Principles of Natural Justice

What is principles of natural justice?

Meaning of principles of natural justice: – Principles of natural justice simply means to make a sensible and reasonable decision making procedure on a particular issue. Principles of natural justice are not rules nor codified laws, they are judge-made rules and are believed to be equivalent to the US procedural due process.

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.

Principle of natural justice is an expression of English common law, and includes a procedural requirement of fairness. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what is the reasonable decision but in the end, what matters is the procedure and who all are engaged in taking the reasonable decision. It is not restricted within the concept of ‘fairness’ it has different colors and shades which vary from the context.

Definition of principles of natural justice

Principles of natural justice are of great importance in the study of administrative law. It is also known that there is fair play in substantial justice or fundamental justice or universal justice or action.

The principles of natural justice have been adopted and followed by the judiciary to protect public rights against the arbitrary decision by the administrative authority. One can easily see that the rule of natural justice include the concept of fairness: they stay alive and support to safeguard the fair dealing.

There is no precise and scientific definition of principles of natural justice. However, the principles of natural justice are being acceptable and enforced. The principles of natural justice are not rules nor codified, they are judge-made rules and are believed to be equivalent to the US procedural due process. Different judges, lawyers and Scholars define it in various ways.

Basically, principles of natural justice consists of 3 rules: –

The first one is “Hearing rule” which states that the person or party who is affected by the decision made by the panel of expert members should be given a fair opportunity to express his point of view to defend himself.

Secondly, “Bias rule” generally expresses that panel of expert should be biased free while taking the decision. The decision should be given in a free and fair manner which can fulfil the rule of natural justice.

And thirdly, “Reasoned Decision” which states that order, decision or judgement of the court given by the Presiding authorities with a valid and reasonable ground.

Purpose of the principles of natural justice

  • Providing equal opportunities for hearing
  • Concept of fairness
  • To meet the gaps and flaws of the law
  • To protect fundamental rights
  • Basic Features of the Constitution
  • No miscarriage of justice
Principles of Natural Justice

The principles of natural justice should be free from prejudice and the parties should be given a fair opportunity to be heard and all the reasons and decisions taken by the court should be communicated by the court to the parties concerned.

The Supreme Court held that the objective of judicial and administrative bodies is to arrive at a just and equitable decision. The main objective of natural justice is to prevent abortion of justice.

A committee i.e. “power of ministers” gave 3 necessary procedures related to the principles of natural justice: –

  • One should not be a judge in one’s own case.
  • No one can be ignored.
  • The party is entitled to know each cause and decision taken by the authority.

Basis of the application of the principles of natural justice: –

The principles of natural justice emanating from common law in England are based on two Latin maxims, (which were drawn from jus natural).

In simple terms, English law recognizes three principles of natural justice as explained below: –

  • Nemo Judex in causa sua or Nemo debet esse judex in propria causa or Rule against bias (No man shall be a judge in his own cause).
  • Audi Alteram partem or the rule of fair hearing (hear the other side).
  • Reasoned Decision

The above rules make it clear that judiciary must be free from bias and should deliver pure and impartial justice. Judges must act judicially and decide the case without considering anything other than the principles of evidence.

1. Nemo judex in causa sua or Rule against bias

“No one should be a judge in his own case” because it leads to rule of biases. Bias means an act which leads to unfair activity whether in a conscious or unconscious stage in relation to the party or a particular case. Therefore, the necessity of this rule is to make the judge impartial and given judgement on the basis of evidence recorded as per the case.

Rules against prejudice can be classified under the following three heads: –

  • Pecuniary bias
  • Personal bias
  • Bias as a subject


  1. Pecuniary bias: – This bias arises when the assistant/judge has monetary/economic interests in the subject of the case. The judge, while deciding a case, should not have any kind of pecuniary or economic interest. In other words, a peculiar interest in the subject of litigation disqualifies a person from acting as a judge.
  2. Personal bias: – Personal biases arise from near and dear ones, that is, friendships, relationships, business or professional relationships. Such a relationship disqualifies a person from acting as a judge.
  3. Bias as a subject: – Any interest or partiality will disqualify a judge from hearing the case. When the adjudication or judge has a general interest in the subject on his dispute with the administration or private body, he will be disqualified on the basis of prejudice when he is identified with the issues in dispute. In order to be disqualified on the ground, there should be an intimate and direct connection between the debate and the issues in dispute. Now the question is whether this principle can be extended to administrative favors as well.

