Natural Justice: What are the Principles of Natural Justice?

The principles of natural justice form a significant base of the administrative law. As defined by Lord Widgery, “the principles of natural justice were those fundamental rules, the breach of which will prevent justice from being seen to be done.”

The principles of natural justice were formulated with an intention to incorporate fairness, secure justice and avoid miscarriage of justice in the society. It is mandatory to comply with the rules laid down by the humanizing principles.

Natural Justice: The Concept of Quasi Judicial Functions 

The principles of natural justice were adopted in India to ensure fairness and just adjudication by the administrative authorities. However, it is applicable only to quasi judicial functions i.e. exercising powers or functions that resemble those of a court or a judge. The term quasi judicial can be explained as the action taken and discretion exercised by public administrative agencies that are obliged to investigate or ascertain facts and draw conclusions from them and use them as the basis for official actions.

To determine the applicability of the principles of natural justice to a case, it is important to analyze whether functions pertaining to the case is of quasi judicial nature or not. However, later on, the ambit of the principles of natural justice was expanded and various core administrative functions were brought under the concept of quasi judicial.

Natural Justice: A Case Study

In the landmark case of Ridge v, Baldwin, Citation (1962) 2 W L R 935, the complainant was a chief police constable who was terminated from service by the Watch Committee. He was not given a fair chance to defend himself. The Watch Committee was authorized to dismiss any constable on the ground of negligence of duty or being unfit for duty. It was held by the House of Lords that the power of dismissal could not be exercised without giving a fair chance to the complainant to prove his innocence.

Final Legal Take Away Tip: In the current times, as observed by the Supreme Court, the dividing line between administrative powers and quasi judicial functions has become very fine, and is gradually getting erased.
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