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Understanding The Principle Of Natural Justice And Its Application In The Indian Legal System

The foundation of national order is justice. To ensure fair play, the Natural Justice Principle safeguards people from the arbitrary exercise of power. The term "natural justice" ensures that the processes are conducted with fairness, integrity, uprightness, reasonableness, neutrality, and equality. Natural Justice has long been a significant component of Administrative Law. Natural Justice refers to the fundamental principles of justice that a litigant has access to during a trial. It's been a part of the legal system since the dawn of time.

As defined by Lord Esher M.R.- 'the sense of what is right and wrong'. In a famous English decision in Abbott vs. Sullivan, it is stated that "the Principles of Natural Justice are easy to proclaim, but their precise extent is far less easy to define". It has been said that there is no single definition of Natural Justice, and that the basic ideas can only be enumerated with some accuracy.

Previously, the terms Natural Justice and Natural Law were commonly used interchangeably, but in recent years, a more specific meaning has been assigned to define particular standards of Judicial Procedure. The genesis and implementation of the Principles of Natural Justice will be discussed in the first portion of this article, and the evolution and importance of the Principles of Natural Justice in India will be discussed in the following segments. This paper will discuss the concept of natural justice, including its origins, principles, and, most significantly, its evolution across time and what it means presently.

Introduction
In the modern welfare state, the administration has evolved to have broad powers to meddle with people's lives and possessions. The Administration's powers are unlikely to be curtailed in the near future. In such a case, it becomes critical to ensure that the Administration executes its powers appropriately and after considering all relevant factors. In numerous respects, Natural Justice becomes a crucial procedural safeguard against the Administration's abuse, arbitrary, incorrect, or disproportionate use of its powers.

The rise of natural justice in the administrative process stems from the belief that, now that the administration has established substantive safeguards, some protection for a person's rights can be provided by requiring bureaucracies to follow proper processes when carrying out their duties. Natural justice is a great humanising notion aimed at imbuing legislation with fairness, ensuring justice, and preventing miscarriages of justice. It is an implicit mandatory requirement, whose violation renders the exercise of power unlawful.

It will always apply, regardless of how silent a statute is. There is no law in India that specifies the minimal procedure that administrative authorities must follow when making decisions. The principles of natural justice are referenced in this minimum fair procedure. Natural justice is a common law notion that represents higher procedural standards defined by the courts, which must be followed by every judicial, quasi-judicial, and administrative entity when making any judgement that affects a private individual's rights. Fairness, equity, and equality are all aspects of natural justice.

Origin Of The Concept Of Natural Justice:

Natural justice can be found throughout the early Greek and Roman empires, and it is even mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra.[1] The Indian notion of dharma is comparable to the concept of natural justice in more ways than one. The king was in charge of all state organs, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In this way, the king was obligated to revise and create the Code of Law in order to maintain peace and equality in the state. The important laws governing the nature of justice were established by Indian ruler Ashok. He was extremely concerned about fairness in the administration of justice, as well as alertness and tolerance in the application of penalties.

Similarly, the renowned Babylonian monarch Hammurabi guaranteed officials' commitments by decreeing that "any judge who makes an improper decision will be penalised and permanently removed from the bench." As can be seen, natural justice ideas are not new, but they are also not a man-made product. Its foundation was laid by various philosophers, jurists, rulers, and teachers. People should utilise practical wisdom or active reason to be consistent with a virtuous living, according to Aristotle, the greatest proponent of Natural Justice.

In this regard, we must recall paragraph 43 of the Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgement in Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner[2], which states: "Indeed, natural justice is a pervasive facet of secular law where a spiritual touch enlivens legislation, administration, and adjudication, to make fairness a creed of life." It comes in a variety of colours and tints, as well as many forms and shapes, and it applies when people are influenced by acts of power, except when legal legislation prohibits it.

It is the backbone of good government, recognised since the beginning, rather than a mystical testament of judge-made legislation. Indeed, the rule of law has possessed this mark of natural justice, which makes it social justice, since the legendary days of Adam—and Kautilya's Arthashastra. For the time being, we won't dive into these depths save to say that natural justice's roots and foliage are noble and not new-fangled. Not the hoary chords of folklore and history, but current legislation, case law, or other Extant principle must support its applicability today. Like the Anglo-American system, our jurisprudence has sanctioned its prevalence."

