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Principles of Natural Justice and Constitution of India | Important Acts and Laws for Judiciary Exams PDF Download

Introduction

  • Principle of Natural Justice is derived from the word ‘Jus Natural’ of the Roman law and is closely related to Common law and moral principles but is not codified. It is a law of nature which is not derived from any statute or constitution. The principle of natural justice is adhered to by all the citizens of a civilized State with supreme importance. 
  • In the ancient days of fair practice, at the time when industrial areas ruled with a harsh and rigid law to hire and fire, the Supreme Court gave its command with the passage of duration and establishment of social justice and economic statutory protection for the workmen.

Origin and Significance

  • The Principle of Natural Justice stems from the Roman law, closely linked to Common law and moral principles, although not formally codified.
  • It represents a law inherent in nature, not emanating from statutes or constitutions.
  • It is a fundamental principle upheld by all members of a civilized society with utmost importance.

Historical Context

  • In the past, during times of unfair practices, especially in industrial settings with harsh hiring and firing policies, the Supreme Court intervened to establish social, judicial, and economic protections for workers over time.

Essence of Natural Justice

  • Natural justice entails a rational and fair decision-making process concerning specific issues.
  • It emphasizes the procedure of decision-making and the involvement of relevant parties rather than solely focusing on the outcome.
  • It transcends mere 'fairness,' exhibiting various nuances and interpretations depending on the context.

Purpose of the Principle

  • To provide equal opportunity of being heard: This ensures that all parties involved have the chance to present their side of the story and voice their opinions before a decision is made.
  • Concept of Fairness: The principle of fairness ensures that decisions are made without bias or prejudice, taking into account all relevant factors in a just and equitable manner.
  • To fulfill the gaps and loopholes of the law: By upholding the principle of natural justice, any deficiencies in the legal system can be addressed, ensuring a more just and equitable society.
  • To protect Fundamental Rights: Adhering to the principle of natural justice safeguards the fundamental rights of individuals, ensuring that justice is served and rights are protected.
  • Basic features of the Constitution: The principle of natural justice is a fundamental aspect of the Constitution, ensuring that legal proceedings are conducted fairly and transparently.
  • No miscarriage of Justice: By following the principle of natural justice, the risk of unjust outcomes or miscarriages of justice is minimized, promoting a fair legal system.

The principles of natural justice mandate that proceedings are free from bias, parties are given a fair opportunity to be heard, and all decisions made by the court are communicated to the respective parties. This ensures transparency, fairness, and the protection of rights in the legal process.

Principles of Natural Justice

The principles of natural justice emphasize the importance of fairness and impartiality in legal proceedings. They ensure that all parties involved are given a fair opportunity to present their case and that decisions are made without bias. The main goal is to prevent any miscarriage of justice.

Essentials Procedures

  • No one should be a judge in their own case.
  • No one can be condemned without being heard.
  • The party is entitled to know all reasons and decisions made by the authority.

The "Ministers Power" committee outlined these essential procedures related to the principles of natural justice to uphold fairness and transparency in legal processes.

Importance of Fair Judgment

It is crucial for judicial and administrative bodies to arrive at reasonable and justifiable judgments to uphold the principles of natural justice. Fairness in decision-making processes is essential to maintain the integrity of the legal system and ensure justice prevails.

Preventing Injustice

By adhering to the principles of natural justice, the risk of injustice and wrongful decisions is minimized. Parties involved in legal proceedings can trust that their rights will be respected, and decisions will be made based on a thorough and unbiased evaluation of the facts.

Question for Principles of Natural Justice and Constitution of India
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What is the purpose of the Principle of Natural Justice?
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When it can be claimed?

  • Natural justice can be claimed when acting judicially or quasi-judicial like in panchayats and tribunals. It encompasses fairness, basic moral principles, various biases, and the necessity of natural justice. Special cases exist where the principles of natural justice may not apply.
  • In the case of the Province of Bombay vs. Khushaldas Advani, it was affirmed that natural justice is applicable in statutory matters as it upholds fairness and justice.

Effect of function

  • The impact of function: Natural justice can be invoked in judicial or quasi-judicial scenarios like panchayats and tribunals. The concept revolves around fairness, moral principles, and the need for unbiased decisions.
  • Administrative Action: Refers to actions taken by administrative bodies in response to violations or issues.
  • Civil Consequences: Consequences or outcomes in the civil domain as a result of certain actions or decisions.
  • The Doctrine of Legitimate Exception: Legal principle allowing for exceptions to the usual rules or norms based on legitimacy.
  • Fairness in Action: The concept of acting in a just and equitable manner, ensuring fairness in decisions and procedures.
  • Disciplinary Proceeding: Formal processes followed to address misconduct or breaches of rules within an organization or institution.

In a notable case involving the Board of High School vs. Ghanshyam, a student was caught cheating during an exam and subsequently debarred. The Supreme Court ruled that the student could not file a Public Interest Litigation against the examination board.

