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Natural Justice- Meaning and Principles

Updated: Oct 29, 2022


MEANING

Jus Naturale is the Roman Law equivalent of the modern principle of Natural Justice as per many scholars. Although it is closely associated with Common Law and several moral practices, but it is not exactly explained by either of these branches or extensions of law. The principles of Natural Justice are those that have existed in the natural environment for a very long time.


Supreme Court of India- an important marker for Justice administration in India


Natural justice has a simple explanation that points towards sound or reasoned decision-making, by any authority, while keeping in mind, the generally preferred or legal or accepted procedural laws and principles.





However, we cannot restrict the principle of natural justice to mere fairness or procedure alone. It has different facets and applications and is extremely important to any democratic country.


There are 3 different and very important rules associated with the principles of Natural Justice.


Rules of Natural Justice-

  1. The first and foremost is the HEARING RULE, which posits that before arriving at any decision or judgment, the decision-making authority must make sure that both the parties in any dispute or any legal proceeding have been given a sufficient chance of being heard and any decision is not arrived at, without one of the parties having a fair opportunity to express their opinion.

  2. The second rule is the BIAS RULE, which provides that the decision-making authority must not be unfairly inclined towards the interest of any one particular party to the dispute, and must be neutral towards both parties and consequently, the decision of such a dispute or legal proceeding must be on the facts and merits of the circumstances, and not be influenced by any other reason.

  3. Although the English law only accepts the above 2 major principles of natural justice, but in the recent times, the Courts and other legal scholars have also come up with a 3rd principle of Natural justice, the RULE OF SPEAKING ORDERS or REASONED DECISIONS. This principle of Natural Justice provides that the person or judge delivering or deliberating any decision, must give detailed reasonable and legally acceptable decisions, so that the parties subject to such decisions can understand the reasons behind such decision, and if further the decision has to be appealed, the judge overseeing such appeal would be able to understand the decision-making process of the previous authority.


Major Principles of the Principles of Natural Justice -


1. 'Nemo Judex in Causa Sua':


BIAS is spelled out in a logo

“No one should be a judge in his own case” because it leads to rule of biases. Bias means an act which leads to unfair activity whether in a conscious or unconscious stage in relation to the party or a particular case. Therefore, the necessity of this rule is to make the judge impartial and given judgment on the basis of evidence recorded as per the case.


Personal bias


Personal bias arises from a relation between the party and deciding authority. Which lead the deciding authority in a doubtful situation to make an unfair activity and give judgment in favor of his person. Such equations arise due to various forms of personal and professional relations.


In order to challenge the administrative action successfully on the ground of personal bias, it is necessary to give a reasonable reason for bias.


The Supreme Court held that one of the members of the panel of selection committee his brother was a candidate in the competition but due to this, the whole procedure of selection cannot be quashed. Here, to avoid the act of biases at the turn of his brother respective panel member connected with the candidate can be requested to go out from the panel of the selection committee. So, a fair and reasonable decision can be made. Ramanand Prasad Singh vs. UOI.


Pecuniary bias


If any of the judicial body has any kind of financial benefit, how so ever small it may be will lead to administrative authority to biases.


Subject matter bias


When, either directly or indirectly the deciding authority is involved in the subject matter of a particular case.

In Muralidhar vs. Kadam Singh The court refused to quash the decision of Election tribunal on the ground that the chairman’s wife was a member of Congress party whom the petitioner defeated.

Departmental bias


The problem or issue of departmental bias is very common in every administrative process and it is not checked effectively and on every small interval period it will lead to negative concept of fairness will get vanished in the proceeding.


Policy notion bias


All issues arising out of preconceived policy notion is a very dedicated issue. The audience sitting over there does not expect judges to sit with a blank sheet of paper and give a fair trial and decision over the matter.


Bias on the account of the obstinacy

The Supreme Court has discovered new criteria of biases through the unreasonable condition. This new category emerged from a case where a judge of Calcutta High Court upheld his own judgment in appeal. A direct violation of the rules of bias is done because no judge can sit in appeal against in his own case.


2. 'Audi Alteram Partem' :


It simply includes 3 Latin words which basically mean that no person can be condemned or punished by the court without having a fair opportunity of being heard. In many jurisdictions, a lot of cases are left undecided without giving a fair opportunity of being heard. The literal meaning of this rule is that both parties should be given a fair chance to present themselves with their relevant points and a fair trial should be conducted.

Hearing of persons in court

This is an important rule of natural justice and its pure form is not to penalize anyone without any valid and reasonable ground. Prior notice should be given to a person so he can prepare to know what all charges are framed against him. It is also known as a rule of fair hearing. The components of fair hearing are not fixed or rigid in nature. It varies from case to case and authority to authority.


Components:

  • Issuance of notice Valid and proper notice should be given to the required parties of the matter to further proceed with the procedure of fair trial method. Even if the statute does not include the provision of issue of notice, then it will be given prior to making decisions. This was held in the case of Fazalbhai vs. Custodian.

  • Right to present the case and evidence– After receiving the notice he must be given a reasonable time period to prepare and present his case in a real and effective manner. The refusal should not be done on the unreasonable ground or due to arbitrary.

  • Right to Cross Examination Right of fair hearing includes the right to cross-examination the statement made by the parties. If tribunals denied the right to cross-examination, then it will violate the principles of natural justice. And all the necessary copies of documents should be given and failure of that will also encroach the principle. The department should make available officers who are involved in the procedure of investigating and do cross-examination. Cross-examination is defined under Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (amended).

  • Right of Legal representative In the process of enquiry, every party has the right to have a legal representative. Each party will be presented by the legally trained person and no one can deny (A.K.Roy).

Exceptions

  1. During the Emergency period

  2. Public interest

  3. Express statutory provision

  4. Nature of the case is not of a serious kind

  5. If it doesn’t affect the status of the individual


Applicability

Natural justice is applicable to some of the following points:

  1. Court- except to ex-parte

  2. Tribunals

  3. Authority entrusted with discretion but subject to legal limitations

3. Reasoned Decision

Basically, this principle has 3 grounds on which it relies:

  1. The aggrieved party has the chance to demonstrate before the appellate and provisional court, the reason which makes the authority to reject it.

  2. It is a satisfactory part of the party against whom the decision is made.

  3. The responsibility to record reasons works as obstacles against arbitrary action by the judicial power vested in the executive authority.


In Govindaraja Mudaliar v State of Tamil Nadu, the government decided to nationalize road transport and appointed a committee to frame a scheme for this. The Home Secretary was made a member of this committee. When the scheme was finally published, objections were heard by the Home Secretary, but the scheme was subsequently passed without any modifications.


It was contended that the hearing was vitiated by the rule against bias because the Secretary being a member of the Committee that framed the scheme had already made up his mind about the nationalization. The Court rejected this contention on the ground that the Secretary did not finally determine any issue so as to foreclose his mind. He simply helped the Government in formulating the scheme.


CONCLUSION


Although the concept of Natural justice is all pervading, but there is little consensus as to its accepted definition or what it stands for. The Indian judiciary, however, has given a wide interpretation to oversee and protect the rights of individuals and restrict arbitrary use of powers by authorities, without opting to the accepted procedural standards. The principle of natural justice is widely used in Constitutional law, as well as administrative law, and the procedural aspects of these principles are embedded in the decision-making process of every judicial and quasi-judicial organization.


We will discuss the Indian aspect of Natural Justice along with contribution of Indian judiciary in the next post!

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