considerations”, “the common good”, and the “considerations of national security and public policy, so far as they are known to the Minister,” those words were insufficient to enable the conclusion to be reached that the Minister had to sign the orders personally. The section would have to have gone much further so as to indicate that it had to be the Minister who would make the decision, and no other person. It did not preclude him from devolving (as opposed to delegating) his powers to a departmental official. It relied on its decisions in Tang v Minister for Justice  2 ILRM 46, where the refusal of a residence permission by an official of the Minister was upheld by reference to the Carltona principle, pursuant to which acts of ministerial officials are imputed to the Minister. It also relied on its decision in Devanney v Minister for Justice  1 ILRM 81 where it was held that the Minister for Justice was not required personally to consider the appointment of each district court clerk. It declined to overrule Tang and Devanney, holding that they were correctly decided. It rejected the appellants’ argument that its decision in Meadows v Minister for Justice  2 IR 701 required the interpretation advanced by them, pointing out that the Carltona principle was not in issue in that case. It also rejected their argument that the Refugee Act 1996 implied that the orders had to be signed by the Minister personally.
The Supreme Court dismissed the appellant’s appeal.