Another significant case, the High Water Mark case - Eurasian Equipment and Company Limited vs. State of West Bengal, highlighted the importance of providing valid and reasonable grounds before blacklisting individuals. The Supreme Court emphasized the necessity of granting a fair opportunity for the affected party to present their case.

 Rules of Natural Justice 

The Rules of Natural Justice encompass fundamental principles of fairness and due process that should be upheld in legal and administrative proceedings.

  • NEMO JUDEX IN CAUSA SUA
  • AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM
  • REASONED DECISION

Nemo Judex In Causa Sua

  • “No one should be a judge in his own case” because it can introduce biases. Bias refers to any action that results in unfair treatment, whether consciously or unconsciously, towards a party or a specific case. This rule is crucial to ensure that a judge remains impartial and delivers judgments based on the evidence presented in the case.
  • For instance, imagine a scenario where a person is asked to judge a competition in which their close friend is participating. Due to their relationship, the judge might unknowingly favor their friend, leading to biased decision-making.
  • It is essential to uphold the principle of "Nemo Judex In Causa Sua" to maintain the integrity of the judiciary system and uphold the principles of fairness and justice.

Type of Bias

  • Personal Bias
  • Pecuniary Bias
  • Subject Matter Bias
  • Departmental Bias
  • Policy Notion Bias
  • Bias on the Account of Obstinacy

Personal Bias

  • Personal bias emerges from a relationship between a party and a decision-making authority. This can lead the authority to engage in unfair actions and make judgments in favor of the individual. Such biases often stem from various personal and professional connections.
  • When challenging administrative actions based on personal bias, it is crucial to provide substantial evidence of the bias. For instance, the Supreme Court ruled that even if a member of a selection committee had a sibling participating in a competition, it may not necessarily invalidate the entire selection process.

Panels and Bias Avoidance

  • When a member of a selection committee has a close relation participating in a competition, the entire selection process cannot be nullified.
  • To prevent biases, the connected panel member should recuse themselves from the decision-making, ensuring fairness. (Case: Ramanand Prasad Singh vs. UOI)

Pecuniary Bias

  • Even the slightest financial benefit to a judicial body can lead to biased administrative decisions.

Subject Matter Bias

  • Subject matter bias occurs when the decision-maker is directly or indirectly involved in the subject matter of a case.

Deciding Authority Involvement

  • When the ultimate decision-maker is directly or indirectly linked to the subject matter of a specific case.
  • Example: In the case of Muralidhar vs. Kadam Singh, the court upheld the Election tribunal's decision despite the chairman's wife being a member of the Congress party, whom the petitioner had defeated.

Departmental Bias

  • Departmental bias is a prevalent issue in administrative processes.
  • Unchecked bias can erode the perception of fairness in proceedings over time.
  • Example: Continuous unchecked departmental bias can compromise the fairness of administrative decisions.

Policy Notion Bias

  • Policy notion bias stems from preconceived ideas influencing decision-making.
  • Audiences often expect judges to apply existing policies, which may impact the perception of impartiality.

Issues Arising from Preconceived Policy Notions

  • One significant challenge is the expectation that judges should not approach cases with a blank slate but rather with preconceived notions.

Bias Due to Obstinate Behavior

  • The Supreme Court has identified a new form of bias stemming from an unreasonable circumstance. This arose when a judge from the Calcutta High Court upheld their own decision in an appeal, a clear violation of the impartiality principles.

Audi Alteram Partem

  • This Latin term, 'Audi Alteram Partem,' signifies that no individual should be condemned or penalized by a court without being given a fair chance to present their side of the story.
  • In various legal systems, many cases remain unresolved due to the failure to provide individuals with a fair opportunity to be heard.
  • In many legal systems, numerous cases remain unresolved, depriving individuals of a fair chance to present their case.
  • The essence of this principle entails granting both parties an equitable opportunity to articulate their arguments and ensuring a just trial.
  • Central to natural justice, this principle prohibits unjust penalization without valid grounds.
  • Prior notification is vital, enabling individuals to prepare for the charges brought against them, constituting a fundamental aspect of fair hearing.
  • Commonly referred to as a rule of fair hearing, its components are flexible, varying based on the context and authority involved.

Illustrative Example

  • Consider a scenario where an individual is accused of misconduct in a workplace setting.
  • Before any punitive action is taken, the individual must be informed of the allegations against them.
  • They are then given the opportunity to present their version of events and defend themselves.
  • A fair and unbiased assessment of the situation is conducted, ensuring all pertinent information is considered.

