Natural justice norms have evolved with the advancement of civilisation, and
their content is frequently used to assess the level of civilisation and Rule of
Law in a given culture. To safeguard himself from the excesses of organised
authority, man has always turned to someone outside of himself. Only God and his
divine or natural law, to which all temporal laws and deeds must conform, may be
such a person. This is where the concept of natural justice came from.
rationality, equity, and equality are all aspects of natural justice. Natural
justice is a concept in common law that is the common-law world's equivalent of
the American 'procedural due procedures.' Natural justice refers to higher
procedural norms defined by judges that must be followed by every administrative
agency when making any judgement that affects a private individual's rights.
In India, the principles of natural justice are firmly grounded in Article
14 and 21 of the Constitution. Principles of natural justice are attracted
whenever a person suffers a civil consequence or a prejudice is caused to him in
any administrative action.
Mainly there are two principles:
Audi Alteram Partem: the rule of fair hearing
- Nemo judex in causa sua, esse debet:
no one is judge in his own cause, or
the rule against bias.
- Audi alteram partem:
no one should be condemned unheard.
The notion of audi alteram partem is the foundation of natural justice. The term
audi alteram partem simply means that everyone should have the opportunity to
defend themselves. No one should be convicted without a hearing because of the
doctrine's omnipotence. This concept has been applied to administrative action
in order to offer fairness and justice to individuals who have been wronged. Its
application is based on the factual matrix and is intended to improve
administrative efficiency, expediency, and fairness.
The procedure ought to be
fair and just. This is a principle that must be followed by every civilised
community. This rule has a corollary: qui aliquid statuerit, parte inaudita
altera aequum licet dixit, haud aequum facit, i.e., anyone who makes a decision
without hearing the other side will not do what is right, even if he claims to
be doing so. The rule of fair hearing applies to every stage of an
administrative adjudication, from notification to final conclusion, because it
is a code of procedure.
Exception To Reasoned Order:
The word 'notice' comes from the Latin word 'notitia,' which literally means 'to
be known.' Any hearing begins with a notice. A person cannot defend himself
unless he understands the subject and problems involved in the case. A decision
made without notification is null and void from the start.
The obligation of
notice is neither statutory nor specified anywhere in India or England, but it
is in the Administrative Procedures Act of the United States, Section
5(a). Management of Northern Railway Co-operative Society v. Industrial Tribunal
Rajasthan, the Supreme Court established the following requirements for
Failure to issue a notice when a statute clearly requires it renders the
activity null and void. Under Article 22 of the Indian Constitution,
detainees must be informed of the reasons for their incarceration, and if the
reasons are vague, the detention order may be revoked by the court. The reasons
for the proposed action must be exact, specific, and unequivocal in the
notification. A notification is considered confusing if it just mentions the
charges without saying what action will be done.
- Notice to be clear, specific and unambiguous.
- Must contain time, nature and place of hearing.
- Must have statement of charges and must reveal other relevant material
for the party.
- Must provide a reasonable opportunity to the other party.
A legal notice is an important tool for the parties to communicate with one
another. A well-drafted legal notice can help parties resolve their differences
without having to go through the formality of a formal legal procedure, saving
both, time and money.
- Disclosure of Evidence-Right of Other Party to Know Evidence:
Anyone facing an administrative authority with adjudicatory responsibilities has
a right to know what evidence will be used against them. This premise was
established in Dhakeshwari Cotton Mills Ltd v. CIT. The department's
information to the appellate income tax tribunal was not given in this case.
According to the Supreme Court, the assessee was not allowed a fair hearing. A
summary of the material's contents is sufficient, according to the court, as
long as it is not misleading. Whatever approach is utilised, the essential
concept remains the same: nothing should be used against someone who has not
been informed of the situation.
In Suresh Koshy v University of Kerala, the question was whether the
investigation report had to be released to the other party if the evidence has
already been disclosed to the accused. The Supreme Court decided that
non-disclosure does not imply that a person's right to know evidence has been
violated because he knows the evidence in effect. Because they are institutional
judgments for which a reasonable chance has been offered, disciplinary sanctions
based on non-disclosed investigation reports are not in breach of the audi
alteram partem. The report is not a proof, but rather a conclusion.