Case laws: –

  1. Jeejeebhoy vs. Asst. Collector: – In this case, it was found that one of the members of the bench of the court was also a member of the cooperative society for which the disputed land was acquired.
  1. Meenglass Tea Estate vs. Their Workmen: – In this case, the manager of the factory investigated against the workers who were alleged to have been assaulted. The court disqualified the manager based on personal bias.
  1. K. Chelliah vs. Chairman Industrial Finance Corporation: – In this case, disciplinary action against an employee was taken by the chairman of the corporation. There was a statutory provision for appeals ranging from chairman to board of directors. The chairman was also a member of the board of directors.

2. “Audi alteram partem” or Rule of fair hearing

The second fundamental principles of natural justice is the “Audi alteram partem” or Rule of fair hearing. This means that no one will be ignored, that is, there should be fairness from the deciding authority.

According to this theory, a person should be given a fair chance before taking any action against him. This rule emphasizes that the affected person should be given an opportunity to present evidence in support of his case. The evidence used against him should be disclosed and he should be given the opportunity to re-present the evidence produced by the other party.

Essentials of fair hearing

For a fair hearing, the following components must be satisfied: –

  • Notice
  • Hearing

Explanation: –

1. Notice: –  There is a duty on behalf of the authority deciding to give notice to a person before taking any action against him. This notice must be valid and should contain the time, place, nature and other details of the hearing. If the notice is defective or unclear, all subsequent proceedings will be terminated.

2. Hearing: – A fair hearing in its fullest sense means that a person against whom an order has been passed for his prejudice must be reported for the charges against him, be given the opportunity to present his details, both oral and documentary. There is a right to know the evidence by which the case is to be decided and witnesses are proposed to be examined in his presence and they have the right to lead their evidence both oral and documentary in their investigation. It is a code of procedure, which has no definite content, but varies with the facts and circumstances of the case.

Content of fair hearing

A hearing will be treated as a fair hearing if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The adjudicating Authority receives all relevant material produced by the person.
  • The adjudicating authority discloses personal related evidence or material that it intends to use against it.
  • The adjudicating authority provides an opportunity for the person to reboot the relevant evidence or material that he said the authority intends to use against him.

3. Reasoned Decision (Speaking Order)

Basically, it has 3 grounds on which it relies: –

  1. Reasoned order states that the aggrieved party has the right to know the reason for the decision or judgement given by the case.
  2. Speaking order means an order which contains reasons for the decision. The administrative authority exercising quasi judicial function should give reasoned desicion.
  3. There should be a valid and reasonable ground for the decision or judgment given by the court.
  4. It is a satisfactory part of the party against whom the decision is made.
  5. The responsibility to record reasons works as obstacles against arbitrary action by the judicial power vested in the executive authority.

Exceptions to the principles of natural justice

  • Exclusion by statutory provisions.
  • Exclusion by constitutional provisions.
  • Exclusion in case of legislative act.
  • Boycott in public interest.
  • Exclusion in case of urgent action or in case of emergency or necessity.
  • Exclusion on the ground of chaos.
  • Exclusion in case of confidentiality.
  • Exclusion in cases of educational postponement.
  • Exclusion when the person has no right violated.
  • Exclusion in cases of interim prevention action.
  • Exclusion in case of fraud.

Effect of breach of natural justice

When passing an order requires authorization to follow the principles of natural justice, but fails to do so, the general judicial opinion is that the order is void.

In India, the situation is well settled that an order passed in violation of the principles of natural justice is void.

Failure to give reason

Where the reason for the decision is not given to the person concerned or the reasons are not given to the court, the order is quashed and the authority is directed by the court to re-examine the case. Where the person concerned for reasons is not informed that they are on record, in some cases, the court has upheld the action, but in some other cases, the court has not upheld it.

Case laws: Principles of natural justice

1. Ajantha Industries vs. Central Board of Direct Taxes

The court has held that recording the reasons on file is not sufficient. It is necessary to give reasons to the person concerned. In this case, the order was dismissed on the grounds that the person concerned had not been communicated. The view expressed in the Ajanta Industries case appears to be a better view. The reasons are for the benefit of the party concerned and therefore, they should be reported to the person concerned and should not be limited to the record or file.

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