Principles Of Natural Justice: Reasoned Decision

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Table of contents

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. UNDERSTANDING OF ‘NATURAL JUSTICE’
  3. ORIGIN
  4. SALIENT FEATURES OF THIS PRINCIPLE
  5. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
  6. CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

Adam Smith's economic theory Laissez-Faire had support from numerous classical economists, but this individualistic theory had devasting outcomes. Then all the industrial relations were administered by the management. Over time, society was shifting gears from laissez-faire to social welfare society. Administrative law was expanding its horizon, and therefore socio-economic justice obliged the executives to implement a statutory safeguard to its employees. The entire process of disciplinary action is a challenging responsibility. A manager cannot slack an unproductive employee on its free will; he will have to initiate disciplinary proceedings as per the rules of services. If the management does not follow the principles of natural justice, the abrupt dismissal will get challenged for the violation of the same. The disciplinary committee cannot be biased and pronounce the decision without giving the fair opportunity of hearing the employee against whom allegations of misconduct are alleged. The management has to establish his alleged misconduct, and the employee has to defend himself.

The principle of natural justice is not novel to us. This principle is as archaic as the system of dispensing justice. This principle's importance is such that it is continually there. It is alike 'an essential inbuilt component' of justice dispensing mechanism. It is undoubtedly a robust defence against any judicial or administrative; order or action, adversely affecting the substantive rights of an individual.

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UNDERSTANDING OF ‘NATURAL JUSTICE’

Natural justice is a procedural safeguard against any arbitrary or unfair decision of a domestic or an administrative tribunal; this decision should affect the person's rights. It is a term which is used to indicate procedural rights in English common law. The whole concept of natural justice revolves around two elementary principles. First, the judge of a proceeding should not form a predisposition on the merits of matter without hearing all the parties. Although, every judge has their own opinions, views and preferences that does not mean he/she is not going to apply his/her mind judicial while pronouncing the final judgement. The genuine certification of a judge is that adjudication of a case is not at all affected by the judge's prejudice. A judge decision shouldn't get influence from prejudices; moreover, the basis of the judgement should be the laws and facts based on evidence recorded before the courts. The second elementary principle is that all parties involved in a dispute have the right to be heard. No person should be unheard before the court of law. Every party should be allowed to state their case. Modern-day experts lay a great deal of emphasis and term it as a fundamental requirement of the rule of law. If a legal proceeding conducted according to due process of law and that judgement shall be a just and a fair decision, free from the arbitrariness of administrative authorities.

The principle of natural justice is not indicative of this contention that justice done to one party should be an injustice to the other party. Therefore, the rectitude of law is in maximising the pleasure of beneficiaries and depreciating the pain of others. To be specific and accurate, natural justice insinuates fairness, reasonableness, equity and equality.

ORIGIN

The principle of natural justice signify justice according to one’s conscious. Derived from the Roman concept (jus naturale) and Greek concept (Lex naturale) which meant good conscious, natural justice, natural equity or moral law. This phrase for the first time used in the case of Maclean vs. The Workers Union and subsequently it has been stated as follows.

“The phrase is, of course, used only in a popular sense and must not be taken to mean that there is any justice natural among men. Among most savages there is no such thing as Justice in the modern sense. In ancient days a person wronged executed his own justice. Amongst our own ancestors, down to the thirteenth century, manifest felony, such as that of a manslayer taken with his weapon, or a thief with the stolen goods, might be punished by summary execution without any form of trial… The truth is that justice is a very elaborate conception, the growth of many centuries of civilization; and even now the conception differs widely in countries usually described as civilized”.

Lord Evershed, in Vionet v. Barrett (1885 (55) LJRD 39) remarked, “Natural Justice is the natural sense of what is right and wrong.” The principle was more strengthened in courts of equity in England. This principle has its roots in ancient literature also like the duties of a judge. Eventually, meaning and concept of natural justice has expanded its horizons over the past centuries. Striving to more humanize the principle.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THIS PRINCIPLE

