In Industrial Jurisprudence, the Principles of Natural Justice is very much talked about, but it is sadly lacking in precision. The essence of Natural Justice lies in rendering justice. The Principles of Natural Justice has its origin from ancient civilisation. The term ‘natural justice’ was “often used inter-changeably with Natural Law or Jus Naturale which means certain rules of conduct supposed to be so just that they are binding upon all mankind”. As observed by H.W.R. Wade in the fifth edition of Administrative Law, “In its broadest sense, Natural Justice means simply the natural sense of what is right and wrong; and even in technical sense it is now often equated with ‘fairness’. It has been said that romantic word ‘natur’ adds nothing ‘except perhaps a hint of nostalgia; and that ‘injustice is far from being a ‘natural’ concept the closer one goes to a state of nature, the less justice does one find”.
Concept: In Administrative Law Natural Justice is well defined concept which comprises two fundamental rules of fair procedure: (1). that a man may not be a Judge in his own cause; and (2). that a man’s defence must always be fairly heard. In courts of law and in statutory tribunals, it can be for granted that these rules must be observed. But so universal are they, so ‘natural’, that they are not confined to judicial power, and sometimes also power created by contract. It is in their application of ordinary administrative power (here like disciplinary action followed by disciplinary enquiry) that public authorities (even very often private authorities) are prone to overlook them, for example where a police authority is dismissing a constable or a Minister is conforming a housing scheme or confirming the application of outlet of petrol pumps or bank executives are promoting their chamis or bolstering the interest of their chamis by ignoring the natural norms.
Natural Justice has become one of the most active departments of administrative law. As observed by Wade, “There are both broad and narrow aspects to consider. The narrow aspect is that rules of Natural Justice are merely a branch of the Principles of Ultra Vires; violation of natural justice is then to be classified as one of the varieties of wrong procedure, or abuse of power, which transgress the implied conditions which is … presumed to be intended. Just as a power to act ‘as he thinks fit’ does not allow a public authority to act unreasonably or in bad faith, so it does not allow disregard of the elementary doctrines of fair procedure”. (Administrative Law: H.W.R. Wade, 7th ed, Part V, pp. 13, 414, 415. As Lord Sebourne once said that “There would be no decision within the meaning of the statute if they were anything of sort done contrary to the essence of justice (Spackman v. Plumstead District Board Works, 1885 (10)App. Cas. 299).
Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke has pithily defined natural justice as of right: (1). to vacate; (2). to interrogate; (3). to adjudicate, but this concept has undergone radical changes by now.
The ordinary rule which regulates all procedures is that persons who are likely to be affected by the proposed action must be afforded an opportunity of being heard as to why that action should not be taken. The hearing is to be giving depending upon the facts and circumstances of each situation. As observed by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) 3 SCC 545, the proposition that notice need not be given of a proposed action because there can possibly be no answer to it, is contrary to the well recognised undertaking of the real import of the rule of hearing. Their Lordships went on to state that it is the dialogue with the person likely to be affected by the proposed action which meets the requirement that justice must also be seen to be done.
Procedural objections are often raised by unmeritorious parties, Judges may then be tempted to refuse relief on the ground that a fair hearing could have made no difference to the result. As observed by Wade, in principle, it is vital that the procedure and the merits should be kept strictly apart, since otherwise the merits should be kept strictly apart, since otherwise the merits may be prejudiced unfairly. The learned author quoted the following observation made by Lord Wright in General Medical Council v. Spaceman, 1943 AC 627: “If the principles of natural justice are violated in respect of any decision, it is, indeed, immaterial whether the same decision would have been arrived at in the absence of the departure from the essentials of principles of justice. The decision must be declared to be no decision”.
In Board of Mining Examination v. Ramjee, AIR 1977 SC 965 (DB), Justice Krishna Iyer speaking on behalf of the Bench observed: “Natural Justice is no unruly horse, no lurking land mind, nor a judicial cure-all. If fairness is shown by the decision-maker to the man proceeded against, the form, features and the fundamentals of such essential processual propriety being conditioned by the facts and circumstances of each situation, no breach of natural justice can be complained of. Unnatural expansion of natural justice, without reference to the administrative realities and other factors of a given case, can be exasperating. We can neither be finical nor fanatical but should be flexible yet firm in this jurisdiction. No man shall be hit below the belt that is the conscience of the matter”.
In Krishna Yadav v. State of Haryana, 1994 (69) FLR 9 = 1995 (II) LLJ 77 SC, the Supreme Court had to consider whether persons who got selection to a post by illegal methods is entitled to a hearing before they are thrown out of employment. Their Lordships found that appointment to the post of Taxation Inspectors in Excise and Taxation Department was stinking, conceived in fraud and delivered in deceit. In view of the said finding, their Lordships had no hesitation in cancelling the appointment of all the selected candidates. Their Lordships observed at pages 83-84: “In the above circumstances, what are we to do? The only proper course open to us is to set aside the entire selection. The plea was made that innocent candidates should not be penalised for the misdeeds of others. We are unable to accept this argument. When the entire selection is stinking, conceived in fraud and delivered in deceit, individual innocence has no place as ‘fraud unravels everything’. To put in other words, the entire selection is arbitrary. It is that which is faulted and not the individual candidates. Accordingly, we hereby set aside the selection of Taxation Inspectors”.
The essence of natural justice lies in rendering justice and Supreme Court in Union of India v. R.R. Verma, 1958 (II) LLJ 259 SC, has observed that “stating it broadly, and without intending it to be exhaustive it may be observed that rules of natural justice require that a party should have opportunity of adducing all relevant evidence on which he relies, that the evidence of the opponent should have been taken in his presence, and should be given the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses of that party and that no materials should be relied on against him without his being given an opportunity of explaining them”. So requirements of natural justice, conducting domestic inquiry, have been nicely summed up by the Supreme Court, which are to be followed in all quasi-judicial proceedings and its horizon is constantly expanding.

I am a research scholar in Osmania University, Hyderabad, Telangana State, India. I have over 50 articles published in various national journals in India.

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