This article delves into the cornerstones of fairness known as the principles of
natural justice, examining their historical origins, objects, and rules. Natural
justice, not explicitly defined but widely acknowledged, encompasses the Rule
Against Bias, Rule of Fair Hearing (Audi Alteram Partem), and Reasoned Decision.
The Rule Against Bias mandates impartiality, while Fair Hearing ensures that
parties have an equal chance to present their case. Reasoned Decision requires
authorities to explain their rulings transparently. The article explores various
types of bias, including pecuniary, personal, subject matter, departmental, and
policy notion bias. Additionally, it discusses exceptions to the rules of
natural justice and their compatibility with equity.
Justice that is natural requires equity, prudence, fairness, and equality. A
tenet of common law is natural justice. Every administrative agency is required
to abide by a set of procedural principles known as Natural Justice, which were
devised by judges. These ideas, which are not present in the Indian
Constitution, are seen as essential to the rule of law. This originates from
"jus natural", which stands for the law of nature. When rendering a decision,
adherence to these guidelines is required. Ignoring these rules could have a
negative impact on an individual's right. It is also known as Substantial
Justice or Fundamental Justice or Universal Justice or Fair Play in Action.
To guarantee justice and fairness, natural justice is a crucial component of the
legal system. In order to maintain fairness and due process, it is imperative to
comprehend the fundamentals of natural justice.
The Rule Against Bias, Rule of Fair Hearing, and Reasoned Decision are the three
main concepts that are discussed in this article.
These principles guarantee the neutrality of those making decisions. These
principles also guarantee that decisions are made on the basis of logic and that
all parties get a chance to state their case.
Natural justice lacks a specific, scientific definition. Nonetheless, natural
justice principles are recognised and upheld. Scholars, solicitors, and judges
all define it differently. In Barrett v. Vionet
, According to Lord Esher M.R.,
it is the innate sense of right and wrong. In a later decision (Hopkins v.
Smethwick Local Board of Health), he had decided to define natural justice as
basic justice. Lord Parker defines it as having a duty to act justly. Justice
Bhagwati has interpreted it as a case of fair play. The Indian Constitution's
Articles 14 and 21 have reinforced the idea of natural justice.
The idea that "no man should be condemned unheard" was one that the Greeks had
long before embraced. At that time, the importance of natural justice was
emphasised to the point where it was said that "no human laws are of any
validity, if contrary to this," and that a court might reject a parliamentary
act if it conflicted with natural law. Natural law played a major role in the
formation and evolution of equity in England.
The idea of natural justice was recognised by Adam and Kautilya throughout their
time. The Bible claims that after Eve and Adam consumed the fruit of knowledge,
God forbade them from doing so. Eve was given a fair opportunity to defend
herself before the punishment was handed down, and Adam received the same
The Roman terms "jus-naturale" and "lex-naturale," which laid down the
foundation for natural justice, natural law, and equity, are the source of the
word "natural justice."
Objects of Natural Justice:
- To give everyone a fair chance to be heard.
- The idea of fairness.
- Filling up the legal loopholes and gaps.
- To safeguard the fundamental rights.
- Basic features of the Constitution.
A man has always valued a few fundamental principles that are either natural law
or divine law. A man must apply this section of the law to human issues in order
to be a reasonable being. Ensuring citizens' fundamental rights and liberties is
the main goal of natural justice laws. Thus, they advance the general good. One
well-established golden rule is that the goal of the natural justice concept is
not only to uphold the rule of law but also to prevent injustice from occurring.
Rules of Natural Justice
These ideas are generally accepted. These ideas are synonymous with both
national common law and divine law. Natural justice is regarded as a crucial
component of the Indian Constitution. Three natural justice tenets are upheld by
the Indian legal system.
Below is a detailed explanation of these principles:
- Nemo Judex In Causa Sua (Rule Against Bias)
- Audi Alteram Partem (Rule of Fair Hearing)
- Reasoned Decision or Speaking Orders
Nemo Judex In Causa Sua (Rule Against Bias)
An operational prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, towards a party or
issue is referred to as bias. As a result, the rule against bias eliminates any
variables that can unjustly sway a judge's decision in a given case. This rule
stipulates that the judge must be unbiased and render an objective decision
based on the available facts or documentation.
Human psychology informs us that humans rarely are able to make decisions that
are not in their best interests, therefore in an instance where they have an
interest, a person cannot make an objective conclusion. Consequently, the adage
reads: "One cannot be made to judge in his own cause."
