Scroll down and read the landmark cases related to natural justice.

The concept of natural justice, also known as the law of nature or procedural fairness, indeed aims to ensure that legal proceedings are conducted fairly and justly. However, it extends beyond just trials. Although it is not expressly mentioned or discussed in any statute, the principle of natural justice holds the utmost significance. These principles have been developed by judges through various judgments and must be upheld at all costs. The goal of natural justice is to uphold equality and fairness while avoiding arbitrariness and miscarriage of justice.

The principles of natural justice encompass the following two rules:

i. Rule against Bias (Nemo Judex In Causa Sua)

ii. Rule of Fair Hearing (Audi Alteram Partem)

Below are notable cases concerning the principle of natural justice:

1. A K Kraipak v. Union of India[1]

The subject of the case concerned the employment of a civil servant to the recently established All India Forest Services as arbitrary and violative of the Principle of natural justice. In this case, a committee was constituted for the selection of officers into the All India Forest Service. The Chief Conservator of Forest was one of the members of the said committee. The said Chief Conservator at that time had also applied to be selected for the All India Forest Services.

Eventually, he got selected for the post. Although he wasn’t present at the time of the selection of candidates, his fellow candidates were aggrieved with the same appointment. The Supreme Court held that the said appointment violated the principle of natural justice as there existed a chance of bias during the appointment. The case also established that the principle of natural justice must be applied in judicial, administrative as well as quasi-judicial matters.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

2. The Keshav Mills Co. Limited & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.[2]

This case involved a company of Cotton Textile Mill which was established in the year 1934, however, it had to be closed down between 1966 and 1968 as it became a sick textile mill. In the year 1969, the Government thereby ordered an investigation into the matters of the company by appointing a committee. Eventually, the Government of India passed an order under Section 18-A of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, and the Gujarat State Textile Corporation Ltd. was given the management of the said company for 5 years.

The company thereby filed a writ petition in the High Court of Delhi on the basis that a copy of the report based on which the decision was taken was not provided to them and that they were not given a fair hearing opportunity and thereby violated the rule of natural justice. The said petition was dismissed. The petitioners then filed an appeal by Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court. The Hon'ble Supreme Court said,

“The answer to this question also must always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case… Whether the report should be furnished or not must therefore depend in every individual case on the merits of that case. We have no doubt that in the instant case non-disclosure of the report of the Investigating Committee has not caused any prejudice whatsoever to the appellants. ”

Therefore, the acts of the government were not in violation of the principle of natural justice.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

3. Balco Employees Union (Regd.) v. Union Of India & Ors[3]

The case revolved around the disinvestment of a company engaged in the manufacture of aluminium namely M/s Bharat Aluminum Company Limited (BALCO) by the Government of India. The same was challenged by several individuals which included the workers of the said company as well. Among the various issues raised, the applicability of the principle of natural justice was also brought into question. The Supreme Court held

“In taking of a policy decision in economic matters at length, the principles of natural justice have no role to play. While it is expected of a responsible employer to consider all aspects including the welfare of the labour before taking any policy decision that, by itself, will not entitle the employees to demand a right of hearing or consultation before the taking of the decision.”

The Supreme Court further stated that even though the company's employees might be interested in the matters of the company it will not be possible to accept the claims that the natural justice principles would be applicable during the disinvestment process and that the parties with an interest in the business, would have a right to be heard. The court also stated that a decision made by the government cannot be contested as being against the natural justice principles unless it is arbitrary.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

4. D.K. Yadav v. J.M.A. Industries[4]

In this case, Mr D.K Yadav was absent from his duty for more than 8 days without the permission of the respondent. According to their Certified Standing Orders, such absence of an employee (extending to more than 8 days prior permission) from his work would result in the loss of employment. Accordingly, the appellant’s employment was terminated. According to the Court, every person should have an opportunity of being heard. Further, the Court also stated that before taking any stringent action, a person should be given the opportunity to be heard. Thus, this violation resulted in the violation of the principle of natural justice.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

5. Siemens Engineering and Manufacturing Company of India Ltd. v. Union of India[5]

The matter was related to the Indian Customs Authorities. In this case, some spares and accessories were imported by the company from Japan, however an item namely ‘pot motors’ was imported from Germany. The Custom authorities had initially charged import duty for the pot motors according to item no.72(3), however later the customs authorities demanded higher import duty as apparently, the item fell under item no.73(21) without giving any reasons, thereby they filed for a representation wherein unsatisfactory reasoning was given. Thereby it was rejected. The appellants had also further applied for a revision to the Government of India which was also rejected. The court held that every body including administrative bodies must provide “explicit” reasons for their decisions. The court stated

“It is essential that administrative authorities and tribunals should accord fair and proper hearing to the persons sought to be affected by their orders and give sufficiently clear and explicit reasons in support of the orders made by them…..The rule requiring reasons to be given in support of an order is, like the principle of audi alteram partem, a basic principle of natural justice which must inform every quasi-judicial process and this rule must be observed in its proper spirit.”

