November 25, 2020

Article 14 As an Ingredient of Principles of Natural Justice


Speaking in general, no provision is found in any statute for the observance of the principles of natural justice by the adjudicating authorities. The question then arises whether the adjudicating authority is bound to follow the principles of natural justice. The law is well settled after the powerful pronouncement of Byles J in Cooper v. Wandsworth Board of Works[1], wherein His Lordship observed:

A long course of decision, establish that although there are no positive words in the statue requiring that the party shall be heard, yet the justice of the common law supply the omission of the legislature.

In India the principles of natural justice are firmly grounded under the garb Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Justice Hegde in the famous case of A.K. Kraipak v. UOI[2] propounded:

The aim of the rules of natural justice is to secure justice or to put it negatively to prevent miscarriage of justice. These rules can operate only in areas not covered by any law validly made. In other words, they do not supplant the law of the land but supplement it.

Concept of Principles of Natural Justice


The Principles of natural justice is an important concept in administrative law. In the words of Megarry J. it is “justice that is simple and elementary, as distinct from justice that is complex, sophisticated and technical.”[3]

According to De Smith[4], the term “natural justice” expresses the close relationship between the common law and moral principles and it has an impressive ancestry. It is also known as “substantial justice”, “fundamental justice”, “universal justice” or “fair play in action”. It is a great humanizing principle intended to invest law with fairness, to secure justice and to prevent miscarriage of justice.

Principles of Natural Justice:

The traditional English law recognizes two principles of natural justice:

I. Nemo debet esse judex in propria causa;

II. Audi alteram partem.

Principles of Natural Justice and Constitution Of India

Article 14 Of Constitution of India

Article 14 guarantees all citizens equality before law and equal protection of law. Moreover, Article 14 manifests in the form of following propositions[5]:

(i) A law granting freehand and unhindered power on an authority is dreadful for being arbitrary and discriminatory.

(ii) Article 14 illegalize prejudice in the definite exercise of any discretionary power.

(iii) Article 14 smacks at arbitrariness in administrative action and guarantees fairness and equality of treatment.

Article 14 And Principles of Natural Justice:

There is considerable amount of case laws which establishes the relationship between Article 14 and principles of natural justice which are studied below:

In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. UOI[6] the court observed that:

“Article 14 is an authority for the proposition that the principles of natural justice are an integral part of the guarantee of equality assured by Article 14 an order depriving a person of his civil right passed without affording him an opportunity of being heard suffers from the vice of violation of natural justice.”

In the case of Delhi Transport Union v. DTC Mazdoor Union[7] SC held that:

The audi alteram partem rule, in essence, enforce the equality clause in Art 14 and it is applicable not only to quasi-judicial bodies but also to administrative order adversely affecting the party in question unless the rule has been excluded by the Act in question. The principle of natural justice embodied as an integral part of equality clause. Article 14 is the general principle while Article 311(2) is a special provision applicable to all civil services under the State. Article 311(2) embodies the principles of natural justice but proviso to Clause (2) of Article 311 excludes the operation of principles of natural justice engrafted in Article 311(2) as an exception in the given circumstances enumerated in three clauses of the proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution. Article 14 read with Article 16(1) and 311 are to be harmoniously interpreted that the proviso to Article 311(2) excludes the application of the principles of natural justice as an exception; and the applicability of Article 311(2) must, therefore, be circumscribed to the civil services and to be construed accordingly. In respect of all other employees covered by Article 12 of the Constitution the dynamic role of Article 14 and other relevant Articles like 21 must be allowed to have full” play without any inhibition, unless the statutory rules themselves, consistent with the mandate of Article 14, 16, 19 & 21 provide, expressly such an exception.

In the case of Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd v. Brojo Nath[8] it was held that:

An order of termination of service of a permanent employee merely by issuing three months was held to be invalid and unconstitutional as being depriving the employee of the right and Protection under Art. 14. The Court ruled that it would strike down, any unfair and unreasonable clause of a contract entered into between parties who were not equal in bargaining power. And the Court further held that such an action was in conformity with the mandate of the “great equality clause in Art. 14. The Court emphasized that the judicial concept of Art. 14 has progressed “from a prohibition against discriminatory class legislation to an invalidating actor for any discriminatory or arbitrary state action.” The Court also emphasized that the rule was “both arbitrary and unreasonable” and “as it also wholly ignored and set aside the Audi alterum partum rule” violated Art. 14. This is of the view that “the principle of natural justice has now come to be recognized as being a part of the constitutional guarantee contained in Art. 14.” The rule in question was “both arbitrary and unreasonable,” and it also wholly ignored and set aside the Audi alteram partum rule and, thus, it violated Art 14.

