Significance of Natural Justice under Administrative Law

Introduction

Administrative Law is a branch of Public Law, and its main purpose is to resolve the dispute between the state and the public. The growth of administrative law in India is a post-independent development. The most appropriate reason for the development of administrative law was the change in the concept of the state. The state changed from a police state to a social welfare state. And this gave rise to administrative discretion. Discretion in administrative law means to choose from among the alternative available but, in the light of rules of justice and not according to one’s liking. The statute confers the discretionary power of the executive and also contains the guidelines to use those powers. There is no concept of absolute power, which may give rise to arbitrariness. The purpose of Administrative Law is to keep a check on the discretionary power.

“Natural justice is a great humanizing principle intended to invest law with fairness and secure justice and over the years it has grown into widely pervasive rule affecting large areas of administrative action.”[1] Wide discretion leads to arbitrariness and unfairness. Whenever there is misuse or excessive use of the discretionary power, the judiciary can intervene in it. However, it can intervene only when it is invited by any person or persons who feel that his or their right has been abrogated by any action of the administrative authority. “The judiciary has laid down uniform standards to adjudge the validity of statutory provisions conferring discretionary powers. They are a violation of fundamental rights, abuse of discretion, no- application of mind, ultra virus act and non-observance of principles of natural justice.”[2] The principles of Natural Justice are attracted when prejudice is caused to the person, because of some administrative action. “Observance of principles of natural justice can be made as a fundamental tool to control administrative discretion.”[3]

Principles of Natural Justice

Natural Justice works on three principles:

  1. Nemo in propria causa judex, esse debet: No one can be a judge in his own cause or the rule against bias.
  2. Audi alteram partem: Hear the other party or the rule of fair hearing, or no one should be condemned unheard.[4]
  3. Speaking orders or reasoned decisions: this is the recent addition and accepted worldwide.

Significance of Natural Justice

It provides an equal opportunity of being heard: The second principle Audi alteram partem provides that there is a general with both the parties to be heard, both the parties should be heard or one should be given a chance to defend himself, before passing an order. A fair opportunity should be given to the parties. This principle became eminent from the case of R v/s University of Cambridge (also known as Dr. Bentley Case)[5], in which Dr. Bentley’s degree was nullified by the Cambridge University for ignoring the process sent to him by the Vice-chancellor of the Cambridge University and making a remark that he has acted like a fool. “The Court of King’s Bench held that the University of Cambridge could not cancel the degree of Dr. Bentley without giving him an opportunity of defending himself. “The judge Fortescue said, “Even God himself did not pass sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make a defence”. Hence, the opportunity of being heard is the first rule of civilized jurisprudence as developed by Men & God, and “Right of hearing” is a sine qua non.”[6]

This rule covers various stages starting from the notice to the final decision:

  1. Right to notice
  2. Right to know the evidence against him
  3. Right to present case and evidence/oral hearing
  4. Right to rebut adverse evidence
    1. Cross-examination
    2. Legal representation
  5. No evidence should be taken at the back of another party
  6. Report of the enquiry to be shown to the other party
  7. Reasoned decisions or speaking orders

Post-decisional Hearing: The idea of the post-decisional hearing was developed by the Supreme Court in the case of Maneka Gandhi v/s Union of India[7]. “This idea has been developed to maintain a balance between administrative efficiency and fairness to the individual.”[8] In the above case, a writ petition was filed by the petitioner under Article 32 challenging the validity of the impoundment order. She was not given any pre-decisional notice and hearing. The government contended that the rule of audi alteram partem must be held to be excluded as it may have frustrated the very purpose of impounding the passport. The court rejected the contention and said that “though the impoundment of the passport was an administrative action, yet the rule of fair hearing was attracted by necessary implication, and it would not be fair to exclude the application of the cardinal rule on the ground of administrative convenience.”[9] The Court did not quash the order but allowed the post-decisional hearing.

Concept of fairness: Law is very clear on the point that in the cases which are classified as “administrative”, there is a “duty to act fairly”. The administration must act fairly and justly. In the case of Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v/s Union of India[10], based on the report of an enquiry committee, the government had taken away the management of the mill. It was closed down without supplying a copy of the report of the committee, to the management and was also not provided with an opportunity of hearing. This was challenged on the ground of violation of the principle of natural justice. The Court did not interfere with the order, but observed that,

“The only essential point that has to be kept in mind in all cases…..that the administrative authority concerned should act fairly, impartially and reasonably.”[11]

“The basic purpose behind developing the concept of fairness within the area of administrative or executive functions of the administration is to reconcile fairness to the individual within the flexibility of the administrative process.” [12]

Free from biasness: This rule works on three principles:

  1. No man shall be a judge in his own cause
  2. Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done[13]
  3. Judges, like Cesar’s wife, should be above suspicion

The basic concept is that the administrative body which is working quasi-judicially must be fair, impartial and unbiased. In the case of Crawford Bayley & Co. v/s Union of India[14], the Supreme Court restated that, “the doctrine of the rule against bias comes into play if it is shown that the officer concerned has a personal connection or personal interest or has personally acted in the matter concerned and/or has already taken a decision one way or the other which he may be interested in supporting.”[15]

The Courts have developed different types of biasness, they are, personal bias, pecuniary bias, subject-matter bias, departmental/institutional bias, policy notion bias, preconceived bias and bias on account of obstinacy.