Because "no man be judge
in his own cause" and "justice should not only be done but should manifestly and
unquestionably be seen to be done" are both requirements for the application of
the disqualification rule, it serves as a safeguard against partial decisions as
well as an attempt to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the
administrative adjudicating process. Additionally, according to these
principles, judges must be above all reproach.
Types of Bias:
- Pecuniary Bias.
- Personal Bias.
- Subject matter Bias.
- Departmental Bias.
- Policy notion Bias.
Pecuniary bias occurs when the arbiter or magistrate has a financial or
commercial stake in the issue at hand. The judge should have no financial or
commercial interests while making decisions in cases. Put another way, a person
is unable to serve as a judge if they have a financial stake in the outcome of
Visakhapatnam Co-operative Motor Transport Ltd. v. G. Bangar Raju
In this instance, the district collector�who was also the president of the
aforementioned cooperative society�was granted a vehicle permit by the regional
transport authority in his capacity as chairman. Due to financial bias, the
court invalidated the collector's decision.
Personal prejudice might originate from close relationships, friendships,
businesses, or professional associations. A person in such a relationship is
ineligible to serve as a judge. A.K. Kripak v. Union of India
is a case that is
pertinent to this discussion. Because one of the candidates who appeared before
the selection committee was also a member of the selection board, the Supreme
Court invalidated the decisions made by the selection board.
It was decided that
a reasonable probability of bias was enough to invalidate the admissions
process. In other words, prejudice does not have to be proven in order to taint
the decision. If it can be demonstrated that there was a plausible chance of
prejudice, that is sufficient to render the decision invalid.
Subject Matter Bias
Subject-matter bias (official bias):
A judge cannot hear a case if they have any
conflicts of interest or prejudice. The adjudicator or judge will be
disqualified on the grounds of bias if he has personally associated with the
issues in dispute and has a general interest in the topic in dispute due to his
affiliation with the administration or a private group. There must be a close
and direct relationship between the adjudicator and the contentious issues in
order for them to be disqualified on this basis. The current query is whether
administrative adjudication can likewise be covered by this approach.
If that's the case, no choice will be impartial. Gullampally Nageswara Rao v. A.
. In this instance, nationalising the automobile industry was the
government's suggestion. The Secretary of the Government was tasked with
considering nationalisation objections, and the Government affirmed the
legitimacy of the nationalisation plan. It was contested on the grounds that the
aforementioned secretary was the one who started the nationalisation process.
In any administrative procedure, departmental bias is a prevalent problem that
needs to be properly checked. If it isn't, the concept of fairness will be
negatively impacted and will eventually disappear from the proceeding.
Policy Notion Bias
Preconceived policy notion-related issues are a very serious matter. The people
seated there do not anticipate that judges will sit down with a blank piece of
paper and decide on the case after a fair trial.
Other forms of bias may include religious bias, racial bias, and gender bias.
These prejudices are the result of individual thoughts or discriminatory
attitudes. They may threaten the fairness of the decision-making process.
Audi Alteram Partem (Rule Of Fair Hearing)
It basically states that no one can be found guilty or punished by the court
without first being given a fair chance to be heard. It consists of three Latin
Most cases in many jurisdictions go unresolved without being given a fair chance
to be heard.
This rule literally means that a fair trial should be held and that each party
should be given an equal opportunity to present themselves and any pertinent
In its most basic version, this crucial natural justice rule states that no one
should be punished without a good reason. A person should be informed in advance
so that he can get ready and understand all of the charges that are brought
Another name for it is the "rule of fair hearing." The elements of a fair
hearing are flexible and adaptable. Case by case and authority by authority, it
The principle of fair hearing involves the following key components:
- Right to notice;
- Right to present case and evidence;
- Right to rebut adverse evidence;
- No evidence should be taken at the back of other party;
- Reasoned decision;
- Institutional decision or one who decides must hear;
- Rule against dictation, the decision must be actually his who decides.
Speaking Orders Or Reasoned Decision
- Notice: A competent authority must serve notice to the party involved before taking any action. The notice should include charges and case details; if it's incomplete, it's not valid.
- Hearing: Both parties should have an equal opportunity for a fair hearing. Decisions without this opportunity are invalid.
- Evidence: The authority must consider evidence from both sides equally.
- Cross-examination: Parties should be able to cross-examine witnesses when allowed by the applicable law.
- Representation: Parties can have legal representation, but it may vary based on the law and case complexity.
