DOCTRINE OF AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM

by Shruti Prakash Pandav


Introduction

It is believed that the origin of the Natural Justice came from the concept of Natural Law during the Greek’s period. According to the Natural Law theory, nature provides a certain order from which the human beings can set a standard for their conduct with the help of the reason. The standard these principles provide is that there should be the right to fair hearing and absence of biasness to the individuals in the decision-making process.[1] Natural Justice implies fairness, reasonableness, equity, and equality. The aim of natural justice is to secure justice; to prevent a miscarriage of justice and to give protection to the public against the arbitrariness.[2] Therefore, there are two main principles in which the rules of natural justice are manifested[3]

1. Nemo Judex in Sua Causa : no one shall be a judge in his own cause

2. Audi alteram partem : no decision shall be given against a party without affording him a reasonable hearing.


Meaning :

Audi Alteram Partem (or audiaturet altera pars) is a latin phrase meaning ‘hear the other side. This principle is a sine qua no of every civilized society. Justice Black once said “A person's right to an opportunity to be heard in his defense is basic in our system of jurisprudence.”[4] In Cooper v. Wandsworth Board of Works,[5] BYLES J. observed that the laws of God and man both give the party an opportunity to defend himself. Even God did not pass a sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make his defence. It is a firmly established rule of common law that a judge or anyone exercising a judicial function must hear both sides of every case: not only the plaintiff or prosecutor but also the defendant must be heard. This rule is recognized in England as one of fundamental justice, and a failure to observe it makes the whole proceeding defective and voidable. In the United States of America, the principle is part of the notion of "due process" and is equally well protected.[6] In India, the principles of natural justice are firmly grounded in Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Before the case of A. K. Karaipak v. Union of India,[7] the court applied the natural justice to the quasi-judicial functions only. But after the case, the natural justice could be applied to the administrative functions as well.


Features of Audi Alteram Partem :

Right to Notice

The right to notice means the right of being known. Unless a person knows the case against him, he cannot defend himself. Therefore, before the proceedings start, the authority concerned is required to give to the affected person the notice of the case against him. Under the mandate of rules of natural justice, no one can be inflicted with adverse civil consequences, without issuing him a notice informing him the basis of the contemplated action, and affording him an opportunity to rebut the same.[8] The notice must be adequate and reasonable and in order to be treated as adequate and reasonable the notice must give sufficient information so as to enable the person concerned to prepare his defence effectively.

However, the requirement of notice will not be insisted upon as a mere technical formality, when the concerned party clearly knows the case against him and is not thereby prejudiced in any manner in putting up an effective defence as in the case of The Keshav Mills Company Ltd. &Anrv. Union Of India And Ors[9].


Right to know evidence against him :

No evidence personal or oral should be received at the back of other party and if any such evidence is recorded, it is the duty of the authority that such evidence must be made available to the other party. In Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Ltd v. Commissioner Of Income Tax, West Bengal[10] the court held that the tribunal violated the principal of natural justice by not disclosing to the assessee the information that has been supplied to it by the departmental representative. In some cases, it might be possible that the circumstances are such that no evidence can be taken in the presence of the party but on the back of them. However, in such cases, the gist of the evidence so collected against the party concerned must be brought to his notice and the party concerned should be given an opportunity to rebut the evidence so collected as was in the case of HiraNath Mishra AndOrs. v. The Principal, Rajendra Medical College.[11]


Right to present case and evidence

It is the right guaranteed to both the parties to represent their case. The adjudicatory authority must provide the party with a reasonable opportunity to present his case. This can be done either orally or in writing. In Union of India v. J.P. Mitter , the court refused to quash the order of the president of India in a dispute relating to the age of high court judge on the ground that the President did not grant oral hearing even on request. The Court was of the view that when the person has been given an opportunity to submit his case in writing, there is no violation of the principles of natural justice if an oral hearing is not granted.


Right to rebut evidence

It is the right of the opposite party to rebut the issue raised against him. It is the duty of the court to grant permission for a rebuttal to the party so that he can express his views and defend himself. In Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Ltd v. Commissioner Of Income Tax,West Bengal[12], the hon’ble Court held that not giving any opportunity to the company to rebut the material furnished to it by him is in violation of principal of the natural justice.


Reasoned decision

The basic rule of law and natural justice require the recording of reasons in support of the order. In S.N. Mukherjee vs. Union of India[13] it was observed that in view of the expanding horizon of the principles of natural justice, the requirement to record reason can be regarded as one of the principles of natural justice which govern the exercise of power by administrative authorities. Also, In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India,[14] the apex court held that law which allows any administrative authority to take a decision affecting the rights of the people, without assigning the reason for such action, cannot be accepted as a procedure which is just, fair and reasonable, hence violative of Articles 14 and 21.


Conclusion

The Latin maxim, ‘Audi Alteram Partem’ is the principle of natural justice which says no person shall be condemned unheard. Hence, no case or judgment can be decided without listening to the point of another party. However, there are many cases where this principle of natural justice is excluded, and no option is given to the party to speak. In Maharashtra State Financial Corporation v. Suvarna Board Mills and another[15], it has been observed that the natural Justice cannot be placed in a strait Jacket; rules are not embodied and they do vary from case to case and from one fact-situation to another.


[1] Muhammad Zubair, SadiaKhattak, The Fundamental Principles of Natural Justice in Administrative Law(2014) J. Appl. Environ. Biol. Sci., 4(9)86-27, 2014 [2] Ajay R. Singh, LEGAL MAXIM: AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM & NEMO JUDEX IN RE SUA: DOCTRINE OF NATURAL JUSTICE [3] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India AIR 1973 SC [4] Re Oliver 333 U.S. 257, 273 (1948). [5] (1861-73) ALL ER 1554 [6] Kelly, John M., "Audi AlteramPartem;Note" (1964). Natural Law Forum.Paper 84. [7] (1969) 2 SCC 262 [8] Dalbir Singh v. State of Haryana and ors. On 5th September,2002 [9] AIR 1973 SC 389 [10] AIR 1955 SC 65 [11] AIR 1973 SC 1260 [12] AIR 1955 SC 65 [13] AIR 1990 SC 1984 [14] (1978) 1 SCC 248 [15] (1994) 5 SCC 566