The principles of natural justice have been developed and followed by the judiciary to protect the right of the public against the arbitrariness of the administrative authorities. Natural Justice implies fairness, reasonableness, equity and equality. It is the concept of the Common Law, which stands on the same footing as the concept of “procedural due process” of America. According to HEGDE J., the aim of natural justice is to secure justice; to prevent miscarriage of justice and to give protection to the public against the arbitrariness.
- Roman law. In Roman law the concept of natural justice consists of two essential rules:
- audi alteram partem,- the person, who has to be effected by a decision has a right to be heard; and
- nemo judex in re sua – the authority deciding the matter should be free from bias.
- Common law. From the medieval era, the English Common Law consists of the principles of natural justice. The rules requiring impartial adjudications and fair hearingscan be traced back to the medieval precedents and indeed they were not unknown in the ancient world. In Dr. Bonham’s Case(1610), COKE J. held that an Act of the Parliament is void if it makes a person judge in his own cause or was otherwise against common right or reason. Coke then made the following general statement:
“And it appears in our books, that in many cases, the common law will control acts of parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an act of parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such act to be void; and, therefore, in … Thomas Tregor’s case [Judge] Herle said, some statutes are made against law and right, which those who made them perceiving, would not put them in execution…”
But the year 1963 proved to be watershed in the development of concept of natural justice in common law world. With the expansion of the administrative process, the wide abuse of the power of the administrative authorities became evident. In the case of Ridge v. Baldwin , the applicability of natural justice to the quasi-judicial bodies took place. Ridge v. Baldwin is regarded as the Magna Carta of natural justice. The judgment of LORD REID widened the ambit of natural justice.
- Position in India. Article 14, 19, 21 of the Indian Constitution lay down the cornerstone of natural justice in India. In the case of E P Royappa v. State of Tamilnadu, the apex court held that a properly expressed and authenticated order can be challenged on the ground that condition precedent to the making of order has not been fulfilled or the principles of natural justice have not been observed. In another landmark case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India , the apex court held that law which allows any administrative authority to take a decision affecting the rights of the people, without assigning the reason for such action, can not be accepted as a procedure, which is just, fair and reasonable, hence violative of Articles 14 and 21.
(1964) AC 40, JAIN, CASES, I, 475-479
AIR, 1974 SC 555
(1978) 1 SCC 248: AIR 1978 SC 597
National Law University, Orissa
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]