Principles Of Natural Justice:

The principles of natural justice are norms established by the courts as a basic level of protection for an individual's rights against arbitrary procedures used by a judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative authority when making an order affecting those rights.

The Frank Committee[3], or the Committee on Ministerial Power, established the following natural justice principles:
  1. No man should be condemned unheard,
  2. No man shall be judge in his own cause,
  3. A party is entitled to know the reasons for the decision,
  4. Making available a copy of statutory report.

However, the traditional English law recognises two principles of natural justice:
  1. Nemo Judex In Causa Sua (Rule Against Bias)

    The Latin phrase 'NEMO JUDEX IN CAUSA SUA' literally means 'No man shall be a judge in his own cause,' which means that the judging authority must be neutral and free of bias. It means that no one can act as a judge for a cause in which he has a financial or other interest. According to a party or topic, bias refers to an employable prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious. Such useful prejudice could be the result of a biased evaluation, an inclination, or fate to choose a case in a specific way that does not leave the psyche open. Financial gain manages the cost of the most thorough verification against impartiality. The emphasis is on objectivity when handling and selecting a matter.

    "It is evident that economic interest, however slight, in a subject matter of the proceedings, would entirely disqualify a member from functioning as a judge," Justice Gajendragadkar wrote in M/S Builders Supply Corporation v. The Union of India and others[4].

    In the case of A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India,[5] a member of the selection board took the precaution of withdrawing his name from consideration during the selection process. This precaution could not repair the flaw of being a judge in his own cause because he had participated in the deliberations when his rival candidates' names were being considered for merit selection. When just official capacity is involved in making a judgement in any topic, as opposed to having a personal interest, the stance may be different.

    In another instance, Manak Lal v. Prem Chand[6], a committee was formed to investigate a complaint against an Advocate, and the Chairman of the Committee was someone who had previously represented the complainant as counsel. The formation of such a committee was deemed improper, and it was noted that "in such instances, the question is never and must be whether a litigant could reasonably expect that a prejudice imputed to a member of the Tribunal may have operated against him in the ultimate decision of the Tribunal." However, such objections to the formation of committees or tribunals consisting of biased members should be raised as soon as possible before the start of the proceedings; otherwise, the objection would be considered waived.
     
  2. Audi Alteram Partem (Rule Of Fair Hearing)

    The second concept is Audi alteram partem, which states that no one should be condemned without first being heard, or that both sides must be heard before any decision is made. A man cannot be sentenced to the loss of property or liberty for an offence unless he has been given a fair chance to respond to the charges levelled against him. Many statutes contain provisions ensuring that a notice is given to an individual against whom a request is likely to be made before a decision is made, but there may be times when an authority is vested with the power to pass such requests that affect an individual's liberty or property, but the rule does not contain a provision for an earlier hearing.

In any event, it's important to remember that the appropriateness of natural justice principles is not governed by any statute. Regardless of whether or not there is a statutory provision, the rule must be followed without exception. "Where a statute authorises interference with possessions or other rights and is silent on the matter of hearing, the courts would follow rule of universal application and premised on plainest principles of natural justice," De Smith wrote in his book Judicial Review of Administrative Action.[7] According to Wade's book Administrative Law,[8] natural justice principles act as implicit mandatory standards, whose violation invalidates the exercise of power.

Even where there is no express provision for showing cause, it is the authority's duty to give a reasonable opportunity to be heard in a proposed action that affects an individual's rights, according to Smt. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India and others.[9] The nature of the role to be fulfilled by the authority with the right to take punitive or destructive action is said to imply this duty. "...Although there is no specific term in the statute mandating that the party be heard, but justice of common law would remedy the omission of Legislature," it was said in Cooper v. Sandworth Board of Works.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court stated in A.K. Kraipak's case that natural justice norms apply exclusively in areas not covered by any legitimately enacted statute. As a result, these principles complement the law of the land.

