By: Ms. Shalbha Singh | 07-06-2017 09:19:05
It is impossible to define right to natural justice due to its inexplicable and voluminous nature. It is amorphous in nature having various forms and shades. According to Smith, the term 'natural justice' expresses the close relationship between the Common law and moral principles and it has impressive ancestry. It is also known as 'substantive justice', 'fundamental justice', 'universal justice' or 'fair play in action'. It is a great humanizing principle intended to invest law with fairness, to secure justice and to prevent miscarriage of justice.1
Principles of Natural Justice
Natural Justice does not have a straight jacket formula while it has a myriad of interpretations at various circumstances as aforementioned. The traditional English Law recognizes two principles of natural justice:
- Nemo debet esse Judex in propria causa: No man shall be a judge in his own cause, or no man can act as both at the one and the same time. A party or a suitor and also a judge or the deciding authority must be impartial and without bias; and
- Audi alteram partem: Hear the other side, or both the sides must be heard, or no man should be condemned unheard, or that there must be fairness on the part of the deciding authority.
The abovementioned principles are the cardinal principles of natural justice. The first and foremost principle of natural justice is that the Judges should be unbiased, impartial and neutral towards the parties to the suit. This principle is also known as rule against bias. The very reason behind this is to ensure pure justice to the cause and prevent coloured or inclined judgments. Also this rule affirms the faith of people in justice.
The second principle also known as right to be heard also plays a strategic role in imparting justice. The right to be heard is the sine qua non of any judicial proceeding.
Constitutional Bench of Apex Court in A.K. Kraipak and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors3, rendered a landmark decision on the question of rule against bias affecting the process of selection wherein one Naquishbund, the Acting Chief Conservator of Forests, Jammu and Kashmir was a member of selection Board constituted for selecting officers to the Indian Forest Service from those serving in the Forest Department of Jammu and Kahsmir. Naquishband who was a member of selection Board was also one of the candidate for selection to the Indian forest Service. He did not sit on the selection Board at the time when his name was considered but he did sit on the selection Board and participated in the deliberations of selection Board while preparing a list of selected candidate in order of preference. Hon'ble Apex Court held that his presence vitiated the selection on the ground that there was reasonable likelihood of bias affecting the process of selection. In the aforesaid case the Hon'ble Apex Court emphasised that it was not necessary to establish bias but it was sufficient to invalidate the selection process if it could be shown that there was reasonable likelihood of bias. Likelihood of bias arises on account of proprietary interest or on account of personal reasons such as hostility, friendship or family relationship with others. This case is fountain of rule against bias affecting the process of selection and has contributed a lot in development of Administrative law.
Right to Natural Justice vis a vis Statutory Provisions
By and large there is no express provision of right to natural justice in any statute but the mystic arms of the right to natural justice has clinched the legal armour with a great valor. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India,4 it was opined that: Blackstone's theory of natural rights cannot be rejected as totally irrelevant. If we have advanced today towards higher civilization and in a more enlightened era we cannot lag behind what, at any rate, was the meaning given to 'personal liberty' long ago by Blackstone. Both the rights of personal security and personal liberty recognised by what Blackstone termed 'natural law' are embodied in Article 21 of the Constitution. The natural law rights were meant to be converted into our constitutionally recognised fundamental rights, so that they are to be found within it and not outside it. To take a contrary view would involve a conflict between natural law and our constitutional law. A divorce between natural law and our constitutional law would be disastrous. It would defeat one of the basic purposes of our Constitution.
In A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India,5 it was observed that: The rules of natural justice operate in areas not covered by any law validly made, that is, they do not supplant the law of the land but supplement it. They are not embodied rules and their aim is to secure justice or to prevent miscarriage of justice.
Thus, the principles have been incorporated into our system of administration of justice and the courts have to follow these principles through many formal laws such as rules of evidence and other procedures.
The principles of natural justice are extremely essential, because if the laws are not fair or not implemented impartially, there cannot be justice in its entirety. Therefore, these principles must be applied in an equitable and justified manner.
1C K Takwani; Lectures on administrative law; page 170, Eastern Book Company(4th Edn. 2008)
2Ibid pg 177
3A.K. Kraipak and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors, MANU/SC/0427/1969
4Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, MANU/SC/0133/1978
5A.K. Kraipak v. Union of India, MANU/SC/0427/1969