Principles Of Natural Justice

Principles of Natural Justice

The term “Principles of Natural Justice”, derived from the expression „Jus Natural” of the Roman Law, does not have force of law as they may or may not form part of statute but they are necessarily to be followed. The adherence to principles of natural justice as recognized by all civilized States is of supreme importance when a quasijudicial body embarks on determining disputes between the parties, or any administrative action involving civil consequences is in issue. These principles are well settled.

Principles of natural justice are those rules which have been laid down by the Courts as being the minimum protection of the rights of the individual against the arbitrary procedure that may be adopted by a judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative authority while making an order affecting those rights. These rules are intended to prevent such authority from doing injustice.

Natural Justice recognizes three principles:

  • Nemo debet essc judex in propria causa.
  • Audi alterem partem,
  • Speaking orders or reasoned decisions.

Nemo debet essc judex in propria causa

The first principle of impartiality roughly translated into English means nobody shall be a judge in his own cause or in a cause in which he is interested. This principle is more popularly known as the Doctrine of Bias. That is the authority sitting in judgment should be impartial and act without bias. To instill confidence in the system, justice should not merely be done but seen to be done.

Bias can be categorized in three categories namely pecuniary, personal and official.

Pecuniary bias

It is obvious that decision of the adjudicator would be affected if he is having pecuniary interest in the subject matter of the proceedings. In Mohapatra vs. State of Orissa (AIR 1984 S.C. 1572), it was held that when the author of a book was a member of the committee set up for selection of books, and his book was also under consideration by that committee, the possibility of bias could not be ruled out and the selection by that committee cannot be upheld. Thus, in addition to the direct personal interest, the test laid down by the court is to consider the real likelihood of bias. In other words, probability of bias is sufficient to invalidate the right to sit in judgment and there is no need to have the proof of actual bias.

Personal Bias

Personal bias may arise out of friendship, relationship, professional grievance or even enmity. Here again likelihood of bias is to be given more credence than for the actual bias. “it is difficult to prove the state of mind of a person. Therefore, we have to see whether there is reasonable ground for believing that he was likely to have been biased”. For example, in Tata Motor Challenge vs. Government of West Bengal, on the constitutional validity of Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, Justice Saumitra Pal recused himself from the case, citing that he knew some of the people in relation with the case personally.

Official Bias

Official bias may arise in cases where an administrator who enunciates, and then has to carry out an official policy, is entrusted with the duty of hearing objections from the concerned persons as to the implementation of the policy. Here the general rule is that the bias that may be said to be likely to arise because the adjudicator has a general interest in the subject matter and administration of the policy in his official capacity, would not operate as a disqualification. The mere fact that the Registrar of Cooperative Societies has a power of general supervision over all Co-operative Societies, does not amount to inherent bias in him so as to disqualify him for the purpose of acting as an arbitrator or judge under Section 18 of the Rules made under the Co-operative Societies /Act 1912 to decide disputes between members of a Society (Viraj vs. State of Orissa 1967 SC 158). Thus, no official bias arises while senior officers adjudicate the Customs or Central Excise or Service Tax cases even though the investigations in the case might have been conducted by their subordinates.

Audi alterem partem

The second principle of natural justice literally means ―to hear the other side‖. This is necessary for providing a fair hearing and no doubt the rule against bias would also be a part of the procedure. A corollary has been deduced from the above two rules and particularly the audi alteram partem rule, namely ‗qui aliquid statuerit parte inaudita alteram actquam licet dixerit, haud acquum facerit‘ that is, ‗he who shall decide anything without the other side having been heard, although he may have said what is right, will not have been what is right‘ or in other words, as it is now expressed, ‗justice should not only be done but should manifestly be seen to be done‘.

Speaking Orders or Reasoned Decision

The third aspect of natural justice requires speaking orders or reasoned decisions. It is now universally recognized that giving reasons for a certain decision is one of the fundamentals of good administration and a safeguard against arbitrariness. The refusal to give reasons may excite the suspicion that there are probably no good reasons to support the decision. Hence reasons are useful as they may reveal an error of law, the grounds for an appeal or simply remove what might otherwise be a lingering sense of injustice on the part of the unsuccessful party. When the order to be passed is an appealable order, the requirement of giving reasons would be a real requirement. Thus, reasons are also required to be given when the appellate or revisionary authority affirms the order of the lower authority.


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