Reasoned Decision
The right to reason is an important component of good judicial review. It is the cornerstone of effective management. This duty to provide reasons for the decision is a novel approach in administrative law, as quasi-judicial authorities were previously not obligated to provide reasons for their decisions. The role of 'reason' in the legal system is to connect the dots between facts and decisions; it aids in the establishment of precedents, which adds more certainty to the system. The reasons must be concise, precise, convincing, and credible.

This trait operates on two premises: first, if the lower body has offered acceptable reasons and the upper body affirms that decision, no more explanations are required; nevertheless, if the higher body alters the lower body's judgement, reasons must be provided. Second, if the higher body affirms the lower body's decision without providing adequate reasons, the latter must do so. It was observed in the case of Manab Kumar Mitra vs State of Orissa[10] that it was impossible to know whether there was any application of mind without reason. The soul of the order is reason. The right to reason is an essential component of effective judicial review. Reason presupposes logic and collides with the evidence that leads to the actual findings.

Giving explanations is one of the basics of successful administration since it is the only obvious safeguard against possible unfairness and arbitrariness. In Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Education versus K S Gandhi,[11] the Supreme Court emphasised the importance of recording the reason in both quasi-judicial and administrative decisions. The absence of justifications might lead to arbitrariness and unhappiness on the side of the affected party.

The Supreme Court overturned an order cancelling a licence under the U P Sugarcane Dealers Licensing Order, 1962, in Mahabir Prasad vs The State of U. P, because the order was broad and did not include reasons. The Supreme Court declared in Harinagar Sugar Mills Ltd vs Shyam Sunder[12] that the authority must offer reasons even if the procedures are confidential. In Ratailal Bhogilal versus The State of Gujarat,[13] it was held that the authority is required to provide reasons even if doing so would be detrimental to the public interest.

Development Of Principles Of Natural Justice In India

Although the term "natural justice" is not used in the Indian Constitution, the notion of these norms is enshrined in the Preamble as "social and economic justice," which is defined as "fairness in social and economic activities of the society." The Supreme Court affirmed that natural justice rules must be read in conjunction with legal provisions, and that this is required where the rule prohibits the use of natural justice principles.

The issue before the Supreme Court in Union of India vs. Tulsiram Patel[14] was the interpretation of Articles 309, 310, and 311 of the Indian Constitution, particularly following the change of Provision 2 of Article 311 by the Constitution (42nd amendment) Act, 1976, the second proviso to that clause. The Supreme Court examined the principles of natural justice in depth, notwithstanding the fact that the decision concerned a service matter and the safeguards given on persons employed in civil capacities under the Union of India or the State by Article 311.

It was said that the principles of natural justice are not the product of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, and that Article 14 is their Constitutional Guardian rather than their begetter. The Supreme Court traced the principle's origins.

The Supreme Court reviewed the topic of how the principles of natural justice have been construed by courts and within what boundaries they should be confined in the case of Tulsiram Patel. It was asserted that two rules expressing the principles of natural justice in the judicial process, including quasi-judicial and administrative processes, were developed through a process of judicial interpretation.

They are as follows: a. no one shall be a judge in his own cause; b. hears the other side – Audi Alteram Partem; c. no one shall be a judge in his own cause; d A corollary has been inferred from the preceding two criteria, namely that whomever decides anything without hearing the opposing side will not have done what is right, even if he may have spoken what is right. In other words, as it is presently expressed, justice should not only be done but should appear to be done.

While considering the scope and breadth of the Canara Bank Officers Employees (behaviour) Regulations 1976, the Hon'ble Supreme Court stated in Canara Bank and others vs. Sri Debasis Das and others[15] that "Natural Justice" and "Audi Alteram Partem" had been thoroughly examined.

