June 5, 2023
Administrative Law

Principle of Natural Justice

Saumya Garg ( 3RD Year, BBA LL.B.(H.), School of Law University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun) has Written this Article “Principle of Natural Justice”.

INTRODUCTION

The principle of natural justice is one of the fundamental principles of law. It ensures that justice is done impartially and fairly. The principle of natural justice is rooted in the idea that every individual has the right to a fair hearing, which is essential to protect their rights and ensure that justice is served. In India, the principle of natural justice has been enshrined in the Constitution, and it has been reinforced by various judicial pronouncements[1].

Although the phrase “principle of natural justice” is derived from the Latin word “jus natural,” it is strongly linked to common law and moral principles. It is a natural law that is unrelated to any statute or constitution. All citizens of civilised governments place the highest emphasis on adherence to the idea of natural justice. With the passage of time and the establishment of social, just, and economic statutory protection for employees during the early days of fair practice, when industrial zones were regulated by tight and rigid legislation to hire and fire, the Supreme Court issued its instruction[2].

Sometimes the reasonable conclusion is meaningless; what matters is the process and the individuals involved in reaching the reasonable decision. Moreover, It is not limited by the concept of “fairness,” and it may take on a range of colours and tones depending on the context. Natural justice is the process of making an educated and fair decision about a certain topic.

MEANING AND SCOPE OF NATURAL JUSTICE

The principle of natural justice is based on the concept of fairness and equity. The principle requires that every person should be given a fair hearing before any decision is taken against them. This principle is essential to ensure that justice is served and that the rights of individuals are protected.

COMPONENTS OF THE PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE:

  1. THE RULE AGAINST BIAS – This rule states that any person who is involved in making a decision must be impartial and unbiased. This means that they should not have any personal interest in the matter, and they should not be influenced by any external factors[3].
  2. THE RIGHT TO A FAIR HEARING – This right ensures that every person has the opportunity to present their case before a decision is taken against them. This includes the right to be heard, the right to be represented, the right to call witnesses, and the right to cross-examine witnesses[4].
  3. REASONED DECISION – which refers to a justified and lawful order, judgement, or other court action being taken by the presiding authorities[5].

PURPOSE OF THE PRINCIPLE

  • To ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard. Fairness is a notion that is used to address legal gaps and loopholes. To protect basic rights. The Constitution’s core parts. There was no injustice committed[6].
  • Natural justice principles should be free of prejudice, parties should be given a fair opportunity to be heard. Also that the court should notify all parties of the reasons and conclusions reached.
  • According to the Supreme Court, the goal of judicial and administrative organisations is to achieve a reasonable and justifiable conclusion. Natural justice’s principal purpose is to prevent miscarriages of justice. Three important procedures relating to natural justice principles were supplied by a group known as “Ministers Power.” These are their names:
  • Nobody should be a judge in their own case.
  • No one may be condemned unless they have been heard.
  • Every explanation and decision taken by the authority must be disclosed to the party[7].

NATURAL JUSTICE ALONGSIDE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW

Administrative law has elements of common law, particularly when it comes to problems of public interest. It was founded at a period when the way the State worked had altered in the years after independence, and societal welfare had given primacy. In addition to a unilateral choice, the law provides discretion and norms for using authority to keep it in control[8].

K. C. Davis’ point of view defines administrative law as “the authorities and practises of administrative agencies, notably the norms regulating judicial review of administrative action.” The act under consideration has a long history dating back to it. Natural justice ideas are used in administrative procedures such as fair trials, just governance, and the selective use of managerial authority to prevent the abuse of wide discretion[9].

Natural justice is distinguished by fairness, and the ideas that guide it are also known as substantial justice, basic justice, universal justice, or fair play in action. The basics of natural justice were first brought to light in India in the case of “Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978[10].”

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NATURAL JUSTICE IN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW

The primary purpose of administrative law under common law is to resolve disputes between the government and the general population. Post-independence development in India is the growth of administrative law. The most significant explanation for the evolution of administrative law is the alteration of the State notion[11].

The government has evolved into a welfare and law enforcement state. As a consequence, the administrative will has been carried out. Administrative law provides for the choosing of conscience, but only in line with justice principles, not with a single will. This legislation gives the executive latitude and also outlines how to exercise that power. Absolute power, as a concept, cannot lead to arbitrary behaviour. Administrative law seeks to limit the use of discretion. Arbitrariness and injustice result in broad discretion. If discretion is being abused or overused, the judiciary may step in. Nevertheless, it can only intervene if someone believes that an administrative authority’s conduct has breached their rights[12].

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE

Natural justice is a fundamental principle of administrative law that requires decision-making processes to be fair and impartial. It involves the idea that all parties involved in a decision-making process have the right to be heard, to receive notice of the issues involved, and to be treated fairly and without bias[13].

Moreover, In recent years, there have been several significant developments in the principle of natural justice in administrative law. Here are a few examples:

Duty to give reasons:

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the duty of decision-makers to provide reasons for their decisions. This duty is also seen as an important part of the principle of natural justice. It helps to ensure that decision-makers are accountable for their actions. Many administrative tribunals and courts now require decision-makers to provide reasons for their decisions, and failure to do so can result in a decision being set aside or overturned.

