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Implementation of the principle of natural justice in quasi-judicial authority

Justice is a natural virtue. Well-functioning humans are just, as are well-ordered human societies. Roughly, this means that in a well-ordered society, just humans internalize the laws and social norms (the nomoi) - they internalize lawfulness as a disposition that guides the way they relate to other humans. In societies that are mostly well-ordered, with isolated zones of substantial dysfunction, the nomoi are limited to those norms that are not clearly inconsistent with the function of law - to create the conditions for human flourishing.

In a radically dysfunctional society, humans are thrown back on their own resources - doing the best they can in circumstances that may require great practical wisdom to avoid evil and achieve good. Justice is naturally good for humans - it is part and partial of human flourishing. All of these are natural ethical facts.

"Natural Justice" develops these claims in four stages. justice is a natural virtue in relation to Hume's famous argument about deriving ought from is, Moore's open-question argument, and the so-called fact-value distinction. The upshot of the discussion in Part I is the claim that there are no clearly decisive objections to the existence of natural ethical facts.

Natural Justice

The words 'natural justice' are derived from the Roman word 'Jus Naturale', which means principles of natural law, justice, equity, and good conscience. These principles did not originate from any divine power, but are the outcome of the necessity of judicial thinking, as well as the necessity to evolve the norms of fair play.

These are the principles which every disciplinary authority should follow while taking any decision, which may adversely affect the rights of individuals. It is to be seen that rules of natural justice are not codified anywhere; they are procedural in nature and their aim is to ensure delivery of justice to the parties.

Adherence to rules of natural justice, as recognised by all civilised States, is of supreme importance, when a quasi-judicial body embarks on determining disputes between the parties or any administrative or disciplinary action is in question. Rules of natural justice serve as hedge against any blatant discrimination against rights of individuals. These rules are intended to prevent such authority from doing injustice. They seem to be recognised by Article 21 of the Constitution of India in a way which says,

The principle of natural justice is a product of the common law system. The main aim of this principle is to create a check and balance method, basically to prevent the arbitrary use of power by the State. With the changing time, the powers conferred to the State have increased. Now, the State not only takes care of the Government affairs but also activities like commerce, industries and communication[1].So there is a great chance to abuse such powers by the State which will affect the rights of the people. So the one and only function of the principle of natural justice is to prevent the State from such using of powers.

The word natural justice is mainly related with two rules:

  1. Audi alteram partem.
  2. Nemo judex in causa sua.
In short we can summarise the idea of these two rules as follows:
Audi alteram partem

It means the right to be heard. It can be said in this way, that whenever there is a case before a court of law, the accused and the respondent must have a right to be heard before the court. So the accused also has a right to know about the case which is made against him, the evidence which is going to be used against him etc so that he also gets a chance to prove himself as innocent. :

Nemo judex in causa sua:
The meaning of this maxim is no one should be a judge of his own cause. According to this principle the decision of any judicial or quasi judicial authority will be declared as void if the judges of these authorities have some personal or pecuniary interest in the case

Rule of natural justice should be the fundamental principle of every fair legal system to protect the basic rights of the people.

Rule of natural justice is a very core concept of the Indian Constitution. Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India lay down the cornerstone of this principle. The Supreme Court of India plays a vital role to increase the importance of the principle of natural justice in India. In A.K Gopalan v State of Madras[2],The court takes a very stagnant view and says that the word procedure established by law of Article 21 of the Constitution means any procedure laid down by any Statute. Such procedure can override the concept of reasonableness or natural justice or due process while interpreting this Article.

But in Kharak Singh v/s State of UP[3] The court says that personal liberty of Article 21 is not only limited to the bodily restraint but also includes various other types of rights, that means rights given in Article 19 also, to make the personal liberty of any man. Finally in the case of Maneka Gandhi v/s Union of India[4], the court says that the procedure contemplated in Article 21 cannot be unreasonable or unfair.