The observation in the said Judgment could be summarized as follows:
  • Natural Justice is another name for common sense justice. Natural Justice rules are not codified canons, but rather principles embedded in man's conscience.
  • Natural Justice is the liberal administration of justice based on common sense.
  • Natural principles and human values form the foundation of justice.
  • The administration of justice should be free of the restrictive and constrained concerns that are typically connected with a stated law containing language technicalities and grammatical niceties.
  • The form of justice is determined by its substance; the terms "natural justice" and "legal justice" do not give a watertight classification.
  • It is the content of justice that must be guaranteed by both, and when legal justice fails to accomplish this solemn goal, natural justice must intervene.
  • Natural Justice removes superfluous formalism, grammatical pedantry, and logical prevarication from legal justice.
  • It fills up the gaps left by a written law.
  • As Lord Buckmaster stated, no form or procedure should ever be allowed to prevent a litigant from presenting their defence.
  • When a quasi-judicial authority is deciding on a dispute between parties or other administrative action with civil implications, adherence to principles of Natural Justice as acknowledged by all civilised States is of paramount importance.
  • It's worth noting that it's the first leg of the Audi Alteram Partem principle.
  • The notice should inform the party about the matter.
  • He should be given enough time to prove his case. The concept of Natural Justice has evolved significantly over time. In the sense that the application of a particular rule of Natural Justice is contingent on the facts of the case, the statute controlling the matter, and so on. The previous difference between a judicial act and an administrative act is no longer valid. Every administrative order with civil repercussions must adhere to Natural Justice principles.
Conclusion
Following an examination of the concept of natural justice, it is clear that the goal behind the Principles of Natural Justice is simple: fair adjudication. The goal of natural justice principles is to define the difference between "right" and "wrong." The goal is to maintain objectivity and fairness. It also restores public confidence in the decision-making authorities.

The natural justice principles have been embraced by the judiciary to defend public rights from arbitrary decisions by administrative bodies. The basic goal throughout the proceedings is to avoid a miscarriage of justice. It's crucial to remember that following the principles of natural justice is just as important as following the decision of the adjudicating authorities.

Natural Justice is based on moral conscience and human ideals, and it is administered in a fair manner. The Rule of Law would be rendered invalid if the state did not carry out its functions in a just and equitable manner. Natural justice is viewed as the essence and essential notion for improving fair trials and gaining public trust.

The state can easily impart justice to society at large by following natural justice standards. The basic goal of natural justice principles is to promote fairness among ordinary people and acquire their trust in the system.

To accomplish the constitutional objective of social, political, and economic fairness, a social welfare state like India must execute a variety of functions. 'Justice' is an ideal that cannot be realised until all state actions are conducted in accordance with the law. As a result, every judicial, quasi-judicial, and administrative authority should embrace these methods in order to reach fair, just, and reasonable conclusions. Natural justice principles are procedural rules that strive to prevent miscarriages of justice by establishing an independent, impartial, and unbiased adjudicatory body that is governed by fair procedure and accompanied by justifiable grounds.

End-notes:
  1. Lawtimesjournal, Https://Lawtimesjournal.In/Concept-Evolution-And-Importance-Of-Natural-Justice/, 9th MAY 2022
  2. Mohinder Singh Gill Versus The Chief Election Commissioner and Others - Lnind 1977 Sc 332 1978 2
  3. Nios.Ac.In., Https://Nios.Ac.In/Media/Documents/Srsec338new/338_Introduction_To_Law_Eng/338_Introduction_To_Law_Eng_L6.Pdf, 9th MAY 2022.
  4. Builders Supply Corporation Versus The Union Of India Represented By The Commissioner Of - Lnind 1964 Sc 337 7
  5. A. K. Kraipak And Another Etc. Etc. V. Union Of India And Another - Lnind 1969 Sc 197 7
  6. Manak Lal Versus Dr Prem Chand - Lnind 1957 Sc 154 4
  7. De Smith, 'Judicial Review of Administrative Action' (1980), pp 161
  8. Wade, 'Administrative Law' (1977), pp 395
  9. Mrs. Maneka Gandhi V. Union Of India And Another - Lnind 1978 Sc 25 5
  10. Manab Kumar Mitra Versus State Of Orissa Lnind 1996 Ori 12
  11. Maharashtra State Board Of Secondary Andhigher Secondary Edu Vs. K.S. Gandhi And Ors. - Lnind 1991 Sc 712 2
  12. M S Harinagar Sugar Mills Ltd Versus Shyam Sundar Jhunjhunwala And Others - Lnind 1961 Sc 206 6
  13. Ratilal Bhogilal Shah Versus State Lnind 1965 Guj 36
  14. Union Of India And Another Versus Tulsiram Patel And Others - Lnind 1985 Sc 219 9
  15. Canara Bank And Ors V Debasis Das And Ors - LNIND 2003 SC 324 4

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