Components

  • Issuance of Notice: Proper and valid notice is essential to inform all relevant parties about the proceedings for a fair trial. Even if not explicitly stated in the law, notice must be provided before decisions are made. This principle was established in the case of Fazalbhai vs. Custodian.
  • Importance of Clear Notice: In the case of Kanda vs. Government of Malaya, the court emphasized that notice should clearly outline any biases, facts, or circumstances that need to be addressed. It is crucial for individuals to have a detailed understanding of the accusations against them to prepare an effective defense.
  • Content of Notice: Notices should specify the charges brought against the accused individual and the upcoming proceedings. The accused can only be penalized based on the charges mentioned in the notice, not on any additional accusations.
  • Notice Content: The notice should specify the charges brought against the accused individual and the upcoming proceedings. Any punishment can only be based on the mentioned charges and not on any other accusations.
  • Right to Present Case and Evidence: Upon receiving the notice, the accused must be granted a reasonable timeframe to prepare and present their case effectively. Refusals should not be arbitrary or based on unreasonable grounds.
  • Right to Cross-Examination: The right to a fair hearing includes the ability to cross-examine statements made by involved parties. Denying this right violates principles of natural justice. All necessary document copies should be provided, and failure to do so would infringe on this principle. The department must make officers available for cross-examination, as defined under Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (amended).

Denial of Cross-Examination in Legal Cases

  • Exceptional Circumstances: In rare situations, the right to cross-examination can be refused. For instance, in the case of Hari Nath Mishra vs. Rajendra Medical College, a male student faced allegations of indecent behavior towards a female student. To prevent embarrassment and uphold natural justice, the male student was denied the right to cross-examination.
  • Confidentiality Concerns: In certain scenarios, protecting identities is crucial due to threats to life and property. This was evident in Gurubachan Singh vs. the State of Bombay, where maintaining anonymity was vital.
  • Attorney-Client Privilege: Illustratively, in legal matters involving lawyers and clients, lawyers are not compelled to disclose information shared by clients. This privilege ensures the confidentiality of client-lawyer communications.

Illustration in Legal Cases

  • Lawyer-Client Privilege: Lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose client information.
  • Cross-Examination: Refusal to cross-examine a witness does not violate natural justice.

Right of Legal Representative

  • During Enquiry: Parties have the right to legal representation.
  • Department Rights: Departments can direct officers in proceedings.

Exceptions to Natural Justice

  • Emergency Period
  • Public Interest
  • Express Statutory Provision
  • Non-Serious Nature of Case
  • No Impact on Individual's Status

Applicability of Natural Justice

  • Courts (except ex-parte)
  • Tribunals
  • Authorities with Discretion (subject to legal limits)

Reasoned Decision

  • One of the key foundations of natural justice is the opportunity for the aggrieved party to present reasons before the appellate and revisional court, explaining why the initial decision was rejected.
  • Another crucial aspect is that it provides a fair chance for the party against whom the decision is made to express their case satisfactorily.
  • The requirement for recording reasons acts as a barrier against arbitrary actions by the executive authority, ensuring accountability and transparency in decision-making.

Question for Principles of Natural Justice and Constitution of India
Try yourself:
What is the principle of natural justice that prohibits a decision-maker from being biased in their own case?
View Solution

Conclusion

  • The judiciary has embraced the principles of natural justice to safeguard public rights from arbitrary administrative decisions. These principles, rooted in fairness, aim to ensure just and equitable treatment for all parties involved.
  • It is essential to note that any decision or order that violates the principles of natural justice is deemed null and void. Therefore, adherence to these principles is vital for the validity of any administrative decision.
  • At every stage of a procedure, if any authority deviates from its judicial function, the primary aim should be to prevent the miscarriage of justice. It is crucial to note that any decision or order that violates natural justice is deemed null and void. Therefore, adherence to the principles of natural justice is imperative for the validity of any administrative settlement.
  • The principle of natural justice extends beyond mere boundaries and is contingent upon the jurisdiction's characteristics, administrative authority's grant, and the nature of the individual's affected rights.
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FAQs on Principles of Natural Justice and Constitution of India - Important Acts and Laws for Judiciary Exams

1. What are the principles of natural justice as mentioned in Article 21 of the Constitution of India?
Ans. The principles of natural justice mentioned in Article 21 include the right to a fair trial, the right to legal representation, the right to be heard, and the right to an impartial tribunal.
2. How does Article 21 of the Constitution of India protect the rights of individuals?
Ans. Article 21 of the Constitution of India protects the rights of individuals by ensuring that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
3. Can the principles of natural justice be violated under Article 21 of the Constitution of India?
Ans. No, the principles of natural justice cannot be violated under Article 21 of the Constitution of India as they are fundamental rights guaranteed to every individual.
4. How does the judiciary in India uphold the principles of natural justice as stated in Article 21?
Ans. The judiciary in India upholds the principles of natural justice by ensuring fair trial procedures, protecting the rights of the accused, and providing legal representation to those in need.
5. What role does Article 21 of the Constitution of India play in safeguarding the rights of citizens against arbitrary actions by the state?
Ans. Article 21 of the Constitution of India plays a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of citizens against arbitrary actions by the state by ensuring that no person is deprived of their life or personal liberty without due process of law.
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