The principle of reasonableness is an essential element of equality. So any procedure which takes away people's right to go abroad, without giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard, will be considered as violation of Article 21 as it violates the principle of natural justice.

Union of India v Tulshiram Patel
[5] While interpreting Article 311 of the Constitution, the court says that the rule of natural law is not a mere creation of Article 14, but Article 14 is the constitutional guarantor of the principle of natural justice. Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[6]The court says that even if any legislation authorises any administrative body to take decisions without being heard, that will be a violation of the principle of natural justice as well as Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

So, the rule of natural justice mainly deals with the principle of fair hearing.

In this way these following components are also include in the rule of natural justice:

  • Right to notice: The both parties of any case have a right to get notice, which means, the time and space of the hearing, legal authorities under which the hearing is going to be made, specification of charges etc
  • Right to know evidence against him: All the parties of a case have this right to prove them innocent.
  • Right to cross examination: Cross examination is a really useful tool to bring the truth out.[7]

Some exceptions of the natural justice principle:

  1. Urgency:
    For example if a smuggler tries to abscond, his passport can be infringed without a hearing, that is there should be an emergency. But he can get a post-decision hearing.
  2. If the conclusion arrived at is obvious and hearing could not have made any difference. But this exception may be used in a negative way, and then it will be very dangerous.
  3. Article 311(2) (b) of the Indian Constitution, which excludes the requirements of enquiries. But proper reasons should be given for this and such exclusion should be for public interest.
  4. Where the opportunities are given by the court but considered as inadequate by the parties[8]. But it is also a matter of argument whether the opportunities provided by court are really considered as adequate or not.
  5. In cases of Legislative action:
    Legislative activity whether whole or subordinate is never exposed to natural justice as these allude to public policy without referencing someone in particular.[9] The Supreme Court similarly held in re. Laxmi Khandsari V State of U.P. that the decision of UP Government's Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966 abolishing working of power crushing units in mill area for a specific period shall be purely legislative and will not be considered as affecting the principle of natural justice.
  6. Infringement of fundamental rights:
    The principles of natural justice are said to have been futile where no fundamental right of any individual has encroached.
  7. Contractual agreements:
    Termination of any agreement between parties is neither quasi judicial nor regulatory, henceforth the principles here cannot be pulled in.
  8. Government Policy:
    In the exercise of executive policy matters the principles of natural justice are prohibited as it is in a way illogical to give a legitimate chance of hearing to all the people at whatever point when an executive decision is to be taken in the public interest.
  9. Confidentiality:
    In certain cases, it has been seen that the principles of natural justice have demonstrated incapability in apportion of justice; this has led to the deterrence of the requirement from those principles[10]. It was similarly held through the decision of the Supreme Court in Malak Singh V State of P&H, that maintaining the surveillance register is a classified task and the very point of such surveillance may be defeated by the principles of natural justice.
Thus, it is clear that natural justice plays a vital role in the Indian judicial system. The Supreme Court of India by the process of judicial activism continuously protects this idea. Rule of natural justice is the main weapon to the hand of the court for protecting people from any type of arbitrary power

Quasi Judicial Authority

On the other hand, quasi-judicial bodies are authorities who have powers resembling those of the judicial bodies and are restricted to certain areas of expertise. Judicial authorities may have the power to create new laws in time of dire need leading to Judicial Activism, however, quasi-judicial bodies do not have this power and are bound to draw conclusions based on existing law. Now that we know the meaning of the said authorities, we know that the defence of immunity under tort law is required so that it does not intervene with their process of work.

Quasi-judicial bodies are non-judicial bodies which have the powers of interpreting the law. They are entities such as an arbitration panel or tribunal board, that could be public administrative agencies but also a contract or private law entity, which have been given powers and procedures resembling those of a court of law or judge, and which are obliged to objectively determine facts and draw conclusion from them so as to provide the basis of an official action.

