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Natural Justice

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Synopsis

Natual Justice:

I. Introduction

II. Rule against bias (nemo debet esse judex in propria causa)

Meaning

Doctrine explained

Types of Bias:

1. Pecuniary bias

Manak Lal vs Prem Chand Singhvi (1957)

Visakapatnam Coop. Motor Transport Co. Ltd v. G. Bangaruraju (1953)

2. Personal Bias

Cottle v. Cottle (1939)

3. Official bias or bias as to the subject-matter

4. Judicial obstinacy

State of W.B v. Shivananda Pathak (1998)

III. Hear the other side (audi alteram partem)

1. Notice

Bagg Case (1615)

2. Hearing

Cooper (1863)

Ridge (1964)

3. Disclosure of materials

Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Ltd. v. CIT (1955)

4. Cross Examination

5. One who decides must hear

6. "Empty formality" theory

I. Introduction

Principals of Natural Justice are fundamental to administrative law. There is no precise and scientific definition for principles of Natural Justice.

II. Rule against Bias.

The first principle of Natural Justice i.e. Rule against Bias is based on three maxims.

1. No man shall be a judge in his own cause.

2. Justice should not only be done, but manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

3. Judges like Ceaser's Wife should be above suspension. According to the dictionary meaning anything which stands or may be regarded as tending to cause such a person to decide a case otherwise then on evidence must be held to be bias. According to Supreme Court "a predisposition to decide for or against one party, without proper regard to the true merits of the dispute is bias".

Doctrine explained.

The first condition of natural justice is that the Judge should be impartial, neutral and must be free from bias. He is supposed to be neutral to the parties to the controversy. One cannot act as a Judge of a cause in which he himself has some interest. A Judge should be in a position to act judicially and to decide the matter objectively. This rule applies to the administrative authorities to act judicially or quasi judicially.

Types of Bias

1. Pecuniary Bias.

It is well settled that the least pecuniary interest in the subject matter of the litigation will disqualify any person from acting as a Judge. Griffith and Street rightly state that "a pecuniary interest, however slight, will disqualify, even though it is not proved that the decision is in any way affected." Maneklal V/s. Premchand Singhvi - 1957, though Supreme Court, Kajendra K. Gadkar J. remarked:- "it is obvious that pecuniary interest, however small may be in a subject matter of the proceedings, would wholly disqualify a member from acting as a Judge."

Vishashakapatnam Co-op. Motor Transport Co. Ltd. V/s. G. Bangaruraju - 1953.

A Cooperative Society had asked for a permit. The Collector was the President of that Society and he was also Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority who had granted the permit in favour of that Society. The Court set aside the decision as being against the principles of natural justice.

2. Personal Bias.

Personal Bias includes a situation where the Judge may be a relative, a friend or a business associate of a party. Such bias may also include a grudge, enmity or grievance or professional rivalry against a party.

Cottle V/s. Cottle - 1939

Where the Chairman of the Bank was a friend of the wife's family, who had instituted matrimonial proceedings against her husband and the wife had told the husband that the Chairman would decide the case in her favour of the Divisional Court, quashed the Order.

3. Official Bias or Bias as to the subject matter.

Bias may be in a case where the Judge has an interest in the subject matter. In such a case there should be a direct relationship with the litigation of the concerned Judge.

4. Judicial Obstinacy.

State of West Bengal V/s. Shivananda Patak - 1998

A Writ of Mandamus was sought by the Petitioner directing the Government to promote him. A Single Judge allowed the Petitioner ordering the Authorities to promote the Petitioner forthwith. But the Order was set aside by the Division Bench. After two years, a fresh Petition is filed for payment of salary and other benefits in terms of the Judgment of the Single Judge which was reserved in Appeal. It was dismissed by the Single Judge. The Order was challenged in a Appeal which was heard by a Division Bench to which one member was a Judge who had allowed the earlier Petition. The Appeal was allowed and certain reliefs were granted. The State approached the Supreme Court. Allowing the Appeal and setting aside the Order, the Supreme Court described the case of a new form of Bias i.e. Judicial Obstinacy. It said that if the Judgment of a Judge is set aside by a superior Court, the Judge must submit to the Judgment. He cannot rewrite overruled Judgment in the same or collateral proceedings. A Judgment of the Higher Court binds not only to the parties to the proceedings but also to the Judge who had rendered it.

III. Hear the Other Sides (Audi Alteram Partem).

Audi Alterem Partem means to hear the other side. It means that no man should be condemned unheard or both the sides must be heard before passing any Order. This rule is the basic requirement of rule of law. This principle is implemented by all Courts and Tribunals, national and also at international level.

1. Notice.

According to this principle before taking any action against a particular party, it is necessary to give a notice to show cause against the proposed action and seek that party's explanation. It is a prerequisite of the right of fair hearing. Order passed without giving notice are against the principles of natural justice and are void ab initio.

Bagg Case - 1615 -

James Bagg, a Cheese Burgers of Plymouth had been disenfranchised for unbecoming conduct in as much as it was alleged that he told the Mayor, "you are a cozening knave. I will make thy neck crack" and by turning the hinder part of his body in an inhumane and uncivil manner towards the Mayor, he had said, "come and kiss". He was reinstated by Mandamus as no notice or hearing was given to him before passing the impugned Order.

2. Hearing

The second prequisite of Audi Alteram Partem is that the person concerned should be given a opportunity of being heard before any adverse step is taken against him.

Cooper - 1863

The Defendant Board had power to demolish any building without giving any opportunity of hearing if it was erected without prior permission. The Board demolished the house of the Plaintiff under this provision. The action of the Board was not in violation of the statutory provisions. The Court held that the Boards power was subject to the qualification that no man can be deprived of his property without having an opportunity of being heard.

Ridge - 1964

This case has been rightly described as the Magna Carta of Natural Justice. In that case the Plaintiff, a Chief Constable had been prosecuted but acquitted on certain charges of conspiracy. In the course of the Judgment certain observations were made by the Presiding Judge against the Plaintiff's character as a Senior Police Officer. Taking into account those observations, the Watch Committee dismissed the Plaintiff from service.

The Court of Appeal held that the Watch Committee was acting as an administrative authority and was not exercising judicial or quasi judicial powers and therefore, the principles of Natural Justice did not apply to their proceedings for dismissal. Reversing the decision of the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords by majority of 4=1 held that the power of dismissal could not be exercised without giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard and without causing the principles of Natural Justice. The Order of dismissal was, therefore, held to be illegal.

Disclosure of Materials.

It is necessary that the adjudicating Authority must disclose all evidence and material placed before it during the course of the proceedings and an opportunity must be given to the person against whom the said material and evidence is to be utilized.

Dhakeshwari Cotton Mills Ltd. V/s. CIT - 1955

The Supreme Court set aside the Order passed by the Appellate Tribunal on the grounds that it did not disclose some evidence produced by Department and used against the assessee.

4. Cross Examination.

Cross examination depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. If the statute permits cross examination of witnesses, then the opposite party can claim right to cross examine.

5. One who decides must hear.

It is a principle of Natural Justice that "he who hears should decide or one who decides must hear."

6. Empty formality theory.

An action is liable to be set aside if the principles of Natural Justice are not followed. If an argument is raised that even if notice would have been issued or hearing afforded, 'it would have made no difference' or 'no useful purpose would have been served' or 'it would have been an empty formality', as a general rule no such plea is permissible.

7. Oral (Personal Hearing).

A. K. Gopalan V/s. State of Madras - 1950

Oral hearing is not regarded as a sine qua non of Natural Justice. A person is not entitled to an oral hearing, unless such a right is conferred by a statute.

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