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Bias means an operative prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, in relation to a party or issue. Such operative prejudice may be the result of a preconceived opinion or a predisposition or a predetermination to decide a case in a particular manner, so much so that it does not leave the mind open.

Therefore, the rule against bias strikes against those factors which may improperly influence a judge in arriving at a decision in any particular case. The requirement of this principle is that the judge must be impartial and must decide the case objectively on the basis of the evidence on record. In other words, a predisposition to decide for or against one party without regard to the merit of the case is bias.

Therefore the maxim that a person cannot be made a judge in his own case. Crawford Bayley & co v/s Union of India AIR2006 SCC25,the supreme court held that restarted that the doctrine of rules against bias comes into play if it is shown that the officer concerned has a personal connection or personal interest or as personally acted in the matter concerned and / or has already taken a decision one way or the other which he may be interested in supporting.

The principle nemo judex in causa sua willnot apply where the authority has no personal is with the person concerned. Therefore , where cases of malpractice and pilferage by consumers of electricity were decided by the electricity board itself, the supreme court held that it is not a violation of the rule against bias such cases are similar to income tax and sales tax cases. Hyderabad vanaspathi ltd v Andhra Pradesh AIR 1998 SCC470.

Types of Bias:

  • Personal Bias
  • Pecuniary Bias
  • Subject Matter Bias
  • Departmental Bias
  • Policy Notion Bias
  • Preconceived Notion Bias
  • Bias On Account of Obstinacy.

Personal Bias:

Personal bias arises from a certain relationship equation between the deciding authority and the parties which incline him unfavourably or otherwise on the side of one of the parties before him. Such equation may develop out of varied forms of personal or professional hostility or friendship. However, no exhaustive list is possible. Baidyanath mahapatra v State of Orissa, AIR1989 SCC664,the supreme court quashed the order of the tribunal confirming premature retirement on the ground that the chairman of the tribunal was also a member of the review committee which had recommended premature retirement.

Real likelihood of bias / reasonable suspicion of bias:-
However , in order to challenge an administrative action successfully on the ground of personal bias it is essential to prove that there is a reasonable suspicion of bias or a real likelihood of bias. The reasonable suspicion test looks mainly to outward appearance, and the real likelihood test focuses on the courts own evaluation of possibilities.

Ramanand Prasad singh v Union of India AIR1996 SCC64,the supreme court held that participation in the selection committee as a member where his brother was a candidate but was not selected his inconsequential bias on which the whole select list cannot be quashed.

Pecuniary Bias:

In judicial approach unanimous and decisive on the point that any financial interest, howsoever small it may be, would vitiate administrative action. The disqualification wil not be avoided by non-participation of the biased member in the proceedings if he was present when the decision was reached.

Jeejeebhoy v collector AIR 1965 SC 1096,the chief justice reconstituted the bench when it was found that one of the members of the bench was a member of the cooperative society for which the land had been acquired. The Madras High Court also quashed the decision of the decision of the collector who in capacity as the chairman of the Regional Transport Authority had granted a permit in favour of a cooperative society of which he was also a chairman.

Subject Matter Bias:

Those cases fall within this category where the deciding officer is directly, or otherwise, involved in the subject-matter of the case. Here again mere involvement would not vitiate the administrative action unless there is a real likelihood of bias.

Muralidhar v kadam singh AIR1954 MP III,the court refused to quash the decision of the Election Tribunal on the ground that the wife of the chairman was a member of the Congress party whose candidate the petitioner defeated.

Departmental Bias:

The problem of departmental bias is something which is ingerent in the administrative process, and if not effectively checked, it may negate the very concept of fairness in administrative proceedings.
This problem came up nefore the supreme court in Hari K. Gawali v Dy. Commr. of Police. In this case, an externment order was challenged on the ground that since the police department which initiated the proceedings and the department which heard and decided the case were the same , the element of departmental bias vitiated administrative action. The court rejected the challenge on the ground that so long as the two separate officers, though they were affiliated to the same department, there was no bias.

Policy Notion Bias:

Bias arising out of preconceived policy notions is a very delicate problem of administrative law. On one hand, no judge as a human being is expected to sit as a blank sheet of paper and on the other, preconceived policy notions may vitiate a fair trail. Recent trend in almost all jurisdictions is that policy bias is not considered as bias which vitiates an administrative action. In Bajaj Hindustan ltd. V . sir Shadilal enterprises ltd., court did not allow a challenge to an administrative action on the ground of policy bias.

Preconceived Notion Bias:

This type of bias is also called as unconscious bias all person exercising adjudicatory powers are humans with human prejudices, no matter some persons are more human than others. This may include class bias and personality bias. Every person is a product of a class and inherits some characteristics of the class which may also reflect in his decision making process. In the same manner, every persons personality is a combination of his biological and social heredity which determine his values and attitudes in a way that may condition his decision making process. The problem of unconscious bias is such which is inherent in any adjudication and cannot be eliminated unless detected by some over action of the authority, and is so detected can vitiate an administrative hearing if it has a direct relation with decision. This may include a situation where the deciding officer openly expresses his prejudice.

Bias On Account of Obstinacy:

The supreme court has discovered a new category of bias arising from thoroughly unreasonable obstinacy. Obstinacy implies unreasonable and unwavering persistence, and the deciding officer would not take no for an answer. This new category of bias was discovered in a situation where a judge of the Calcutta high court upheld his own judgement while sitting in appeal against his own judgement. of course, a direct violation of the rule that no judge can sit in appeal against his own judgement is not possible, therefore, this rule can only be violated indirectly. In this case, in a fresh writ petition, the judge validated his own order in an earlier writ petition which had been overruled by the division bench. What applies to judicial process can be applied to administrative process as well.

Doctrine of Necessity:

The doctrine of necessity makes it imparitive for the authority to decide, and considerations of judicial propriety must yield. It can be invoked in cases of bias where there is no authority to decide the issue. If the doctrine of necessity is not allowed full play in certain unavoidable situations, it would impede the courses of justice itself and the defaulting party would benefit from it. Amaranth choudhury v Braithwaite &co limited AIR 2002 SCC 290,on the ground of misconduct, disciplinary authority has dismissed a person from service. He went in appeal before the board of directors where the chairman cum managing director was the same person who was also the chairman of the disciplinary authority and who did not rescue himself, which was an alternative. The court held that the rule of necessity cannot be applied to save the auction.

Every kind of preference is not sufficient to vitiate an administrative action. If the preference is rational and unaccompanied by consideration of rational interest, pecuniary or otherwise it would not vitiate the decision. Similarly , there must be a real likelihood and not a mere suspicion of bias, before the proceedings can be quashed on the ground of bias. This apprehension must be judged from a healthy , reasonable and average point of view and not a mere apprehension and vague suspicion of whimsical capricious and unreasonable people. As the justice rooted in the minds of the people and it is destroyed when the right minded people go away thinking that the judge is biased.

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