The salient features of this principle are-

  • The allegations should be precise and specific. They should be produced in writing. Only for the specific provisions which have been violated by the accused charges will be levied.
  • If there is a formal enquiry, reasonable time should be provided to the alleged accused to furnish a reply of the allegations and prepare his/her defence.
  • The person who has been appointed as an enquiry officer should be unrelated to the incident. While administering the enquiry, he/she should be unbiased. Enquiry officer is not permitted to appear as prosecution’s witness.
  • A prior recorded statement of any person should not be presented for the record of the formal proceeding.
  • Examination of all the prosecution witnesses should be done separately, and no other witness should be present while a statement, of a particular witness, is being recorded.
  • The accused or his/her representative for defence should be furnished with a fair opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witness.
  • The accused shouldn't be compelled for furnishing evidence against himself/herself and cannot be examined as a witness until he volunteers.
  • The prosecution should be provided with a fair, reasonable opportunity to produce and examine defence witness.
  • Enquiry officer's finding should only rely on the evidence recorded for the legal proceedings, and his findings should not rely on documents or records that are not brought to the notice of the accused.
  • The hearing authority should not proceed ex-parte until it is evident from the demeanour of the accused that the accused is deliberately absent from the proceedings and dissipating the time. Moreover, the inquiry officer should be equally convinced about the same.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The principle of natural justice is undoubtedly an essential ingredient in our judiciary. The conclusive impact of this principle is evident to all of us in public administration. This compliance now proceeds beyond administrative proceedings. It is no longer a simple administrative decision-making process to decide what is obligatory to as acquiesce with the natural justice. Even the judges have realised that application of Natural justice in certain cases in not easy as it appears. “No matter is more difficult to solve, none has more persistently engaged the attention of thoughtful mind”, than the problems of natural justice.

This phrase ‘natural justice’ is often used by scholarly judges, but the phrase is of coursed used in general populace, and it must not be regarded that the concept of natural justice is prevailing among them. The contention of judges is this because the concept of justice is not limited as it has evolved over centuries.

While the Indian Judiciary have always upheld this principle, but often due to some or other controversial decision a question has been raised about the applicability of this principle. In the case of Harla vs. The State of Rajasthan AIR 1954 SC 524, Justice Bose made the following observation:

“Natural justice requires that before a law has become operative it must be promulgated or published. It must be broadcast in some recognisable way so that all men may know what it is…”

In the case of AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras AIR 1950 SC 27, a writ of habeas corpus was filed under Article 32(1) by Gopalan. He challenged his detention, under the Preventive Detention Act IV of 1950, on the pretext of violation of his right to personal liberty. In this case, many judges’ views on ‘procedural due process’ differed with one another. Patanjali Shastri, J. observed: “…no procedure is known or can be said to have been established by such vague and uncertain concept as the immutable and universal principles of natural justice.”

Justice Faizal Ali observed: ”I am that aware that some judges have expressed strong dislike for the expression ‘natural justice’ on the sound that it is too vague and elastic but where there are well-known principles with no vagueness about them, which all the systems of law have been respected and recognised, they cannot be disregarded merely because they are in the ultimate found to be based on natural justice.”

In the case of New Prakash Transport Co. Ltd. vs. New Swarna Transport Co. Ltd. 1950, SCR 88C, J. Sinha has even accepted this principle for some cases, but he refused to accept in other cases and was of opinion that natural justice means a fair process or result. Further, he said that natural justice is ‘high sounding expression’ to reflect jes naturale, but also, he called this principle as ‘confused and unwanted transfer into the ethical sphere’ for some purposes only and for other purposes he referred this principle as ‘vacuous’.

Out of many questions arisen, one was raised that whether the principles of natural justice were also applicable to the administrative bodies. In AK Kraipak vs UOI 1969(2) SCC 262, it was observed that there’s a fine line between the administrative powers and quasi-judicial powers which is quite thin and is being obliterated, and then set out the common-sense principle that one has to look to the nature of the power conferred, the framework of the law conferring that power, the consequences ensuing from the exercise of that power, and the manner in which that power is expected to be exercised. The five-judge bench, then concluded, what to me remains one of the most important principles ever articulated by the judiciary, when it said that, “under our Constitution the rule of law pervades over the entire field of administration”.

Gopalan’s case decision was overruled in the case of Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597. It was observed that the judges in Goplan’s case has interpreted the term ‘personal liberty’ in a narrow sense. It was also observed that the approach of Patanjal Shastri, J. for “procedure established by law” and “due process of law” is not correct, as there is overlapping between them. It was held in this case that any unfair decision of administrative authority can have devasting effect than a quasi-judicial body’s decision.

Some of the above cases even questioned the concept of natural justice and their interpretation of natural justice was narrow. Some cases focused on the positive impacts of the natural justice and have expanded their horizons.

CONCLUSION

The principle of natural justice is new concept to the judiciary. It has evolved over the period from an idea to a fundamental ingredient of justice in any domestic or administrative tribunals. The principle could have strengthened only because it was accepted by the judiciary with a futuristic approach to lay down the formation for fair and reasonable adjudication process. No question could be raised on justice dispensation system. Though, the principle faced criticism and was even called as ‘unwanted in ethical sphere’, but the principle’s foundations remains still intact and continued to remain an guiding rule for the administrative authority.

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