Rule Against Bias (Nemo Judex Causa Sua) by Shrishti Mishra @lexcliq

Rule Against Bias (Nemo Judex Causa Sua)

By Shrishti Mishra

Bias means an operative prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious in relation to a party or issue. The rule against bias flows from the following two principles: –

  1. a) No one should be a judge in his own cause
  2. b) Justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

Thus a judge should not only be impartial but should be in a position to apply his mind objectively to the dispute before him. The rule against bias thus has two main aspects: –

  1. The administrator exercising adjudicatory powers must not have any personal or proprietary interest in the outcome of the proceedings.
  2. There must be a real likelihood of bias.

The real likelihood of bias is a subjective term, which means either actual bias or reasonable suspicion of bias. It is difficult to prove the state of mind of a person. Therefore, what the courts see is whether there is reasonable ground for believing that the deciding factor was likely to Have been biased.

Bias can take many forms: –

Personal Bias

Pecuniary Bias

Subject-matter bias

Departmental bias

Pre-conceived notion bias

In A.K.Kraipak v. UOI, Naquishband, who was the acting Chief Conservator of Forests, was a member of the Selection Board and was also a candidate for selection to All India cadre of the Forest Service. Though he did not take part in the deliberations of the Board when his name was considered and approved, the Supreme Court held that `there was a real likelihood of a bias for the mere presence of the candidate on the Selection Board may adversely influence the judgment of the other members’ SC also made the following observations: –

  1. The dividing line between administrative power and quasi-judicial power quite thin and is being gradually obliterated. Whether power is Administrative or quasi-judicial, one has to look into –
  2. a) the nature of the power conferred
  3. b) the person on whom it is conferred
  4. c) the framework of the law conferring that power
  5. d) the manner in which that power is expected to be exercised.
  6. The principles of natural justice also apply to administrative proceedings,
  7. The concept of natural justice is to prevent miscarriage of justice and it entails –

(i) No one shall be a judge of his own cause.

(ii) No decision shall be given against a party without affording him a reasonable hearing.

(iii) The quasi-judicial inquiries should be held in good faith and not arbitrarily or unreasonably.


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