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This article has been written by Thimmaiah Codanda Mandanna, pursuing a Certificate course in Arbitration: Strategy, Procedure and Drafting, and has been edited by Shashwat Kaushik.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.​​ 


The Honourable Supreme Court of India is the most prestigious court in the country and deals with legal cases and proceedings on a daily basis, addressing varied legal issues that crop up under the different branches and facets of the legal sphere or landscape of our country while always keeping the principles of natural justice in mind to ultimately meet justice in a fair, transparent, and impartial manner. Every citizen of India, including foreigners (in certain cases or situations), looks up to the Supreme Court of India as a beacon of hope or a hallmark of justice when their respective legal proceedings or cases are brought before the ambit of the Supreme Court. Hence, it is paramount that the Supreme Court of India, when adjudicating upon a particular matter, always follow the principles of natural justice when passing an order or judgement. However, with that being said, it is first important to understand what natural justice is and thereafter how its respective principles are applied by authorities in power, more specifically the Supreme Court of India, while administering justice. I shall make an attempt to address the same via this article below.

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Natural justice

Natural justice is a concept of common law that can trace its origins to the Latin word ‘Jus Naturale’, which means natural law. In simple parlance, this is a philosophical system of moral principles that are based on human nature and moralistic ideals of right and wrong rather than on legislation, judicial action, or statutes, and in the technical sense, it would be synonymous with fairness. Natural justice aims to prevent any form of arbitrariness or injustice  towards its citizens by authorities in power. The respective Court(s) have evolved the principles of natural justice to keep a check on themselves, which acts as safeguards while exercising powers in order to prevent any form of abuse of power and ultimately  ensure justice is delivered effectively.

Principles of natural justice

As per traditional English law, natural justice can be classified into two principles, which are as follows:

  1. Nemo Judex In Causa Sua, and
  2. Audi Alteram Partem

Nemo Judex In Causa Sua

Nemo Judex In Causa Sua means the rule against bias. This is the first principle of natural justice, which says that no man can be a judge in his own case, and any deciding authority while deciding a case must act in an impartial and neutral manner. This principle ensures that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. It is pertinent to note here that the rule against bias must be adhered to by authorities administering justice in any form to instil confidence in the general public towards the legal system of the country. 

Further, the concerned authority must apply his/her mind objectively and in an impartial manner and, in any event, must not be influenced by any kind of bias while passing an order or judgement. There are different kinds of bias, which shall be discussed hereinafter, that may affect the decision making process of a concerned authority and, when not recognised or acted upon via recusing oneself from looking into the matter placed before it, will render the said order or judgement passed thereafter null and void as it will be against the aforementioned principle of natural justice.

The different kinds of bias are as follows:

Personal bias

This kind of bias originates from the relationship between the adjudicating authority and the parties. The concerned adjudicating authority could be a relative, friend, business associate, etc., or may have some sort of personal liking, dislike, or inclination against a party to a case. In such a scenario, the adjudicating authority would be biased towards one party and prejudiced against another.

However, it is imperative to note that if there are elements of personal bias which are apparent to the adjudicating authority while passing an order or judgement, the following tests-

  1. The reasonable suspicion of bias test; and 
  2. The real likelihood of bias test may be conducted and proven by the aggrieved party to challenge the order or judgement of the adjudicating authority. 

The former test is mainly for outward appearance, wherein justice must be prima facie done, and the latter primarily focuses on the Court’s own evaluation of the probabilities.

Pecuniary bias

This kind of bias arises when the concerned authority has a financial or monetary interest in the subject matter of the dispute. For instance, the concerned authority has accepted a certain amount of bribe to sway it towards passing a favourable order or judgement against the person.

In the landmark case of Dimes vs. Grand Junction Canal (1852), a public limited company filed a suit against a landowner pertaining to the interests of the company. The Lord Chancellor who decided the case was a shareholder in the company and resultantly gave relief to the company. The House of Lords, upon becoming aware of this fact, quashed his decision on account of the pecuniary interest of the Lord Chancellor in the Company.

Subject matter bias

This kind of bias arises when the adjudicating authority has a general interest in the subject matter of the dispute, either directly or indirectly. To understand better, we see that in the case of  Gullapalli Nageswara Rao Etc. vs. The State of Andra Pradesh & Others (1959), the Apex Court held that “the decision of upholding the scheme of nationalisation of motor transport by the Government Secretary to be invalid, was due to his interest in the subject matter, as he was the one who had initiated the process of nationalisation.”

Audi Alteram Partem

Audi Alteram Partem means the rule of fair hearing, hearing the other side, or letting the other side be heard as well. This is the second most important principle of natural justice, which requires that the other side in a dispute be given a reasonable, fair, and equal opportunity to present his/her case and be heard impartially.

Under this principle, it also gives the other party the right to respond to any allegations and evidence levelled against them, including the right to appoint an attorney of one’s choice to represent oneself thereafter in a court  of law or institution constituted under the legal statute. The right to a fair hearing has also been recognised under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, any decision that violates the principle of Audi Alteram Partem can be quashed by an adjudicating authority for being against the principles of natural justice.

Components that constitute the principle of fair hearing

Components of the rule of fair hearing are:

Notice: A notice must be served on the person by the competent authority before any kind of decision can be taken against the said party in the dispute. This enables the party in receipt of the notice to make suitable arrangements to defend themselves against any charges levelled against them as per the said notice. Further, before the initiation of a hearing, in addition to the charges mentioned in the notice, the said notice must also contain the time, date, place, and jurisdiction under which the case is filed. If anything is found to be absent from any notice, it will not be treated as valid.

Hearing: As stated, both parties must be given an equal opportunity for a fair hearing. Any decision passed by an adjudicating authority in violation of this essential requirement would be treated as invalid. In the case of Fateh Singh vs. the State of Rajasthan and Ors. (1994), it was held that “if a person gets a reasonable opportunity of being heard or a fair hearing, it is an essential ingredient of the principle of audi alteram partem.

Evidence: This is a very important component under the principle of fair hearing, wherein the competent authority must appreciate the evidence placed before it by both parties. To reiterate, the parties must be given an equal opportunity to present their evidence before the concerned adjudicating authority, which must weigh the credibility and reliability of the same equally. In the case of Subhas Chandra Paul vs. University of Calcutta And Ors. (1969), the Calcutta High Court held that there was a violation of natural justice insofar as evidence of witnesses had been heard behind the candidate’s back, which was not known to him.

Cross examination: The parties must be able to cross examine a witness in order to establish the truth based on the facts and circumstances of the case. This is, however, possible only if the same is permissible under the applicable law. (i.e., certain statues may prevent cross examination in the interest of natural justice.)

Representation by an attorney/lawyer: This is also a very important component of the principle of fair hearing, wherein the parties must be allowed to be represented by a lawyer/attorney of their own choice before the court of law. In certain cases, before administrative authorities, the right to be represented by a lawyer is not considered unless the said right to representation is specified in the statute itself. Further, even if a statute is silent about legal representation, in certain scenarios, a legal advisor may be afforded to a party if, for example,  the concerned party is illiterate, there is a question of law that requires due interpretation, or the matter is extremely technical in nature.


To conclude, the Honourable Supreme Court of our country, in a series of judgements, has relied on the importance of applying the  principles of natural justice  in order to have a progressive legal system. Furthermore, the principles of  natural justice as enumerated above are the guiding force for the Supreme Court of India when passing any orders or judgements, solely to ensure that justice is delivered to the common man impartially and in a fair manner.


  1. Principles of Natural Justice – Meaning, Basics And Essential Components (

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