Understanding the Law
November 16, 2018
Authority equals power

Starting with the home, at the familiar level, authority normally resides with the parents. The parents have the power and they are in charge of the home. They make decisions and give orders and generally supervise the home. They can punish those children who disobey the rules. There is no dispute about their roles in the home unless they abdicate this authority. Authority plays an important part in our jurisdiction. This authority is replicated elsewhere in our society, with different players. Authority helps to regulate the society and oil the machinery of government. You often hear juniors say I have to refer to my boss on that issue. This is when they do not have the authority.

The law gives authority to various persons who carry out different functions in the jurisdiction. Specific people in our country exercise authority whether it is political or legal authority. The word “authority’ refers to the right to exercise power within a particular institution in the jurisdiction. Authority is given in the laws of our country to public officers to carry out specific duties. They have the ability to enforce the laws, to exact obedience, to command or to judge. In some cases the person who has power can delegate authority, but that must be in compliance with the law. There are instances, where persons can act on behalf of another in accordance with the law.

At the top of our legal system is the judge, who has significant authority. Going down the ranks other personnel have varying forms of authority as they exercise power within the system. The decision of the High Court judge can only be challenged by the Court of Appeal and not by the court below him. The judge exercises authority when he makes his decision in the form of orders, which must be carried out or appealed. The court below exceeds its power by challenging the court above it. The lower court exercises power within its own sphere, according to the law.

Any one can have authority with regards to a specific relationship such as that which exists between a principal and an agent. Authority resides in the hands of the principal who can employ an agent to carry out certain duties. The principal makes an agreement relating to duties with an agent from whose work he benefits. Because of the relationship the principal has control over the agent when the agent acts on his behalf. The condition of principal/agent must exist in order for the relationship to work. A principal would thereafter be responsible for any tort committed by the agent within the scope of the agent’s employment.

For example, if a truck driver agrees with the owner to drive a truck to a specific area to sell goods and he injures someone on the route, the truck owner is vicariously liable, because the injury occurred within the scope of the agent’s employment. If he makes a simple detour and causes an accident the truck owner is still liable as this is a simple departure from the job that was assigned. If the truck driver makes an independent departure for example, to transport goods for another person or he goes on an entirely different route he would be on a frolic of his own. In this case the owner of the truck would not be liable if the agent injures someone because, the agent was acting outside the scope of his authority.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com