In the search for justice, numerous crucial guidelines The verbal commands or
reasoned decisions is one such principle. Decisions made by judges and other
authorities should be thoroughly and concisely explained. It is critical to the
accountability, transparency, and impartiality of the legal system.
Speaking orders require judges to express their reasoning. The statutes that the
judges relied on to reach their verdict are also explained. This upholds the
natural justice principle.
Choosing logically offers numerous advantages. It aids parties in comprehending
how their rights were impacted and whether the ruling was just. They can also
contest the outcome if necessary. Reasoned decisions strengthen public
confidence in the legal system. It demonstrates that rules and reason�rather
than prejudice�are the foundation for judgements.
In essence, it is based on three grounds:
- The party who feels wronged has the opportunity to show the appellate and
revisional courts why they have the right to reject it.
- It is an acceptable portion of the party that the decision is made against.
- The duty to document justifications serves as a barrier to the judicial
authority granted to:
In the legal system, natural justice is a fundamental principle. They make sure
that facts and evidence, not preconceived notions or prejudices, are used to
Indian Constitution and Principles of Natural Justice
As was previously established, the term "natural justice" is not used once in
the Indian Constitution. Nonetheless, the concept of natural justice is
expressed in the following sections of the Constitution in the appropriate ways.
Preamble: "Social, Economic, and Political" justice, freedom of thinking,
belief, and religion, as well as equality of opportunity and status.
Article 14: Equal protection of the law for all citizens of India and equality
Article 21: Right to liberty and life;
Article 22: Provision of fair hearing for an arrested person;
Article 39-A: Free legal services for disabled and indignant people;
Article 311: Constitutional protection for civil servants;
Article 32, 136, and 226: Constitutional remedies for violations of fundamental
Exceptions to the Rules of Natural Justice:
Equity and the Rules of Natural Justice:
- Emergency Cases: In exceptional emergencies like protecting depositors or dealing with dangerous situations, fair hearing rules can be excluded.
- Dire Public Interest: Fair hearing can be set aside in administrative decisions for greater public interest.
- Confidentiality: Fair hearing can be excluded if it compromises national interest or public order due to confidentiality.
- Academic Adjudication: Fair hearing may not be necessary in cases of academic performance assessments.
- Impracticability: In cases like mass cheating, it's impractical to provide notice and hearing to all involved.
- Interim Preventive Action: Rules of natural justice may be excluded for preventive, non-final administrative orders.
- Legislative Action: Exclusion is justified when administrative actions have a general, legislative nature.
Equity is a form of justice that operates outside of written laws and aims to
ensure fairness and justness. It seeks to provide remedies when positive law
falls short or when specific cases require unique solutions. It's based on
principles of good conscience and giving each person their due based on natural
law. The concept of equity encompasses notions of reasonableness, challenging
unfair actions, and the principles of natural justice, making it complementary
to these ideas rather than contradictory.
Landmark Judgements On Principles Of Natural Justice:
In the case of Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India
, the court explicitly stated that
Article 14 embodies the principles of natural justice and serves to uphold the
concept of equality as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.
In Suraj Mall Mohta and Co. v. A. V. Visvanatha Sastri,
the Supreme Court ruled
that the assessment proceedings conducted by the Income-tax officer are
considered judicial proceedings. All the necessary aspects of such judicial
proceedings must be followed before arriving at any conclusion. The assessee is
entitled to inspect the records and all relevant documents before being called
upon to present evidence in rebuttal. This right remains unaffected by any
explicit provision within the Income Tax Act.
In the case of Manohar Lal Sharma vs The Principal Secretary & Ors
. (2014), it
was determined that when allegations are founded on anonymous complaints, the
principles of natural justice must be upheld. The court emphasized that the
individual accused in such cases should be afforded the chance to present their
side and be heard.
The principles of natural justice have been embraced and upheld by the judiciary
to safeguard public rights against arbitrary decisions made by administrative
authorities. These principles inherently revolve around the concept of fairness,
ensuring that fairness prevails throughout the process.
At every stage of a procedure, if any authority strays from its judicial
function, the primary goal remains preventing miscarriages of justice. It is of
utmost importance to recognize that any decision or order that contravenes the
principles of natural justice will be rendered null and void. Therefore, it is
crucial to understand that natural justice principles are essential for the
validity of any administrative resolution.
The application of the principle of natural justice is not confined by strict
boundaries, but rather depends on the jurisdiction granted to the administrative
authority and the nature of the individual's affected rights.
Written By: Sakshi Beniwal,
4th Year B.A. LL.B. Student at Lovely Professional University, Phagwara, Punjab, India.