The separation of powers is a model of governance that prescribes the idea that the primary functions of any government should be divided and delimited into separate powers, each with its own attributions and responsibilities. These powers should be able to operate independently from each other. Montesquieu developed the tripartite model, in which a government's functions are separated into three main branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judiciary. This model has been replicated extensively in countries with civil law traditions. The idea that fuels this model is the need to prevent the centralization of power in a single ruler, by guaranteeing the independence of decision of each branch. The attributions granted to each power allow them to "limit" each other.

In broad terms, the legislative branch is understood to be competent in matters of creation and modification of laws. The executive branch is competent in executing laws, and the judiciary is competent in solving disputes arising from the application of laws. You could say the judiciary is also competent in executing laws as, finally, the decisions arising from any judicial process are based on the correct application of legislation. In administrative law, it is said that the difference between the executive branch and the judiciary is that the executive branch is competent in the "unqualified execution of laws", while the kind of law execution exercised by the judiciary is of the qualified kind, as it is backed by the principles of due process, impartiality and independence of decision.

The executive branch is composed of different agencies, each with its own scope of functions. Each agency usually has the power to execute laws pertaining to their functions, which can affect the rights of an individual. The decisions that come from this execution are externalized through administrative acts.

Individuals that feel their rights aggrieved by these administrative decisions have the right to request the review of said decisions. The principle of exhaustion of remedies refers to the way the right to request the review of an administrative decision can be exercised.

The principle of exhaustion of remedies obligates said individual to exhaust any available remedies in the administrative jurisdiction of the competent government agency, before seeking relief in courts. Depending on the applicable law, this might mean that an individual is prevented from turning to courts before making a petition to the agency that made the decision that affects their rights. Legislation might even comprehend a second instance of appeal within the same agency to the results of said petition. Only once these legal resources are exhausted would said individual be legally authorized to turn to courts for relief.

The rationale behind this principle is of judicial economy; preventing courts from being overloaded with complaints that could be solved within the same agency that originated the issue. However, the extension and nature of the powers of the revisional court is in permanent discussion. It is debated whether the court has competence to revise the administrative decision and revoke it, making the decision in the agency's place, or if it is limited to analyzing if the administrative decision has taken into account the principles of due process. After all, if the revisional court were to make a decision that is proper of an executive agency, it could be contravening the very principles of separation of powers.

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