Exception To Right To Know The Evidence:
There may be times when the record is so large that sharing it with the accused
is physically impossible. To deal with such a situation, Section 207 of
CrPC's second proviso allows the magistrate to withhold extensive documents from
the accused and merely allow inspection. However, this is the only codified
basis for withholding documents from the accused. In all other circumstances,
the accused must be given access to the materials relied on by the prosecution
in order to have a fair trial. Many courts now order investigating agencies to
create an electronic file containing extensive information and provide it to the
What about any audio or video evidence that the prosecution may have? In most
situations, the accused is entitled to a copy of the audio/video records that
the prosecution is relying on. Because such records aren't 'voluminous,' they
can't even be subject to the magistrate's discretion. What if, in cases of
sexual offences, such records contain the identity of the woman victim? In the
case of P Gopalkrishnan @ Dileep v. State of Kerala & Anr., the Supreme Court
of India was asked to strike a balance between an accused's right to a fair
trial and the victim's right to privacy and dignity. And how this is
Despite the fact that it is customary to provide a copy of all evidence relied
on by the prosecution to the accused, the Apex Court made an exception in the
above-mentioned instance, refusing to allow the accused to get a copy of the
video due to the sensitivity of the crime. Exceptions like these can only be
made based on the unique facts and circumstances of each instance.
- Opportunity to Rebut the Case:
- Cross Examination:
This entitlement is based on the assumption that the defendant has been informed
of the evidence against him. It's the most powerful method for eliciting and
establishing truth. Cross-examination is not required in administrative
adjudication unless the circumstances are such that the individual would be
unable to make an adequate defence without it. According to the Supreme Court
in Town Area Committee v. Jagdish Prasad, the department filed the charge
sheet, received an explanation, and then issued the dismissal decision right
The ruling was overturned by the court, which stated that the right to a fair
hearing includes the ability to question witnesses and submit evidence. In
externment processes and hearings before customs authorities to ascertain
whether objects were smuggled or not, however, the right to cross-examination
was judged not to be an element of natural justice.
- Exception To Rule Regarding Cross Examination
Three girls in the ladies' hostel complained to the principal in Hira Nath Misra
v. Rajendra Medical Collegecase that boys jumped into the dorm by turning
off the lights and molested them. An investigation committee was formed, and the
girls used images to identify the boys. The lads were given the gist of the
evidence by the committee without the names of the girls who had complained.
lads were charged and expelled as a result of the procedures. It was challenged
in the Supreme Court on two grounds: the evidence was gathered without the
participation of boys, and there was no opportunity for cross examination.
The Supreme Court ruled that because there is a risk of future harassment,
retaliation, and the like, cross examination is not required under certain
situations. This is not, however, a general rule of exception and is usually
exclusively applied in the setting of a school.
- Legal Representation
Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code in India contains this regulation.
"Legal representation of right quality before the statutory tribunal is
desirable," De Smith writes in his book Judicial Review, "and a person
threatened with social or financial ruin by disciplinary proceedings in a purely
domestic forum may be gravely prejudiced if he is denied legal
The Supreme Court held in M.H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra that the right
to personal liberty entails the State providing free legal services to a
prisoner who is indigent or otherwise unable to obtain legal assistance where
the ends of justice require it, while importing the concept of "fair procedure"
into Article 21 of the Constitution. In Khatri v. State of Bihar, it was
decided that even if accused persons are held in detention before trial, they
should have legal representation. Under the Industrial Disputes Act, legal
representation is also a legal entitlement. The Factories Act, on the other
hand, makes it illegal, while other laws remain mute.
Because oral hearing is not included in the basic standards of fairness, legal
counsel is not considered an important part of the rule of natural justice in
most administrative hearings. Attorneys tend to compound problems, lengthen
processes, and detract from the proceedings' core informality; therefore this
refusal of legal assistance is fair. It's also defended on the grounds that
having one's own counsel gives the wealthy an advantage over the poor, who can't
afford a good lawyer.