In Metropolitan Properties Co. (FGC) Ltd. v/s Lannon[16], it was said that “to challenge an administrative action successfully on the ground of personal bias, it is essential to prove that there is a reasonable suspicion of bias”[17]

It protects the Fundamental rights and Basic structure of the Constitution: The Constitution of India does not use expression natural justice. However, the expressions like Justice (social, economic and political), liberty of thoughts, belief and equality reflects the concept of fairness and un-biasness.

Article 14 provides equality before the law and equal protection of the law. It hinders any kind of discrimination and is a safeguard against any form of discriminatory power. It guarantees fairness and equal treatment. Article 21 provides the right to life and personal liberty. Article 22 provides the right of the person to be informed of the ground of arrest and the right to consult the legal practitioner of his choice. Article 32 and 226 provide the remedy in case any fundamental right of the person is infringed. These all fundamental rights include the elements of fairness, equality and unbiasedness. Therefore, it can be said that “the concept of natural justice divested of all its metaphysical and theological trappings pervades the whole scheme of the Constitution.”[18]

No miscarriage of justice: Firstly, the principle of Natural Justice provides the fair and equal opportunity to the parties to be heard, to represent and defend themselves. Secondly, it keeps a check that while making any decision the court is not biased. And lastly, it provides that any order passed must be a speaking order and it should be supported by a reason, if an order is not supported by any reason then it is a violation of natural justice.

Conclusion

Natural Justice is based on the natural sense of a man of what is wrong or right. The principle of natural justice ensures equality, fairness and equity. It is not codified cannon. Application of natural Justice improves the quality of administrative decisions. It protects the right of people against the arbitrary practice of power by the administrative authority. The main motive of natural justice is that it prevents the miscarriage of justice.  It ensures that justice is provided to both the parties in dispute. The violation of principles of natural justice results in arbitrariness and unfairness and the decision made in such a way is void or voidable.

[1] A.Beula Chrismak Darius and Ms.R.Dhivya, “Applicability of Principles of Natural Justice to The Administrative Proceedings” 120 IJPAM 2015 (2018)

[2] Ibid. at p. 2018

[3] Id.

[4] Prof. (Dr.) I. P. Massey, Administrative Law 193 (Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 2018, 9th edn.)

[5] (1723) 93 ER 698

[6] Aanchal Kalra, Practice and procedure of Administrative Adjudication: Rules of Natural Justice, available at:  https://www.legalbites.in/practice-procedure-administrative-adjudication-natural-justice/ (last modified on: 16th June, 2018)

[7] AIR 1978 SC 597

[8] Supra note 4, at p. 252

[9] Ibid. at p. 252-253

[10] (1973) I SCC 380

[11] Ibid. at p. 381

[12] Supra note 8, at p. 215

[13] Lord Hawart, CJ in R. v/s Sussex Justices, ex p McCarthy, (1924) I KB 259

[14] (2006) 6 SCC 25

[15] Supra note 12, at p. 194

[16] (1969) I QB 577

[17] Supra note 12, at p. 196

[18] Supra note 12, at p. 190

References:

Books:

  1. P. Massey, “Administrative Law”, 9­th Ed., Eastern Book Company Publishing (P) Ltd., Lucknow, 2018
  2. V. N. Shukla, “Constitution of India”, 12th Ed., Eastern Book Company Publishing (P) Ltd., Lucknow, 2016

Cases:

  1. R v/s University of Cambridge, (1723) 93 ER 698
  2. Maneka Gandhi v/s Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597
  3. Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v/s Union of India, (1973) I SCC 380
  4. v/s Sussex Justices, ex p McCarthy, (1924) I KB 259
  5. Metropolitan Properties Co. (FGC) Ltd. v/s Lannon, (1969) I QB 577

Articles:

  1. R and Prof.Dr.A.Sreelatha (2018), “Principle Of Natural Justice And Its Application In Indian Legal System” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics 120(5): 1669-1681
  2. Beula Chrismak Darius and Ms.R.Dhivya (2018), “Applicability Of Principles Of Natural Justice To The Administrative Proceedings” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics 120(5): 2013-2026

Websites:

  1. https://www.academia.edu/23092337/Title_PRINCIPLES_OF_NATURAL_JUSTICE_IN_THE_LIGHT_OF_ADMINISTRATIVE_LAW_An_Analytical_and_comprehensive_study_of_Principle_of_natural_justice_especially_in_the_field_of_administrative_law
  2. https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/administrative-law/the-rule-of-natural-justice-administrative-law-essay.php
  3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/natural-justice/
  4. https://www.legalbites.in/practice-procedure-administrative-adjudication-natural-justice/
  5. https://lexlife.in/2020/05/13/principle-of-natural-justice-reasoned-decision/
  6. http://www.tnsja.tn.gov.in/article/Pri%20of%20Natural%20Jus%20by%20TSSJ.pdf
  7. file:///C:/Users/DELL/Downloads/Principles%20of%20natural%20justice.pdf
  8. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1549-concept-of-natural-justice.html

This Article is authored by Isha Anand, 4th Year B.A LL.B (Hons) Student at Central University of South Bihar.

Also Read – Write A Critical Note On Dicey’s Concept of “Rule of Law”

Note - The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. We try our level best to avoid any misinformation or abusive content. If you found any of such content on this website, please report us at [email protected]

Interested to publish an article at Law Corner? Click Here to submit your article.

Law Corner

Leave a Comment

4th Lex Research Hub National Research Paper Writing Competition, 2021

Publish your research paper and win exciting rewards including cash & part time work from home job offer!

Submit your research paper on any theme relating to law!

I Am Not interested
lawsikho contract drafting