The Evolution of Concept of Natural Justice in India
Updated: 5 days ago
Natural justice, also nicknamed as the 'common sense of justice' is a root of justice that is sprouted out from the natural conscience of a man of ordinary prudence. It is an uncodified sector which duly helps in the administration of Justice.
The two basic elements of Natural justice are
Nemo judex in causa sua: means the ' no man is a Judge in his cause'. This principle is based on the justice administration where a party cannot be a judge for his acts that have been committed or omitted.
Audi alterum partem: mainly speaks about the 'fair hearing'. This principle is based on the fact that no one is left unheard. No kind of bias or partiality should not be shown and the parties in question shall get the equal opportunity to get heard.
The Concept of natural justice is vague and hence it is not given in any statutes or legislation. hence, the only pattern where this concept has been specified is through various precedents. The evolution of principles of natural justice varies from countries, as the ideologies regarding the same differ from philosophers and the jurists of the different countries.
Historical perspective of Natural Justice in India
From ancient times itself, the principles of personal bias and a fair hearing were well recognized in India. It was said that Brihaspati from the Vedic times has said that "A judge should decide cases without any consideration of personal gain or any kind of personal bias, and his decision should be under the procedure prescribed by the texts. A judge who performs his judicial duties in this manner achieves the same spiritual merit as a person performing a Yajna." Kautilya's 'Arthashastra" also invokes the principle of natural justice, and the same was cited in various precedents in modern times. During these times, the Jurists and counsellors had the responsibility to prevent the king from committing any error in Justice, during the trial of the cases.
The concept of procedural fairness was well accepted in the Ancient judicial system. the procedures related to conducting of proceedings comprised of four parts.
Complaint- where the complainant complains about certain offence on commission/ omission.
Reply- replies and reasons for such an Offense. They can be an admission, denial, or a special plea. however, the act of confession was not recognized as it would result in grave consequences of punishment.
Evidence- probably, the documents or the possessions and witnesses are taken.
Judgment- the judgment of the respective counsels or jurists would be final. The retrospective effect of such judgment would be applied to that particular case only.
These principles are well respected and embodied in the modern Indian Judiciary.
Evolution of Natural Justice through various Precedents in India
In the case of the Mohinder Singh Gill & Anr .v. The Chief Election commission, New Delhi & Ors, the Court mentions that the applicability of Natural Justice must be sustained by the current legislation, case laws, or other extant principles and not from the scraps of the history. Natural justice here is taken as the element of secular law where the spirituality touches legislation, administration as well as the Adjudication, to ensure the basic element of 'fairness'.
in A.K Kraipak .v. Union Of India, it was held b the Hon'ble Supreme Court that the rules of natural justice are operated in the areas outside the purview of the law. It also says that whenever a complaint is made before a court where some principles of natural justice are contravened, the court has to decide whether the observance of that rule is necessary for a just decision on the fact of the case. the rule that inquiry must be held in good faith, unbiased, unarbitrary, or unreasonably is included under the purview of natural Justice. These observations made by the court reinforce procedural fairness which was embodied in ancient times.
In the case of Chairman, Board of Mining Examination .v. Ramjee, The court tries to link the concept of reasonable opportunity with that of the natural Justice. The Court says that if fairness is shown by the jurist to the accused no breach of the natural justice can be complained. Here, the court is bringing up the concept of 'reasonable opportunity' towards the accused.
Natural justice is seen as an element for ensuring fairness and a reasonable opportunity for all. From our Ancient time itself, we have systematically embodied the principles of natural justice, through the appointment of counsels and thus keeping a check on ensuring Natural justice. however, in the modern times, the judiciary took up the role of ensuring Natural Justice, and through various precedents, the concept of Natural Justice is elevated, thus invoking and recognizing sound principles into this very concept.
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Swathi. Ashok. Nair is currently Pursuing Law at School of Legal Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology.
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