ON 24 OCTOBER 1995, the High Court of Australia delivered Craig v South Australia  HCA 58; (1995) 184 CLR 163 (24 October 1995)
“If … an administrative tribunal falls into an error of law which causes it to identify a wrong issue, to ask itself a wrong question, to ignore relevant material, to rely on irrelevant material or, at least in some circumstances, to make an erroneous finding or to reach a mistaken conclusion, and the tribunal’s exercise or purported exercise of power is thereby affected, it exceeds its authority or powers. Such an error of law is jurisdictional error which will invalidate any order or decision of the tribunal which reflects it.”
“a failure by an inferior court to take into account some matter which it was, as a matter of law, required to take into account in determining a question within jurisdiction or reliance by such a court upon some irrelevant matter upon which it was, as a matter of law, not entitled to rely in determining such a question will not ordinarily involve jurisdictional error”.
A court falls into jurisdictional error “if it mistakenly asserts or denies the existence of jurisdiction or if it misapprehends or disregards the nature or limits of its functions or powers in a case where it correctly recognises that jurisdiction does exist”.
Jurisdictional error “is at its most obvious where the inferior court purports to act wholly or partly outside the general area of its jurisdiction in the sense of entertaining a matter or making a decision or order of a kind which wholly or partly lies outside the theoretical limits of its functions and powers”.
Examples of a court acting beyond its jurisdiction by entertaining a matter outside the limits of the court’s functions include:
- the absence of a jurisdictional fact
- disregard of a matter that a relevant statute requires to be taken into account or ignored as a condition of jurisdiction.
- misconstruction of the relevant statute thereby misconceiving the nature of the court’s function or extent of its powers with respect to the particular issue, though the line between jurisdictional error and mere error of exercise of jurisdiction may be difficult to identify.
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