As the name itself suggests that those bodies which have judicial power but are partly such are called as quasi-judicial bodies, they partly function like the court, that is to say that they have the power of the courts to adjudicate or pronounce decisions but they are not strictly bound by the procedures that should be followed by the courts. A simple definition of the same is quite hard to find as may define the same in different styles but the function of these judicial bodies is likely the same, that is to make the work of the courts much easier and to reduce the burden of the local courts and come with a well efficient judgement.

They have the full power to adjudicate on the matter that comes before them and their decisions are binding, however nonetheless an appeal lies to their order as per the body. The meaning of the term quasi is itself enough to bring out the functions of the bodies that would be coming under the ambit of quasi-judicial bodies.

When something is there in partly that is to say that it is there and it is not there or is there but there are certain boundaries that are attached to it, then we may term it as quasi, that is to say that half of the thing is there but half of the thing is not there also, then we may call it as quasi. So, a quasi-judicial body would also mean the same thing that the body has got power of the judicial body but those powers are partly and not to full extent.

So, in reference to quasi-judicial bodies some points of their characteristics could be stated as follows:

  1. The quasi-judicial bodies act as courts partly, that is to say that they enjoy the powers of the courts but they are not bound by the strict procedures of them
  2. They may consist of a whole body or even only an individual which act as a court.
  3. They are constituted for a special matter with men well versed in their respective streams.
  4. They serve the purpose of reducing the workload of the ordinary courts and to come out with an efficient judgement as they deal with matters of concern or we could say that with those which are highly significant for the society or the matters with which the economy would be affected.
  5. They act as a speedy trial mechanism as they deliver justice fast, the judgements that are usually pronounced by them are speedier and efficient. However, an appeal lies upon their judgements. So, from the above points it could be very well stated that the quasi-judicial bodies act as a boon upon the judicial system of the country and the parties too that approach them. They act as a speedier mechanism for the justice delivery system and have the capability of giving more efficient judgement.

    They act as courts but are not bound by the strict formalities of the court, however they have the power of the ordinary courts for trial of the case. They have a specific role to play as per their constitution and purpose and play a great role in the smooth functioning of the society. So, though they are judicial bodies or courts but they are quasi or partly one could say, and bringing out some differences between these quasi-judicial bodies and ordinary courts could also add to their explanation. So, the following points could be stated under the differences between the quasi-judicial bodies and the ordinary courts.

They are:
  1. Ordinary courts are bound by precedent in common law, whereas quasi-judicial bodies are generally not and could come up with new decisions where the matter of the situation needs them to do so.
  2. The normal courts may create new laws as per the requirement of the judgement, but quasi-judicial decisions are based on existing law.
  3. Quasi-judicial needn't adhere to strict judicial rules (of procedure and evidence) but the ordinary courts have to strictly adhere to these policies.
  4. Quasi-judicial bodies can hold formal hearings only if they are mandated to do so as per their governing laws.
  5. Quasi-judicial bodies may be a party to the matter thereupon and decide upon the case but the ordinary courts cannot do so.

In various countries, civil matters like these have different approaches but a kind of similar understanding is kept in mind while coming to a decision. Similarly, in cases of judicial immunity, following two statements are kept in mind. Firstly, when this defence is applied, they see that the protection which is offered in respect of the acts done is identical with that of the words spoken.

Secondly, whatever has been said or done which prompts the authorities for such a defence should be done well within their jurisdiction and not be ultra-vires. These two propositions understand the uncertainties which sometimes surround a justice and therefore give rise to justice's protection as an exception to the general rule.

In the case of Stump v. Sparkman, a judge had passed an affirmative decision on a petition filed by a girl's mother regarding a tubal ligation surgery of the same 15 -year old girl while she was told that she is undergoing an appendix removal surgery. Later on when the girl grew up and came across the fact that she had been sterilized, she sued the judge. In cases like this, the U.S Supreme Court held that the judge is to be provided with complete immunity because he was performing his duties which are well within his jurisdiction and the fact that the act was morally reprehensible stands irrelevant.

