Audi Alteram Partem

Introduction

In India, the principle of natural justice can be interpreted from Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 14 provides equality before the law and Article 21 provides the protection of life and personal liberty. Article 21 was defined in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. The Union of India.
It was held by the court that the law and procedure which is followed should be just, fair and reasonable. The rule of natural justice comes into force where no partiality is executed with anybody during any regulatory activity. Audi Alteram Partem’s rule is the primary notion of the principle of natural justice. The principle states that no one should be punished unheard of. Both the parties will get an opportunity for fair hearing and justice.
This maxim means “hear the other side” or no man should be unheard, both the parties have an opportunity of being heard. Justice will be given to both parties. Audi alteram partem is from a latin phrase “audiatur et altera pars”. Its essence is the same as hear the other side. This is a very strong rule which means no one will be judged without fair hearing. The objective is to provide an opportunity to respond to the evidence against him.

Meaning of maxim

This maxim is applied to make sure that fair play and justice to the person who is affected. It is usually applicable in administrative action. The procedure must be just and fair. The party must be given an opportunity so that the party can defend itself before the court of law.  The principle of hearing is basically a code of procedure and thus covers every stage through which an administrative jurisdiction passes that is from notice to final determination.

De Smith said that “No suggestion may be more obviously concluded than that a man can’t cause the loss of freedom or property for an offense by a legal continuing until he has had a reasonable chance of noting the body of evidence against him”. A person will not suffer unless and until he had an opportunity of being heard. This is the primary rule of the humanized statute and is acknowledged by the laws of men and god. Prior to any order is being passed for any individual person, a sensible and good chance of being heard needs to be given to him. In this maxim, two principles are primarily considered that is fundamental justice and equity.

Essential elements

The essential elements of this maxim are as follow:

Notice

Prior any action is taken upon anyone who is affected. A notice needs to be provided to them in order to present an against the proposed action and pursue his application. If any order is passed without giving notice then it is against the principle of natural justice and is void ab initio which means void from the beginning.
Everyone has a right to know the facts before any action is taken and without knowing the proper facts, a person cannot protect himself. The facts need to be known by the aggrieved party prior to the hearing of the case. Notice is essential to begin any hearing. Notice needs to contain the time, place and date of hearing and also the jurisdiction under which a case is filed. It needs to contain the charges and proposed against the person. If any of the things is missing in the notice then a notice will be considered invalid. Nonissuance of notice does not affect the jurisdiction but affects the rules of natural justice.

Case – Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v. Union of India

The notice which is presented to the parties should be crystal clear and unambiguous. If it is ambiguous and it is not clear then the notice will not be considered reasonable and proper.

Hearing

The second most essential element of audi alteram partem is fair hearing. If the order passed by the authority without hearing the party or without giving him an opportunity of being heard then it will be considered as invalid.

Case – Harbans Lal v Commissioner, National Co-operative Bank v. Ajay Kumar and Fateh Singh v State of Rajasthan

In this case, it was held that if a person gets a reasonable opportunity of being heard or fair hearing it is an essential ingredient of the principle of audi alteram partem. This condition is accompanied by the authority providing a written or oral hearing which is the discretion of the authority unless the statute under which action is taken by the authority provides otherwise. It is the duty of the authority to ensure that affected parties should get a chance of oral or personal hearing or not.

Evidence

Evidence is considered as a most important part which is brought before the court when both the parties are present there and the judicial or quasi-judicial authority will act against the evidence which is there before the court.

Case – Stafford v Minister of Health

It was held in this case that no evidence should be acknowledged in the absence of the other party and if any such evidence is recorded then it is the duty of the authority to make it available to the other party.

Cross-examination 

The court should not require to reveal the person concerned or material to be taken against him, but an opportunity is provided them to deny the evidence. The question arises that will witness will be cross-examined

Case – Kanungo & Co. v Collector of Customs

In this case, the business property of a person was investigated and some watches were seized by the police who were in power under the Sea Customs Act. A person who gave the information was not allowed for cross-examination. The principle of natural justice was not violated and the court held that the principle of natural justice does not allow the concerned person to cross-examine against the witness in the matter where goods are seized under the Sea Customs Act.

Legal Representation 

Genuinely, the representation through a legal advisor in the authoritative arbitration isn’t considered as an imperative piece of the reasonable hearing. Be that as it may, in specific circumstances in the event that the privilege to legal representation is not rejected and at that point, it adds up to infringement of natural justice.

Case – J.J Mody v State of Bombay and Krishna Chandra v Union of India

In this case, it was held that refusal of legal representation amounts to the violation of natural justice because the party was not able to understand the rules of law effectively and they should get a chance of being heard once again.

 

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