Bias and the appearance of bias:

The principle of natural justice requires decision-makers to be unbiased and impartial. However, it is not always easy to determine whether a decision-maker is biased or not. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of the appearance of bias. This means that even if a decision-maker is not actually biased, they may be perceived as biased by an objective observer. As a result, decision-makers are expected to take steps to avoid any appearance of bias.

Procedural fairness and the right to be heard:

Procedural fairness is a key aspect of the principle of natural justice. It requires decision-makers to provide all parties with the opportunity to be heard and to present evidence. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of procedural fairness in administrative law. Moreover, Decision-makers are expected to ensure that all parties have a fair opportunity to present their case and that their decisions are based on all the relevant facts and evidence.

Remedies for breaches of natural justice:

There has been a growing recognition of the need for effective remedies when there has been a breach of natural justice. This includes not only the right to have a decision reviewed but also the right to seek compensation or other forms of relief. In recent years, some courts and tribunals have been more willing to award damages or other remedies in cases where there has been a breach of natural justice.

Overall, the principle of natural justice remains an important part of administrative law, and recent developments have highlighted the importance of procedural fairness, the duty to give reasons, and the need for effective remedies for breaches of natural justice.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THERE IS A BREACH OF THE PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW

When there is a breach of the principle of natural justice in administrative law, there are several possible consequences, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Some of the common consequences of a breach of natural justice include[14]:

The decision set aside or overturned:

If a decision-making process is found to have breached the principle of natural justice, the decision may be set aside or overturned. This also means that the decision will no longer have a legal effect, and the decision-maker may be required to reconsider the matter and make a new decision in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

Compensation or other remedies:

In some cases, a breach of natural justice may entitle the affected party to compensation or other remedies. For example, if a party was denied the right to be heard in a decision-making process, they may be entitled to compensation for any losses suffered as a result.

Public scrutiny or criticism:

Breaches of natural justice can also lead to public scrutiny or criticism of the decision-making process or the decision-maker involved. Moreover, This can be damaging to the reputation of the decision-maker or the organization they represent and may lead to calls for changes to be made to improve the fairness and transparency of the decision-making process.

Legal action:

In some cases, a breach of natural justice may give rise to a legal cause of action. For example, a party may bring a judicial review or administrative law challenge to the decision, seeking to have the decision set aside or overturned.

Overall, the consequences of a breach of the principle of natural justice will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the nature of the breach. However, it is important for decision-makers to be aware of the principle of natural justice and to ensure that their decision-making processes are fair, transparent, and impartial.

JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS

The principle of natural justice has been reinforced by various judicial pronouncements in India. Some of the important pronouncements are:

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)[15] – In this case, the Supreme Court of India held that the right to a fair hearing is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court also held that the principle of natural justice is not a rigid and inflexible principle. It can be modified to suit the exigencies of the situation.

A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India (1970)[16] – In this case, the Supreme Court held that the rule against bias is an essential element of the principle of natural justice. The Court also held that the rule against bias applies not only to the decision-maker but also to any person who is involved in the decision-making process.

Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel (1985)[17] In this case, the Supreme Court held that the right to a fair hearing includes the right to be heard by an impartial tribunal. The Court also held that the right to a fair hearing is a basic principle of natural justice, and it cannot be waived.

PROVISIONS IN INDIA

The principle of natural justice has been enshrined in the Constitution of India. It has been reinforced by various laws and regulations. Some of the important provisions are[18]:

  • Article 14 of the Constitution – This article provides for the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law. This ensures that every person is treated equally before the law, and they are not discriminated against on any ground.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution – This article provides for the right to life and personal liberty. This also includes the right to a fair hearing, which is an essential component of natural justice.
  • The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 – This act provides for the establishment of administrative tribunals to adjudicate disputes relating to recruitment, promotion, and service conditions of persons appointed to public services and posts.

CONCLUSION

The principle of natural justice is a fundamental principle of law, it ensures that justice is done impartially and fairly. The principle of natural justice includes the rule against bias and the right to a fair hearing. Moreover, In India, the principle of natural justice has been enshrined in the Constitution. It has been reinforced by various judicial pronouncements. Also, It is essential for decision-makers to ensure that all parties involved in a decision-making process are given a fair opportunity to be heard and that decisions are based on all the relevant facts and evidence.

Recent developments in the principle of natural justice have emphasized the importance of procedural fairness, the duty to give reasons, and the need for effective remedies for breaches of natural justice. However, As administrative law continues to evolve, the principle of natural justice will remain a critical aspect of ensuring fairness, accountability, and transparency in decision-making processes.

Also Read: The Doctrine of Eclipse and Doctrine of Severability. Click Here!


[1] Rakshita, Pragya, Application of Principles of Natural Justice to Administrative Actions (June 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3622103

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://articles.manupatra.com/article-details/Natural-Justice (Last seen 11:25Am 04/04/2023)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Supra at 3.

[6] Chatterji, A. (1968). NATURAL JUSTICE AND REASONED DECISIONS. Journal of the Indian Law Institute, 10(2), 241–258. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43949992

[7] Ibid.

[8] Supra at 6.

[9] Ibid.

[10] AIR 1978 SC 597

[11] https://www.ijbmi.org/papers/Vol(5)1/version-2/E050102022024.pdf (Last seen 11:50 Am 04/04/2023)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Supra at 3.      

[14] Supra at 1.

[15] AIR 1978 SC 597

[16] AIR 1970 SC 150

[17] 1985 AIR 1416

[18] Supra at 1.

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