In the case of Cantonment Board, Dinapore v. Taramani[9] the Commanding-in-chief of the cantonment board cancelled the board’s resolution after giving it a hearing but not to the respondent to whom the permission had been given. The Supreme Court ruled that Commanding-in-chief ought to have given a hearing to the respondent as well before cancelling the permission given by the board. The Court observed: audi alteram partum is a part of Art. 14 of the Constitution”. The real affected party in fact was the party being ultimately affected by cancellation of the Board’s resolution. Because of Art.14 “no order shall be passed at the back of a person, prejudicial in nature to him, when it entails civil consequences.” This is how Art 14 of the Constitution holds element of Natural justice into it.

In A.K. Kraipak and Ors. etc. v. Union of India and Ors.[10] the Court held that “Rules of natural justice aims at securing justice or to prevent injustice. They operate only in the areas not covered by any law validly made.”

In Union of India v. Col. J.N. Sinha and Anr.[11] It was held that principles of natural justice do not supplant the law but supplement it. If a statutory provision either specifically or by necessary implication excludes the application of any rules of natural justice then the court cannot ignore the mandate of the legislature or the statutory authority and read into the concerned provision of the principles of natural justice. In that case this Court held that principles of natural justice cannot be read into Fundamental Rule and no opportunity need be given before compulsorily retiring an employee as that implication does not arise by reason of express statutory language.

In the case of Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel and Others[12] the Supreme Court had established the relationship between Constitutional provisions and principles of natural justice. The observations of the court are as follows:

I. The principles of natural justice are not the creation of Article 14. Article 14 is not their begetter but their Constitutional guardian. Principles of natural justice trace their ancestry to ancient civilizations and centuries long past. Until about two centuries ago the term “natural justice” was often used interchangeably with “natural law” and at times it is still so used. The expression “natural law” has been variously defined. In Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law[13] it is defined as “rules derived from God, reason or nature, as distinct from man-made law.”

II. What Article 14 forbids is discrimination by law, that is, treating persons similarly circumstanced differently or treating those not similarly circumstanced in the same way or, as has been pithily put, treating equals as unequals and unequals as equals. Article 14 prohibits hostile classification by law and is directed against discriminatory class legislation. The propositions deducible from decisions of this court on this point have been set out in the form of thirteen propositions in the judgment of Chandrachud, C.J., in In Re The Special Courts Bill, 1978. The lust of these propositions which describes the nature of the two pairs of Article 14 has been extracted earlier. We are not concerned in these Appeals and Writ Petitions with the other propositions set out in that judgment. In early days, this Court was concerned with discriminatory and hostile class legislation and it was to this aspect of Article 14 that its attention was directed. As fresh thinking began to take place on the scope ambit of Article 14, new dimensions to this guarantee of equality before the law and of the equal protection of the laws emerged and were recognized by this Court. It was realized that to treat one person differently from another when there was no rational basis for doing so would be arbitrary and thus discriminatory. Arbitrariness can take many forms and shapes but whatever form or shape it takes, it is none the less discrimination. It also became apparent that to treat a person or a class of persons unfairly would be an arbitrary act amounting to discrimination forbidden by Article 14. Similarly, this Court, recognized that to treat a person in violation of the principles of natural justice would amount to arbitrary and discriminatory treatment and would violate the guarantee given by Article 14.

III. The principles of natural justice have thus come to be recognized as being a part of the guarantee contained in Article 14 because of the new and dynamic interpretation given by this Court to the concept of equality which is the subject-matter of that Article. Shortly put, the syllogism runs thus violation of a rule of natural justice results in arbitrariness which is the same as discrimination; where discrimination is the result of state action, it is a violation of Article 14. Therefore, a violation of a principle of natural justice by a State action is a violation of Article 14. Article 14, however, is not the sole repository of the principles of natural justice.


On the basis of above discussed case laws with respect to Constitution of India and principles of natural justice it can be concluded that though the principles of natural justice are no were specifically defined under legislation but it has its roots embedded under the judicial system by means of judicial pronouncements. Moreover, Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in administrative action and ensures fairness and equality of treatment, it is an authority for the proposition that the principles of natural justice are an integral part of the guarantee of equality assured by Article 14. Therefore, Article 14 acts as a key ingredient of the principles of natural justice.

[1] (1863) 14 CB (NS) 180

[2] (1969) 2 SCC 262

[3] John v. Rees, 1970 Ch 345: (1969) 2 WLR 1294.

[4] Judicial Review of Administrative Action (1995) 378.

[5] M. P. Jani, “Indian Constitutional Law”, VI Ed, Reprint (2011), (Gurgaon; Lexis Nexis Butterworth’s Wadhwa Nagpur), at, p. 963.

[6] MANU/SC/0439/1986.

[7] MANU/SC/0031/1991.

[8] MANU/SC/0439/1986.


[10] Supra Note 4.

[11] [1971] 1 SCR 79

[12] Supra Note 6.

[13] (Second Edition, page 1221)

Author Details: Varun Modasia (Unitedworld School of law, Karnavati University, Gujarat)

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