- No Evidence should be Taken in the Absence of the Other Party:
The court evaluated how ex parte testimony obtained in the absence of the other
party violates the principle of fair hearing in Errington v. Minister of
Health.Jarrow Corporation, according to the facts, issued a clearing order
in 1933 for the demolition of several structures deemed unfit for human
occupancy and submitted it to the Ministry of Health for approval. The owners of
the building were given a hearing after an investigation was performed.
owners were not told of the visit, so some ministry workers returned to the spot
and collected evidence. After examining the information gathered, the minister
confirmed the clearance order. The clearance judgement was overturned by the
court after a challenge, and one of the reasons provided was that the ex parte
remarks made in the absence of the other party without giving the other party an
opportunity to respond violated established natural justice rules.
In Hira Nath Mishra v. Principle, Rajendra Medical College, the Supreme
Court reaffirmed this stance. In this case, the females at a medical college
reported misbehaviour by the lads in the girl's hostel to the Principle. The
girls' testimony was recorded by the Principle's inquiry committee, but the
appellants were not present. The girls were also able to identify the appellants
from the images.
The committee found the appellants guilty and issued an
expulsion order against them. The expulsion order was challenged in court, and
one of the grounds was that the evidence was gathered behind their backs. The
girls would not have made the remarks in front of the appellants unless they
were extremely terrified of retaliation and harassment, according to the court.
Whatever evidence was acquired behind the appellants' backs was brought to their
attention in this case, and they were given the chance to contradict it.
- Right To Present The Case And Evidence:
This can be done either verbally or in writing. According to the courts, an
oral/personal hearing is not required for a fair hearing unless the
circumstances are so peculiar that a person would be unable to mount an
effective defence without it. As a result, in situations involving intricate
legal and technical concerns or where the stakes are exceedingly high, oral
hearing will become a component of fair hearing. As a result, in the absence of
a statutory requirement for an oral hearing, courts will determine the outcome
of each case based on its unique facts and circumstances.
The court refused to overrule the President of India's order in Union of India
v. J. P. Mitter,finding that the President refused to allow an oral hearing
even when sought in a dispute about the age of a high court judge. If a person
is given the opportunity to submit his case in writing, the court found that
there is no violation of natural justice principles if an oral hearing is not
In addition, the administrative authority must allow ample time for the
presentation of evidence, whether testimonial or documentary. In Dwarkeshwari
Cotton Mills Ltd. v. CIT, the Supreme Court ruled that the administrative
authority's decision was overturned because the assessee was denied the
opportunity to provide relevant evidence, which violated the requirement of fair
- One Who Hears Must Decide:
In one essential way, the judicial procedure varies from the administrative
process. While the judiciary's sole function is to resolve disputes, an
administrative authority may be required to do a variety of other tasks in
addition to adjudication. As a result, in the instance of the two processes, two
different adjudication methods have been adopted. A judge hears and determines
his or her own cases, but this may not be the case with an administrative body.
An administrative authority not only accepts, but is required to accept, the aid
of subordinates in order to carry out the wide range of responsibilities
entrusted to it.
It's possible that one authority will hear and another will
decide. This split in the decision-making process goes against the judicial
process' essential notion, but it is unavoidable in the current administrative
process. Administrative law's job is to reconcile the inevitability of the
administrative process with fairness from the perspective of the individual.
Fundamental notions of fair play or natural justice, as they are known in the
United Kingdom, or the doctrine of due process enshrined in the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution, or the requirement of clauses (5)
and (6) of article 19 of the Indian Constitution that the State's restrictions
on such rights must be reasonable and in the public interest.
In criminal and civil cases, the judge who handled the proceedings, heard
evidence, and so on must conclude, according to Section 350 of the Criminal
Procedure Code and Order 18, Rule 15 of the Civil Procedure
Code, respectively. If a judge dies, gets transferred, or is otherwise
prohibited from making a decision, the new judge can use the former judge's
appreciation of evidence.