Although, this privilege of immunity is not always granted under court of law. The legal maxims, ultra and intra vires are the foundation of a judge's protection and explain how if a decision is made within their power (intra), granting immunity is a lot easier and right in this matter. However, if it is made beyond their powers (ultra), the privilege shall not be granted. A case of Harris v. Harvey took place in the U.S, wherein Harris was an African- American police lieutenant who was brought down by Judge Harvey in quite a couple of ways.

Quasi Judicial Authority

  • In India, administrative adjudication increased after independence and several welfare laws were promulgated which vested the power on deciding various issues in the hands of the administration. The modern Indian Republic was born a Welfare State and thus the burden on the government to provide a host of welfare services to the people was immense. These quasi-judicial powers acquired by the administration led to a huge number of cases with respect to the manner in which these administrative bodies arrived at their decisions. The Courts held that these bodies must maintain procedural safeguards while arriving at their decisions and observe principles of natural justice-their opinions were substantiated by the 14th Law Commission Report.[11]
  • In order to avoid clogging the judicial machinery with cases which would have arisen by the operation of these new socio-economic legislations, a number of tribunals were established by the government. The tribunals were established with the object of providing a speedy, cheap and decentralised determination of disputes arising out of the various welfare legislations[12]

Evolution Of Tribunal System In India

Duty to assign reasons even in the absence of any statutory provision as a requirement of the principles of natural justice is a judge-made law. Though many argue that such a stance must be left to the decision of the legislature, it has been the view of the courts that the providing of reasons is implicit in every administrative action having civil consequences as a requirement of the principles of natural justice. In conclusion, good administration implies reasons where a person legitimately expects to be treated fairly.

In India, it was not until very recently that it was accepted that reasoned orders form a part of natural justice. The Supreme Court, in the case of Siemens Engg. & Mfg. Co. of India Ltd. v. Union of India, held that the rule requiring reasons to be recorded by quasi-judicial authorities in support of the orders passed by them must be held to be a basic principle of natural justice. Bhagwati, J. held that this rule had to be observed in its proper spirit and mere pretence of compliance with it would not satisfy the requirement of law.

Subsequent to this, the same rule was upheld in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India where the court held that the order impounding the passport of the petitioner was clearly in violation of the rule of natural justice embodied in the maxim audi alteram partem. Though the same argument was not accepted by the Supreme Court in the case of Union of India v. E.G. Nambudiri, a Constitution bench of the Court held that the requirement to record reasons can be regarded as one of the principles of natural justice which govern the exercise of power by administrative authorities.

Judicial review of quasi judicial authority:

The judicial review in its simple meaning pertains to recheck the judicial decisions that have been passed by the courts, this rechecking or reviewing or re-examining whatever may be the term best suited to it not only works for the welfare of the afflicted parties in question but also acts as a protecting shield on the legal system as well as the society.

The judicial review helps to maintain the rule of law and the principles of natural justice which are very essential for any civilized nation, and if we take into context the Indian scenario that is very much the matter of our concern it has time and again come up as a boon for the legal system and for maintain the order and rule in the society.

Natural Justice Principles Situation In India

The safeguards given to judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court are there to ensure independence of the Judiciary so that the judges can interpret statutes without worrying about scrutiny from the Parliament or public. But the members of Administrative Tribunals do not get any such safeguards so they cannot be considered as effective substitutes for High Courts.

In fact, it was believed that the power of the tribunals in interpreting Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution in service matters endows High Court with the benefit of filtering frivolous claims and getting reasoned decisions on merits while it decides cases under Articles 226 and 227[13].Thus, in L. Chandra Kumar's case it was decided that Administrative Tribunals can supplement the High Courts but not supplant them.

