Natural Justice is taken from the Roman law term ‘Jus Natural,’ and is closely tied to common law and moral principles, however it is not codified. A natural law is unrelated to any statute or constitution. The Indian constitution’s body, on the other hand, was cleverly weaved with a golden thread of natural justice. The words “social, economic, and political justice” appear in the preamble of the constitution, along with “liberty of thought, belief, worship… and equality of status and opportunity,” which not only ensures fairness in people’s social and economic activities, but also acts as a shield for individual liberty against arbitrary action, which is the foundation for Natural Justice principles. Natural justice denotes “natural sense of right and wrong” in layman’s terms, and it is synonymous with “fairness” in technical terms. In administrative discretion, natural justice has a wide range of applications. It tries to prevent administrative authorities from acting arbitrarily or inequitably towards citizens.
Principles of Natural Justice:
English law in form of two principles recognizes natural justice:
- Nemo judex in causa sua or rule against bias
- Audi Alteram Partem or rule of fair hearing
Nemo judex causa in sua:
It is a Latin phrase that means, “Rule against bias.” It is one of the first principles of natural justice, which states that no one shall be judge in his own cause, and that any judging authority must be unbiased and neutral while making a decision. Thus, if a judge or deciding authority is accused of being biased or partial, he or she is disqualified from judging any issue before them.
Kinds of bias:
- Pecuniary Bias:
When an adjudicator or judge has a monetary or economic stake in the subject matter of the dispute or case, this is known as pecuniary bias. While deciding a matter, the judge should be free of any financial or commercial interests. In other words, a person’s financial interest in the case’s subject matter disqualifies them from serving as a judge.
Dimes v. D. J Canal[i]: This case laid down the rule against pecuniary bias. A landowner was sued by a corporation. The case was tried by Lord Chancellor (judge) who was a stakeholder in the plaintiff corporation and ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. The House of Lords overturned the judgement on appeal, stating that “no one shall be judge of his own cause.”
Jeejeebhoy v. Asst. Collector[ii]: In this case, when it was discovered that one of the members of the bench was a member of the cooperative group for which the land had been obtained, the Chief Justice reconfigured the bench.
- Subject matter bias:
The term “subject matter” simply refers to the issue in question. When a judge has a broad interest in the subject matter in dispute, there is a risk of subject matter bias. It can also happen when the deciding authority is directly or indirectly involved in the case’s subject matter.
Muralidhar v. Kadam Singh[iii]: The court refused to overturn the election tribunal’s ruling, citing the fact that the chairperson’s wife was a member of the Congress party, which the petitioner had defeated.
- Personal bias:
A relationship between the party and the decision authority causes personal bias, which leads a deciding authority in a tense situation to engage in unequal behaviour and render a decision in his favor. These equations develop because of a variety of personal and professional relationships. A person who has such a relationship is ineligible to serve as a judge in that case.
Meenglass Tea Estate v. Their Workmen[iv]: In this case, the factory manager conducted an investigation into the workers who were accused of assaulting him. The manager was disqualified by the court due to personal bias.
Cottle v. Cottle[v]: The bench’s chairperson was a family friend of the wife’s who had filed matrimonial proceedings against her husband. The wife had assured the husband that the case would be decided in her favor by the chairperson. The divisional court ordered a rehearing since the chairperson turned out to be a friend of the wife’s family.
The concept of natural justice was originally limited to judicial proceedings, but with the advent of the welfare state, administrative authorities’ powers have greatly expanded, making it impossible for law to determine the fair procedure to be followed by each authority when adjudicating any disputes or quasi-judicial proceedings. As a result, courts have created a remedy by setting a standard that administrative officials must follow when exercising their powers and performing their duties. Administrative authorities, as law enforcers, must bring advantages to the people, but this goal cannot be achieved without effective control over the powers granted to them. The concepts of natural justice have evolved as vital safeguards against injustice in order to prevent misuse of power and to check on its limitations. The goal of natural justice is to ensure that citizens are treated fairly and to prevent injustice from being disregarded. Decisions that go against natural justice are null and void.
- Shreya Tripathi, Principles of Natural Justice, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/natural-justice/
- Hemant More, Personal bias, The Fact Factor, https://thefactfactor.com/facts/law/civil_law/administrative-law/personal-bias/4393/#:~:text=In%20Cottle%20Vs.,Divisional%20Court%20ordered%20a%20rehearing.
- Laskit, Concept of Natural Justice, Legal Service India, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1549-concept-of-natural-justice.html
- LexLife India, Principle of Natural Justice: Rule Against Bias, Lex Life India, https://lexlife.in/2020/05/18/principle-of-natural-justice-rule-against-bias/
- Mohd Aqib Aslam, Principles Of Natural Justice In The Light Of Administrative Law, Legal Service India, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1659-principles-of-natural-justice-in-the-light-of-administrative-law.html
[i] Dimes v. D. J Canal, (1852) 3 HLC 579.
[ii] Jeejeebhoy v. Asst. Collector, AIR 1965 SC 455.
[iii] Muralidhar v. Kadam Singh, 10 E.L.R. 126.
[iv] Meenglass Tea Estate v. Their Workmen, AIR 1963 SC 1719.
[v] Cottle v. Cottle, (1939) All ER535.
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