An administrative action was challenged in Gullupalli Nageshwara Rao v.
APSRTC on the grounds that the person who makes the decisions did not
listen. In this case, the petitioners challenged the government's order
approving the road nationalisation scheme. The Secretary of the Department of
Transportation presided over the hearing, but the Chief Minister made the final
decision. The Supreme Court found that this shared responsibility breached the
concept of fair hearing since the person making the decision will not be able to
explain his uncertainties with reasoned thinking if he does not hear the
In administrative law, this principle stems from Lord Denning's minority opinion
in Lord Denning in Breen v. Amalgamated Engineering Union which concluded
that the person who hears must decide. Where a member was missing, a domestic
trade union tribunal made a decision after hearings. Lord Denning overturned
House of Lords rulings, stating that there can't be 5 members hearing and just 4
In American law, the term "institutional or anonymous decisions" relates to the
principle of "one who decides must hear," which is popular in common law states.
Many administrative proceedings, unlike law courts, are not decided by a single
person from start to finish. Often, one individual hears something and then
makes a decision. The distribution of tasks may be detrimental to the concept of
a fair hearing.
Only the individual who has heard the arguments and facts, as well as observed
the demeanour of witnesses, if any, is qualified to make an informed judgement.
This guideline is also intended to reassure the complaining party that he has
had every opportunity to convey his point of view to the person who matters
most. As a result, justice would not only be served, but it would also appear to
- Reasoned Decision/Speaking Order:
In India, unless there is a specific statutory need, administrative authorities
are not required to provide explanations for their decisions. If the statute
under which the agency operates requires reasoned decisions, courts consider it
mandatory for the agency to provide reasons, which should not be "rubber-stamp"
reasons but a brief, clear statement establishing a link between the material on
which certain conclusions are based and the actual conclusions.
The Supreme Court of India declared in Somdatt Dutta v Union of Indiathat,
despite the lack of provisions, a court martial must disclose reasons. As a
result, if a confirming authority makes a decision that is consistent with the
original, there is no need to provide new grounds. If the confirming authority
disagrees, reasons must be provided.
Similarly, if the appellate authority
deviates from a previous or initial ruling, grounds must be provided. The
necessity of a reasoned conclusion must be followed by quasi-judicial and
administrative agencies. This case also altered the position created by
Tarachand. Reasons must now be presented only when an institutional
authority's decision is opposed to the inquiry report.
The need for reasons to be recorded is greater when the order is passed in the
initial stage. If the appellate or revisional authority confirms the challenged
order, the appellate or revisional authority does not need to give separate
reasons if the grounds in the challenged order are acceptable to the appellate
or revisional authority. Unless the responsibility has been waived expressly or
by necessary inference, an administrative agency possessing judicial or
quasi-judicial powers is required to record the reasons for its judgement.
The Supreme Court held in State of Maharashtra v. Salem Hasan Khanthat in
circumstances when supplying reasons will contradict the aim of the ruling,
reasons may be excluded. In this instance, the order was issued to safeguard the
evidence and witnesses from the defendant, and the Supreme Court decided that if
grounds could not be provided, the order would not be invalidated.
Exceptions to the Rule of Natural Justice
The term "exception" in the context of natural justice is a misnomer, because
the audi alteram partem norm is held inapplicable to these exclusionary
instances not as an exception to "fair play in action," but because there is
nothing wrong with not providing an opportunity to present a case or meet.
Hearing must be rare and exceptional in any civilised society. Natural law
principles are employed. Justice can be omitted openly or by necessary inference
under the Indian constitution Articles 14 and Article 21 if the
standards of law are followed.
Some of The exceptions to rule of natural justice are mentioned below:
In Extraordinary circumstances of Urgency, where fast action, prevention, or
remedial action is necessary, the requirement for notice and hearing may be
waived. As a result, if the opportunity to be heard would obstruct the process,
it would be prohibited by law. Post-decisional hearings are crucial for
administrative and judicial gentlemanliness, even in an emergency situation
concerning people's vital rights.