Therefore, Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 was held unconstitutional for excluding the jurisdiction of High Courts. Clause 2(d) of Article 323-A[14]and Clause 3(d) of Article 323-B[15] were also held unconstitutional for violating the basic structure of the Constitution. The tribunals still have original jurisdiction as to matters of service and the litigants cannot directly move the High Court. No appeal will lie under Article 136 to the Supreme Court directly from the decisions of these tribunals. Special Leave Petitions will lie from the decision of the High Court.[16]

Administrative authority were established to reduce the burden of the High Courts and Supreme Court but have instead increased their workload. Administrative Tribunals are widely considered to be incompetent and give erroneous decisions. After the case of L. Chandra Kumar restored the power of superintendence of the High Courts, almost every matter in the tribunals has been appealed. Administrative Tribunals were instituted for the purpose of speedy justice but the people appointed lacked the expertise required in giving correct decisions.

The appointments to these tribunals are made by the Government which is against Montesquieu's doctrine of separation of powers. Since Administrative Tribunals don't necessarily need to follow the same procedures followed by ordinary courts, they can potentially violate the principles of natural justice.

These inconsistencies between the already established rules of basic structure of the Constitution and the working of Administrative Tribunals help one see how Administrative Tribunals are truly an antithesis to the separation of powers, which is an indestructible part of the Constitution as has been established through judgements by the Supreme Court of India.

The principles of natural justice have been adopted and followed by the judiciary to protect public rights against arbitrary decisions by the administrative authority. One can easily see that the rule of natural justice includes the concept of fairness: they stay alive and support arbitrary 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 by the individual.

  1. Speech delivered by Justice Smt. Sujata V. Manohar(retd) at a programme for orientation & training of new members, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Mumbai. Held from 12th November 2007 to 28th November 2007, http:/ new/index.php/principle-of-natural-justice, visited on 5/10/2010
  2. AIR 1950 SC 27, para 21
  3. AIR 1963 SC 1295, para 34
  4. AIR 1978 SC 595, para 39, 40
  5. AIR 1985 SC 1416 in Lecture delivered by Justice T.S Sivagnanam at Tamilnaru State Judicial Academy on 1/6/2009.
  6. (1985) 3 SCC 545, para 33, 39, 40, 48
  7. Natural Justice---rule of fair hearing, Author: Anoop Kumar Yadav, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya, National Law University, Lucknow, http:/ index: php?article=912
  8. Speech delivered by Justice Smt. Sujata V. Manohar(retd) at a programme for orientation & training of new members, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Mumbai. Held from 12th November 2007 to 28th November 2007, http:/ new/index.php/principle-of-natural-justice, visited on 5/10/2010.
  9. Laxmi Khandsari V State of UP & Ors, 3 SCR 92 (1981)
  10. Malak Singh v. the State of P&H, 2 R.C.R. 337 (1991)
  11. Nayak,R., Administrative justice In India, Butterwoths : New Delhi, 1989, p.38
  12. Jain,M.P., Principles of Administrative Law, Wadhwa & Company : Nagpur, 1996, pp.246-248
  13. P. Leelakrishnan, Reviewing Decisions of Administrative Tribunals: Paternalistic Approach of the Indian Supreme Court, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 54, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1�26. JSTOR,
  14. A law made under clause (1) may exclude the jurisdiction of all courts, except the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136, with respect to the disputes or complaints referred to in clause (1)
  15. A law made under clause (1) may exclude the jurisdiction of all courts, except the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136, with respect to all or any of the matters falling within the jurisdiction of the said tribunals
  16. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan v. Subhash Sharma, (2002) 4 SCC 145

Also Read:
  1. Natural Law
  2. Concept of Natural Justice
  3. Greek Theory of Natural Law
  4. Principles Of Natural Justice In The Light Of Administrative Law
  5. Principles of Natural Justice In Indian Constitution
  6. Origin and Development of Principles of Natural Justice
  7. Arbitration and elements of Natural Justice
  8. Exceptions To The Principles of Natural Justice
  9. Audi Alterem Partem Right to fair hearing
  10. The Application of Natural Justice while Discharging Administrative Actions

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