Click Here to Read (P.g.2) the Official Judgment

6. Gullapalli Nageswara Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors.[6]

This case involved a business of motor transport in Andhra Pradesh who were the appellants in the present case. A scheme for nationalization of motor transport was brought by the State Transport Undertaking which was approved by the Chief Minister. Before the approval of the scheme, objections on the same were raised, but they were heard by the Transport Department and the Chief Minister himself. The appellants thereby filed a Writ Petition on the same issue in the High Court, which was dismissed.

Thereafter, they appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stated the principle that a party cannot be a judge in his cause and held that the order of the Secretary of the Transport Department who gave the hearing on the objections previously raised, was biased. Thus, the said order was quashed. However concerning the Chief Minister, the court held that the position of the Chief Minister was different from that of the Secretary, and thus the minister’s involvement in the hearing of objections was not departmental bias.

Click Here to Read (P.g.2) the Official Judgment

7. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[7]

In this case, the Regional Passport Officer, New Delhi under the Passports Act had ordered Maneka Gandhi to surrender her passport. She was issued a show cause notice as to why her passport should not be impounded. However, she was not allowed to present her case before the passport authority. The Supreme Court indeed quashed the order of the Regional Passport Officer, New Delhi, directing Maneka Gandhi to surrender her passport.

The court held that the order was a violation of the principle of natural justice and that the same must be applied to administrative actions as well. In this case, the rule of post-decisional hearing was developed. In a post-decisional hearing. the aggrieved individual would be allowed to be heard after the immediate decision of a specific authority, to establish a harmony between administrative procedures and natural justice.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

8. Jawaharlal Nehru University v. B.S. Narwal[8]

The respondent was a student of a 5 year integrated course in the Master of Arts degree in the Russian language at Jawaharlal Nehru University. However, due to his very poor academic performance, his name was ‘struck off the rolls’. The court held that the decision of the board based on academic performance is not subject to the rule of natural justice. The decision was based on the academic performance of the student by the competent authority and therefore, the principle of natural justice does not apply here.

Click Here to Read the Official Judgment

9. Govind Ram Ji Jadhav v. State of Maharashtra[9]

This case talks about giving a reasonable opportunity to be heard to a person. In this case, the appellant had been convicted of murder in furtherance of their common intention for the disappearance of evidence with two others. The High Court of Bombay had increased the appellant’s sentence, which was granted by the trial court, from 3 years to 7 years without giving any notice or opportunity to hear the appellant.

The Supreme Court held that the High Court should have allowed the appellant before such enhancement. The order of the trial court was restored thereby overturning the High Court’s order. Even though this case does not specifically talk about the ‘principle of natural justice’. The Supreme Court through this order reinstated the principle of natural justice i.e. the principle of audi alteram.

10. K.I.Shephard v. Union of India[10]

This case dealt with the importance of a pre-decisional hearing over a post-decisional hearing. In this case, three banks, namely, The Hindustan Commercial Bank were amalgamated with Punjab National Bank, the Bank of Cochin Ltd. was amalgamated with Canara Bank and the Lakshmi Commercial Bank was amalgamated with State Bank of India. However, on the said amalgamation, several employees were not included in service by the banks.

The court held that such action of terminating the employment of a few individuals was against the principle of natural justice. The court also held that holding a post-decisional hearing cannot replace the importance of pre pre-decisional hearing, and a post-decisional hearing is not a valid reason to not hold a pre-decisional hearing. Therefore the unreasonable termination of several employees was not justified.

Click Here to Read (P.g. 5: bottom) the Official Judgment


[1] AIR 1970 SC 150

[2] 1973 SCR (3) 22

[3] AIR 2002 SC 350

[4] (1993) 3 SCC 259

[5] AIR 1976 SC 1785

[6] AIR 1959 AIR 1376

[7] AIR 1978 SC 597

[8] 1980 AIR 1666

[9] 1990 (4) SCC 718

[10] AIR 1988 SC 686

Avishikta Biswas

Avishikta Biswas

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