Principles of Natural Justice: Meaning, Principles and Types of Bias

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Meaning

  • Natural justice comes from common law and moral principles

  • Natural law is inspired from Roman Law and can be derived from social contract theory.

  • Alternatively known as substantial justice, fundamental justice, fair play in action

  • It is a branch of Public Law that is used to provide justice to the people.

  • Principle of natural justice is controlled by justice, equity, good conscience, good faith, reasonableness.

  • English concept of natural justice can be witnessed from the legendary time of Adam and Kautilya’s Arthashastra, natural justice came across as natural justice.

  • Natural justice gives power to the superior courts to control the exercise of quasi-judicial and administrative functions.

  • There is no provision found in any statute for the observance of natural justice by adjudicating authorities.

  • It is binding on all the courts, judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.

  • Pure administrative action entailing civil consequences must be consistent with natural justice.

Principles

  • Nemo debet esse judex in propria causa- No man shall be a judge in his own case.

  • Audi alteram partem- Both the sides must be heard before passing any judgment.

  • Reasoned Decisions- Any order must speak for itself or must contain reasons to support it.

Nemo Debet Esse Judex in Propria Causa

It is a rule against bias and based on three maxims:

  • No man shall be a judge in his own case.

  • Justice should not only be done but seen to be done.

  • “Judges, like ceaser’s wife should be above suspicion.”

Doctrine Explained

  • The judge in a case should be impartial, neutral and free from bias.

  • His mental equipoise should remain firm and undeflected.

  • If the judge is biased or have been assumed to have any deflected mind set, he will be disqualified to act as a judge.

  • Secy.to govt. Transport Dep’t. V. Munuswamy, 1988 Supp SCC 651 AIR 1988:

  • “a predisposition to decide for or against one party, without proper regard to a true merit of the dispute is bias.”

Types of Bias

1. Pecuniary bias- least monetary interest in any matter will disqualify a person from hearing the case.

  • Griffith and Street states that, “ a pecuniary interest, however slight, will disqualify, even though it is not proved that the decision in anyway affected.”

  • Bonham case, a doctor of Cambridge college was fined by college for practising in London without a license of the college. According to the statute half of the fine was supposed to go to the king and half to the college. The claim was disallowed by CJ coke as the college had its own interest and was a judge in its own cause.

  • Same principle is followed in India, held in Manak lal v. Prem Chand Sighvi.

  • Personal bias- Any judge may have enmity, grudge, professional rivalry. Hence the judge may be biased towards one party and inclined towards other.

  • R v. Handle, a magistrate who was beaten by the accused was held disqualified from hearing the case.

  • Official bias- This bias is bias to the subject matter, rarely does this bias invalidate anything. Mere general interest doesn’t qualify for this bias, but it has to be directly linked to the case.

  • Judicial obstinacy: any biasness which comes from judicial obstinacy.

A.U. Khureshi v. High Court of Gujarat – There was a misconduct by a member of the subordinate judiciary in the administrative side , one of the judges of the high court decided the case, which was called the reasonable apprehension of bias.

Audi Alteram Partem

  • No man must be condemned unheard.

  • “a party is not to suffer in person or in purse without an opportunity of being heard”-first principle of civilised jurisprudence.

Maxims

  • Notice- affected party must be given a notice to show-cause against the proposed action. It is a sine qua non of fair hearing. Any order passed without giving any notice is against natural justice

  • 2.Hearing- The famous case of Cooper which resembles Olga Tellis case in India. The board demolished the house of the plaintiff in accordance to the statutory provision, but the court held that board s power was subject to the qualification that no man can be deprived of his property without the opportunity of being heard.

Reasoned Decision

  • It is also referred to as speaking orders. The order must state the reasons behind it.

  • It is for the opportunity to be given to the aggrieved after him knowing why his appeal was rejected and also to explain to the revisional or appellate court.

  • When any judicial authority is bound to record reasons, it works as an obstacle in the arbitrary action vested in executive authority.

  • A special reference may be made in this connection to the decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in S.N. Mukherjee case. A substantial question of law was raised in this case, namely, whether recording of reasons in support of an order can be said to be one of the principles of natural justice. The Constitution Bench decided the said question in the affirmative.