The natural law principles have been embodied in legal rules in various legal
systems and have become their golden principle. In India, a number of legal
principles and concepts have been borrowed from England and many of them are
based on Natural law principles.
Indian Constitution and Natural Law:
The Indian Constitution is based on the pillars of natural justice, which is a
revised version of natural law. There exists a clear link between the basic
structure of the Indian Constitution and the natural law.
- The preamble:
Starting from the preamble, the words justice inclusive of social, economic
and equality of status...etc. prove that natural law principles are present
there in the Indian Constitution.
- The Fundamental Rights:
Apart from the preamble, Article 14 ensures equality before law to all the
citizens without any sort of discrimination. Then there is Article 21 which
guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, which is also the most
comprehensive article of the whole Constitution. This is based on the
premises of natural justice. Article 14,19,21 which is also the golden
triangle of the Constitution has drawn inspiration from the natural law.
- Article 32 & 226:
The Constitution empowers the High Courts and the Supreme Court to exercise
control over the administration and quasi judicial tribunals and one of the
grounds on which orders passed by the later may be set aside is the
violation of the principles of natural justice.
- Article 311:
The principles of natural justice have been incorporated in Article 311
which says that no civil servant can be dismissed or removed or reduced in
rank until he has been given reasonable opportunity of showing cause against
the action proposed to be taken against him.
Judicial interpretation and natural law:
By the process of judicial
interpretation two rules have been evolved as representing the principles of
natural justice in judicial process. They constitute the basic elements of fair
hearing having their roots in the innate sense of man for fair play and justice.
The first rule is "nemo judex in causa sua
" which means no man shall be judge
in his own cause and the second rule is "audi alteram partem
" i.e. hear the
other side. In other words, as it is now expressed, "justice should not only be
done but should manifestly be seen to be done. " [Canara Bank v. Debasish Das
AIR 2003 SC 2041]
The basic structure theory propounded by the Supreme Court of India in
Kesawananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, [AIR 1973 SC 1461] furnishes the best
illustration of judiciary's zeal to incorporate the principles of natural law in
the constitutional jurisprudence.
In Minerva Mill Ltd. V. Union of India
[AIR 1980 SC 1782] the court held
that fundamental rights are enshrined in the part III and DPSP in part IV taken
together constitute the core of the Indian Constitution and form it's
In Air India v. Nargis Mirza
, [AIR,1981 SC 1829] the Apex Court had
struck down the Air India and Indian Airlines Regulation on the retirement and
pregnancy bar on the services of air-hostess as unconstitutional on the ground
that the regulation was arbitrary under Article 14.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India
, [AIR 1978 SC 597] the
meaning and content of life and personal liberty under Article 21 came up for
consideration and the Supreme Court held that the law established by the state
should be just fair and reasonable.
ADM Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla,
[1976 SCC 521] is one of the important
cases where the Court held that even in absence of Article 21 the right to life
and personal liberty of a person could not be deprived without authority of law
In R L Sharma V. Managing Committee Dr. Harilal H.S. school
2155] the Apex Court has observed: In administrative law the rules of natural
justice are foundational and fundamental concept and law is now well settled
that the principles of natural justice are part of the legal and judicial
Therefore the perspective of natural law in today's globalized Indian scenario cannot be denied. One can easily reach the conclusion
that to upkeep the natural law principles is of great importance be it for
giving a judgment or for guiding the basic structure or for the benefit of the
No one should be deprived of his natural rights that is provided to an
individual by the nature. The use and applicability of natural law principles
have evolved from time to time according to the advancement and changing need of
Written By: Saheli Chatterjee, Advocate.