natural justice
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In this article, Arya Mishra of Banasthali Vidyapith has discussed the concept of Audi Alteram Partem and exceptions to the maxim.

The concept of natural justice has evolved through this maxim. Natural justice is a concept of civil law, which means judgement which is given should be fair and reasonable. Equity and equality should be there. 

In India, the principle of natural justice can be traced from Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 says about the equality before the law and Article 21 talks about the protection of life and personal liberty. Article 21 was defined in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. The Union of India [1]

In this case, it was held that law and procedure which is followed should be just, fair and reasonable kind.

The rule of natural justice comes into power where no partiality is done with anybody during any regulatory activity. Rule of Audi Alteram Partem is the primary notion of the principle of natural justice. The principle also says that no one should be condemned unheard. Both the parties will get an opportunity of fair hearing and justice. This maxim also ensures that fair hearing and justice will be done towards both the parties, both the parties have right to speak. No decision will be taken by court without hearing both the parties. Both the parties have an opportunity to protect themselves.

Introduction

This maxim means “hear the other side” or no man should be unheard, both the parties have an opportunity of being heard. Justice will be given to both parties. Audi alteram partem is from a latin phrase “audiatur et altera pars”. Its meaning is also the same as hear the other side. This is a very strong rule which means no one will be judged without fair hearing. The motive of this maxim is to provide an opportunity to other party to respond to the evidence against him.

Meaning of maxim

This maxim has been applied to ensure fair play and justice to the person who is affected. It is mainly applicable in the field of administrative action. The procedure which is adopted should be just and fair. The person should be given an opportunity so that he can defend himself before the court of law. The person who decides anything without hearing the other side although he says what is right but he would not have done what is right. The principle of hearing is basically a code of procedure and thus covers every stage through which an administrative jurisdiction passes that is from notice to final determination.

It was said by De Smith that “No suggestion can be more obviously settled than that a man can’t cause the loss of freedom or property for an offense by a legal continuing until he has had a reasonable chance of noting the body of evidence against him”. A person will not suffer unless and until he had an opportunity of being heard. This is the primary rule of humanized statute and is acknowledged by the laws of men and god. Before any order is passed against any individual person, sensible chance of being heard must be given to him. In this maxim two principles are considered that is fundamental justice and equity.

Essential elements

The essential elements of this maxim are as follow:

  • Notice

Before any action is taken against the party who is affected. A notice must be provided to them in order to present a cause against the proposed action and pursue his application. If any order is passed without giving notice then it is against the principle of natural justice and is void ab initio which means void from the beginning. 

It is a right of person to know about the facts before any action is taken and without knowing the proper facts, a person cannot protect himself. The right to notice means right to be known. The facts should be known by the party before the hearing of the case. Notice is essential to begin any hearing. Notice must contain the date, time, place of hearing and also the jurisdiction under which a case is filed. It must also contain the charges and proposed against the person. If any of the thing is missing in the notice then notice will be considered invalid. Non issuance of notice does not affect the jurisdiction but affects the rules of natural justice.

Case – Punjab National Bank v. All India Bank Employees Federation [2]

In this case the notice which was given to the party contain certain charges but it was not mentioned anywhere that penalty was imposed on the charges. Hence, the charges on which penalty was imposed was not served as a notice to the parties concerned. The notice was not proper and thus, the penalty which was imposed was invalid.

Case – Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v. Union of India[3]

The notice which is given to the parties should be clear and unambiguous. If it is ambiguous and it is not clear then the notice will not be considered as reasonable and proper.

  • Hearing

The second most essential element of audi alteram partem is fair hearing. If the order passed by the authority without hearing the party or without giving him an opportunity of being heard then it will be considered as an invalid. 

Case – Harbans Lal v Commissioner, National Co-operative Bank v. Ajay Kumar and Fateh Singh v State of Rajasthan [4] 

In this case, it was held that if a person gets a reasonable opportunity of being heard or fair hearing it is an essential ingredient of the principal of audi alteram partem. This condition is accompanied by the authority providing written or oral hearing which is discretion of the authority, unless the statute under which action is taken by the authority provides otherwise. It is the duty of authority to ensure that affected parties should get a chance of oral or personal hearing or not.

  • Evidence

Evidence is considered as a most important part which is brought before the court when both the parties are present there and the judicial or quasi judicial authority will act upon the evidence which is produced before the court.

Case – Stafford v Minister of Health

In this case, it was held that no evidence should be received in the absence of the other party and if any such evidence is recorded then it is the duty of authority to make it available to the other party.

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Case – Hira Nath v Principal

In this case, it was held that this principle is not restricted to the mainly formal evidence but any information regarding previous conviction on which court may rely without giving a chance to the affected party to deny it.

