A declaration is an order stating the rights of the parties. It does not compensate or require any person to do anything. It defines in a conclusive way the rights of the parties.
A declaration may be granted as part in legal proceedings as a single remedy or as part of a number of related remedies without any other appropriate relief.
A declaration is common in relation to matters affecting the State. The State must comply with laws and a Declaratory Order is generally sufficient. Since the amendment to the Rule of the Superior Courts in 1986, a declaration may be made in an application for a judicial review of the decision of a public body.
An Order for declaratory relief is not subject to the all the usual equitable defences. It is closer to a common law claim
It is not possible to litigate a hypothetical matter that is not in dispute. However, Courts may grant declaratory orders where it is relevant to the rights and entitlements of a party or where no other type of Order would be sufficient. If, for example, there is no other means of challenging the constitutionality or legality of a practice because legislation may be temporary or affect a group of persons the Courts will allow exceptions to the general requirement where the interests of justice so require.
Generally, a person must have a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the declaration. Strict legal rights need not have been affected. If persons are aggrieved and have a substantial interest in the outcome this can be sufficient to give them the acquired standing or interest to take the case.
Decorations are granted in a wide variety of cases. They are commonly granted in a dispute affecting public sector bodies. Public sector bodies must comply with the law and it is not generally necessary for them to have a specific Order to do so. A declaration may clarify the definitive legal position.
A declaration by itself does not oblige the parties to do or refrain from doing anything. However, it defines the rights of the parties to an action in a binding manner.
Declarations may be sought in the context of private disputes. It may be appropriate, for example, in the case of an ongoing contract where the correct legal position is confirmed. Sometimes in relation to property disputes, the declaration may be an appropriate Order.
The availability of a declaration dates from the Chancery (Ireland) Act 1867. A declaration may be granted in tandem with other types of orders, such as an injunction.
A claimant who seeks a declaration must have a sufficient interest in the matter. He need not show he will necessarily suffer immediate loss and damage, some other interest may be sufficient. He strict legal rights need not be affected, provided that he has a substantial interest in the matter.
Declarations may be sought and granted in a wide range of matters. They are more commonly taken in disputes with State and public bodies. Many challenges to the constitutionality of legislation seek a declaration that the legislation is unconstitutional.
They may be used to declare the invalidity of secondary legislation, such as regulations and bye-laws and the actions of public bodies. They may declare that the secondary legislation is invalid under the terms of the relevant legislation.
In some cases, the right to seek a declaration is excluded by statute. This may happen because there is an express procedure prescribed and a declaration would be, by necessary implication, inconsistent with it. In other cases, the exclusion may be expressed.
A Declaration may not be sought where it amounts to a finding of a criminal wrongdoing. This is because the finding of guilt is reserved under the criminal justice system in the criminal process. The Attorney General may seek enforcement of the law by injunction, declaration or otherwise. notwithstanding that the act constitutes a criminal offence.
Many declarations are unlike other equitable remedies as they are derived exclusively from statute. The equitable defence that apply to other remedies, equitable remedies are, may be inappropriate in relation to a declaration since issues of third-party prejudice will not usually arise in the same manner as with other proceedings.
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