Otherwise, some form of pre-decisional hearing, no matter how rudimentary, must
be offered, based on the facts of each case. The administrative decision to
suspend natural justice norms due to an emergency situation is not final. The
outcome of such a circumstance might be examined by court. The Hon'ble Supreme
Court ruled in Malak Singh v. State of Punjab and Haryana
police surveillance record is a confidential document.
The person whose name is on the registry, as well as any other member of the
public, are not allowed to look at it. Furthermore, the court ruled that
adopting natural justice principles in such a situation may undermine the entire
point of monitoring, and that there is a substantial likelihood that justice
goals will be destroyed rather than realised.
In the case of Purely Administrative Matters, a university student was dismissed
from the role without a pre-decisional hearing on the basis of poor academic
performance. The Supreme Court ruled in Jawahar Lal Nehru University v. B.S.
 that the nature of academic adjudication appears to preclude any
right to a hearing. As a result, natural justice norms may be disregarded if
competent academic authorities monitor and evaluate a student's work over time
and declare it deficient.
However, this exemption does not apply to disciplinary matters or when the
academic body performs non-academic duties. The court has to consider
practicability of situation also. Where the Concept of Impracticality such as
In R. Radhakrishnan v. Osmania University
, where the university
cancelled the whole MBA entrance examination due to mass coping, the court
determined that all candidates should be given notice and a hearing.
In a scenario that has grown to national proportions, it is not feasible. As a
result, the court acknowledged the absence of Administrative
Impracticability standards from natural justice principles.
If the administrative authority's action is a suspension order in the form of
an Interim Preventative Measure rather than a final order, natural justice
principles may be waived. In the case of Abhay Kumar v. K Srinivasan
university imposed an injunction barring the student from entering the campus or
attending classes while he is facing criminal charges for stabbing a fellow
student. Due to a lack of natural justice, this order was reversed.
While dismissing the claim, the Delhi High Court ruled that such an order might
be compared to a prophylactic suspension pending investigation to safeguard
campus peace. No applicability of principle of natural justice.
In cases of Legislative Actions as these laws define a policy without respect to
a single individual, natural justice rules do not apply to legislative action,
whether plenary or subordinate. Natural justice principles can also be excluded
by a constitutional provision based on the same logic. The Indian Constitution
specifically excludes natural justice concepts in Articles 22, 31A,
31B, 31C, and 311(2).
Courts can overturn a legislative exclusion if it is arbitrary, unreasonable, or
unfair, as stated in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court
concluded in Union of India v. Cynamide India Ltd.
 that the
government did not breach any natural justice principles when it issued a
notification regulating the price of certain drugs. Natural justice principles
did not apply since the notification was based on a legislative act rather than
an administrative one, the Court reasoned.
The principles of natural justice are not applicable when No Right Of The Person
Is Infringed by any statute or where no such right arises from common law.
In Andhra Steel Corporation v. A.P. State Electricity Board,
 the court held
that unless the law requires differently or the authority is bound by promissory
estoppels, a concession can be cancelled at any time without providing affected
parties an opportunity to be heard. If he is the only person competent or
empowered to determine that case or take that action, he will not be
disqualified on the basis of bias against him.
There will be no other way to
address the matter if this exception is not given, and the entire government
would come to a halt. The need, on the other hand, must be genuine and honest.
The constitutional validity of the Bhopal Gas Disaster (Processing of Claims)
Act, 1985, was challenged the court dismissed the claim, holding that even
if the logic was correct, the law of necessity would apply to the situation
because no other sovereign power could represent the whole class of gas victims,
and so natural justice standards would not be applied as being Statutory
Exception or Necessity.
In the honourable Supreme Court concluded that natural justice grounds are not
invoked when a contract is cancelled in any Contractual Field. In State of
Gujarat v. M.P. Shah Charitable Trust,the honourable Supreme Court decided
that the termination of an arrangement/agreement is neither a quasi-judicial nor
an administrative act, no judicial duty is generated.