  • Cross examination 

The court should not require to reveal the person concerned or material to be taken against him, but an opportunity is provided them to deny the evidence. The question arises that will witness will be cross examined

Case – Kanungo & Co. v Collector of Customs [5]

In this case, the business property of a person was investigated and some watches were seized by the police who was in power under the Sea Customs Act. A person who gave the information was not allowed for cross examination. The principle of natural justice was not violated and the court held that principle of natural justice does not allow the concerned person to cross examine against the witness in the matter where goods are seized under the Sea Custom Act.

  • Legal Representation 

Genuinely, the representation through a legal advisor in the authoritative arbitration isn’t considered as an imperative piece of the reasonable hearing. Be that as it may, in specific circumstances in the event that the privilege to legal representation is not rejected and at that point it adds up to infringement of natural justice.

Case – J.J Mody v State of Bombay and Krishna Chandra v Union of India

In this case, it was held that refusal of legal representation amounts to the violation of natural justice because the party was not able to understand the rules of law effectively and they should get a chance of being heard once again.

Exceptions

The rule of audi alteram partem is held inapplicable not by method for a special case to “reasonable play in real life”, but since nothing unjustifiable can be derived by not managing a chance to present a case.

  • Statutory exclusion

Natural justice is submitted by the Courts when the parent statutes under which an action is made by the administration is quiet as to its application. Exclusion to make reference to one side of hearing in the statutory arrangement does not reject the hearing of the other party.

Case – Maneka Gandhi versus Association of India, Karnataka Public Service Commission versus B.M. Vijay Shankar and Ram Krishna Verma versus Province of U.P.

 A rule could be bar natural justice either explicitly or by necessary implication. 

 However, such a rule might be tested under Article 14 so it ought to be legitimate.

  • Legislative function 

There are certain circumstances in which hearing might be prohibited. It is just that the activity of the Administrative being referred to is authoritative and not regulatory in character. Generally, an order which is of general nature is not applied to one or more specified person and is regarded as legislative in nature.

Administrative activity, entire , isn’t liable to the guidelines of natural justice. In light of the fact that these standards set out an approach without reference to a specific person. On a similar rationale, standards of natural justice can likewise be prohibited by an arrangement of the Constitution too. The Indian Constitution rejects the standards of natural justice in Art. 22, 31(A), (B), (C) and 311(2) as an issue of arrangement. However, if the legislative exclusion is mainly concerned with arbitrary, unreasonable and unfair, courts may cancel such a provision under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

  • Impractibility

The concept of natural justice is involved when it is practicable to do so but it is not applied in the case where it is impracticable to apply the rule and in such a situation it is excluded.

  • Academic Evolution

Where nature of power are absolutely regulatory then no privilege of hearing can be asserted. 

Case – Jawaharlal Nehru University v. B.S. Narwal, B.S Narwal,

In this case, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University was expelled from the class because his academic performance was not satisfactory and it was done without being given any pre decisional hearing. The Supreme Court held that the idea of academic adjudication seems to be negative. In this way, if the skilled scholarly experts look at work crafted by student over some duration and declare his work unacceptable, principle of natural justice might be rejected.

  • Inter-Disciplinary Action

The words like suspension etc. which is inter-disciplinary action in such cases there is no need of the rule of natural justice.

Case – S.A. Khan v. State of Haryana

In this case, Mr. Khan was at the post of deputy inspector general haryana and was IPS officer. He was suspended by the haryana government because many complaints were made against him. He filed a suit in the Supreme Court that he does not get an opportunity of being heard. The Supreme Court held that suspension was because of interdisciplinary approach and there is no requirement of hearing once. 

Conclusion

Rule of natural justice has advanced by human progress. It has not developed from the Indian Constitution but rather from humankind itself. Each individual has the privilege to talk and be heard when charges are being put towards the person in question. The Latin maxim, “Audi Alteram Partem” is the standard of characteristic equity where each individual gets an opportunity of being heard. The significance of a proverb itself says no individual will be denounced unheard. Thus, judgement of a case will be not given in the absence of another party. There are numerous situations where this rule of natural justice is barred, and no opportunity is given to the party of being heard. Natural justice implies that equity ought to be given to both parties in a simple, reasonable and sensible way. Under the watchful eye of the Court, both the parties are equivalent and have an equivalent chance to speak and to prove themselves.

References

  1. (1615) 11 Co. Rep 93 b: 8 Digest 218
  2. A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 389
  3. A.I.R. 1973 Punj. 263 33
  4. A.I.R. 1994 S.C. 39
  5. [1992] 2 SCC 620

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. The above is a wonderful article of Rights of employees, particularly officers faced with arbitrary, unethical and often illegal action of superiors in their day today functions.
    Kindly make these articles available in general media, like newspaper articles, TV too. This will save many a careers

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