Nature and scope of natural justice

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Nature and scope of natural justice


The concept of natural justice though not provided in Indian Constitution but it is considered as necessary element for the administration of justice. In its layman language natural justice means natural sense of what is right and wrong and in its technical sense it is synonymous with fairness. Natural justice has a very wide application in administrative discretion. It aims to prevent arbitrariness and injustice towards the citizens with an act of administrative authorities.

Principle of Natural Justice is derived from the word ‘Jus Natural’ of the Roman law and it is closely related to Common law and moral principles but is not codified. It is a law of nature which is not derived from any statute or constitution. The principle of natural justice is adhered to by all the citizens of civilised State with Supreme importance. In the ancient days of fair practice, at the time when industrial areas ruled with a harsh and rigid law to hire and fire, the Supreme court gave its command with the passage of duration and establishment of social, justice and economy statutory protection for the workmen.

In its initial, the concept of natural justice was confined to the Judicial proceeding only but with the advent of welfare state the powers of administrative authorities have considerably increased as a result it becomes impossible for law to determine the fair procedure to be followed by each authority while adjudicating any disputes or any quasi-judicial proceedings.

Therefore, courts have made a remedy by establishing a norm to be follow by administrative authorities while exercising their powers and performing their functions. Administrative authorities being a law executer must provide benefits to the people but such objective cannot be fulfill in absence of effective control on the powers given to them. Court in order to prevent abuse of power and to check on their limits has evolved the principles of natural justice as important safeguards against injustice. The object of natural justice is to secure justice to the citizens and prevent contempt of justice. Decisions which violate the natural justice shall stand null and void.

Basically, natural justice consists of 3 rules:

The first one is “Hearing rule” which states that the person or party who is affected by the decision made by the panel of expert members should be given a fair opportunity to express his point of view to defend himself.

Secondly, “Bias rule” generally expresses that panel of expert should be biased free while taking the decision. The decision should be given in a free and fair manner which can fulfil the rule of natural justice.

And thirdly, “Reasoned Decision” which states that order, decision or judgement of the court given by the Presiding authorities with a valid and reasonable ground.


The principle of natural justice is a very old concept and it originated at an early age. The people of Greek and roman were also familiar with this concept. In the days of Kautilya, arthashastra and Adam were acknowledged the concept of natural justice. According to the Bible, in the case of Eve and Adam, when they ate the fruit of knowledge, they were forbidden by the god. Before giving the sentence, eve was given a fair chance to defend himself and the same process was followed in the case of Adam too.

Later on, the concept of natural justice was accepted by the English jurist. The word natural justice is derived from the Roman word ‘jus-naturale’ and ‘lex-naturale’ which planned the principles of natural justice, natural law and equity. “Natural justice is a sense of what is wrong and what is right.”

In India, this concept was introduced at an early time. In the case of Mohinder Singh Gill vs. Chief Election Commissioner, the court held that the concept of fairness should be in every action whether it is judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative and or quasi-administrative work.

Principles of Natural Justice: 1. Nemo judex causa in sua :

It means rule against bias. It is the first principles of natural justice which says no man shall be judge in his own cause or a deciding authority must be impartial and neutral while deciding any case. Thus the principle signify that in a circumstances where a judge or deciding authority is suspected to be bias and partial then he/she shall be disqualify from determining any case before them. It formulates that justice should not only be done but seen to be done. Proceedings before any adjudicating authority must be according to the principles of natural justice.

Where it is found that a judge who is deciding any dispute has its own interest or some outcome derived from such case then the decision given by the authority shall not be execute or it remains void. It is said that impartiality is the best characteristics for good administration. Human nature is such that a person ordinarily cannot take an objective decision in a case when he himself found an interest, as very rarely can person take decision against his own interest. A person can apply his mind effectively when he follows impartiality. The rule against bias thus avoids possibility of partial decisions. It also ensures public confidence in legal system of a country.

2. Audi alteram partem (rule of fair hearing):

This is the second most fundamental rule of natural justice that says no one should be condemned unheard. In a circumstances where a person against whom any action is sought to be taken and his right or interest is being affected, shall be given an equal opportunity of being heard and defend himself. It gives right the party to respond to the evidence against them and to choose legal representative of their own choice. Any adjudicating authorities while deciding a dispute between parties the principles of natural justice forms a fundamental fair procedure among the parties. It is the duty of every person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions to act in good faith and to listen fairly both the sides before passing any order.

No party will made to suffer in person without giving not only fair opportunity of being heard but to correct any relevant statement made, which is prejudicial to any of them.While deciding any case fairly it is not mandatory for any decision making authority to follow the same procedure as that followed by a Court.

In case if the Legislature specifically authorizes an administrative authority to proceed without giving an opportunity of heard, then except in case of recognised exceptions, the law would be violative of the principles of fair hearing which is now read into Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The sole purpose of rule of fair hearing as to the Apex Court was to avoid the failure of justice. Thus, the essence of this principle is the right of fair hearing or the right to be heard. Therefore any decisions which violate the principle of audi alteram partem such can be quashed by court as against the principles of naturaljustice.

In Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India, the passport of the petitioner was impounded by the Government of India in public interest. No opportunity was afforded to the petitioner before taking the impugned action. The Supreme Court held that the order was violative of principles of Natural justice.

When Natural Justice can be claimed?

Natural justice can be claimed where the proceedings is judicial or quasi-judicial like panchayat and tribunals etc. It envisaged the concept of fairness, just and basic moral principles. In a present welfare state with complex socio economics problems the functions of the government has been increase and in the same manner administrative authorities has acquired vast powers which might affect private rights without any adequate safeguards or some protection. Due to this factor procedural fairness is regarded as an integral part of administrative authorities.


The principles of natural justice have been adopted and followed by the judiciary to protect public rights against the arbitrary decision by the administrative authority. One can easily see that the rule of natural justice include the concept of fairness: they stay alive and support to safeguard the fair dealing. So at all the stages of the procedure if any authority is given off the judicial function is not purely accepted but the main motive of the principal is to prevent the miscarriage of justice. It is supreme to note that any decision or order which violates the natural justice will be declared as null and void in nature, hence one must carry in mind that the principles of natural justice are essential for any administrative settlement to be held valid. The principle of natural justice is not confined to restricted walls the applicability of the principle but depends upon the characteristics of jurisdiction, grant to the administrative authority and upon the nature of rights affected of the individual.