If the executive powers provided to government are used to make policy choice
than the natural justice principle are ignored as it would be Against Public
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India concluded in Balco Employees Union v. Union
of India. The Court found that it cannot be challenged on the basis of
natural justice principles unless the policy choice to disinvest is capricious,
arbitrary, illegal, or ignorant, and does not run counter to the law.
The principle of natural justice has emerged since the beginning of mankind. The
maxim "Audi Alteram Partem" is the foundation stone of natural justice. This
maxim is based on the principle of just, fairness and equity. It is a broader
concept than it appears and is one of the essential principles of natural
justice; in fact, thinking about natural justice without considering the idea of
audi alteram partem would be wrong.
It refers to the right to a fair hearing. This sentence may appear simple, yet
it encompasses the entire tale of justice, from the delivery of notice to the
post-decisional hearing. However, there are several instances where this rule is
not observed. These exclusions, however, must be justified, there needs to be a
rationale for ignoring this principle, which is the foundation of justice.
The aspects of this dictum, however, are eased under particularly extreme
circumstances. The situation of emergency, impracticality, contractual
arrangement, interim order, and so on is examples of these conditions.
Considering the issue of deciding where to skip and where not to. There is no
method for calculating this in a straitjacket. It is rather contingent on the
facts and circumstances of the situation.
The presiding judge should strike a balance between the seriousness of both
parties' facts and circumstances. But, based on the preceding examples, we may
conclude that audi alteram partem, or the right to a fair hearing, is a
universal idea. However, it should be recognised that even when the provisions
are eased, justice always prevails.
- India Const. art. 14
- India Const. art. 21.
- AIR 1967 SC 1182.
- India Const. art. 22.
- 1954/26 ITR 775 (SC).
- AIR 1969 SC 198.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, 207, No. 2, Acts of Parliament,
- Ansh Singh Luthra, Right of Accused to copies of Evidence v. Right to
Privacy of Victim: A need for guidelines, Bar&Bench (Dec. 15, 2019, 10:00
- (2005) 11 SCC 45.
- (1979) 1 SCC 60.
- AIR 1973 SC 1260.
- Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, 304, No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908
- Kramer, R. Review of Judicial Review of Administrative Action, by S. A.
de Smith, 12 J Legal Educ. 302, (1959).
- (1978) 3 SCC 544.
- India Const. art. 21.
- (1981) 2 SCC 493.
- (1934) All ER 154.
- AIR 1973 SC 1260.
- AIR 1957 Cal 190.
- 1954/26 ITR 775 (SC).
- Jain, S. N., The One Who Decides Must Hear. Journal of the Indian Law
Institute, 16(3) 1974, 347-351. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43950373.
- Deshpande, V. S., "The One Who Decides Must Hear." Journal of the Indian
Law Institute, 2 (3) 1960, 423-434. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43953766.
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974, 350, No. 2, Acts of Parliament of
India, 1974 (India).
- Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, order 18, rule 15, No. 5, Acts of
Parliament of India, 1908 (India).
- AIR 1959 SC 308 (29).
- 1971 (1) All ER 1148.
- AIR 1969 SC 414.
- Tarachand v. Delhi Municipality, AIR 1977 SC 567.
- (1989) 2 SCC 316.
- India Const. art. 14.
- India Const. art. 21.
- (1981) 1 SCC 420.
- (1980) 4 SCC 480.
- AIR 1974 AP 283.
- AIR 1981 Del 381.
- India Const. art. 22.
- India Const. art. 31A.
- India Const. art. 31B.
- India Const. art. 31C.
- India Const. art. 311(2).
- (1987) 2 SCC 720.
- (1991) 3 SCC 263.
- The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, No. 21,
Acts of Parliament of India, 1985 (India).
- (1994) 3 SCC 552.
- (2002) 2 SCC 333.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Runjhun Sharma
Authentication No: AR211056723096-20-0422