Show Cause and Hearing

The issue of notice and hearing are squarely covered under the ambit of the principles of natural justice. Thus, it will not be inappropriate to discuss these issues commonly under the same head. The principle of audi alteram partem, as commonly understood, means ‘hear the other side or hear both sides before a decision is arrived at’. It is founded on the rule that no one should be condemned or deprived of his right even in quasi judicial proceedings unless he has been granted liberty of being heard.

In cases of Cooper v. Wands Worth Board of Works (1863) 14 C.B. (N.S.) 180 and Errington v. Minister of Health (1935) 1 KB 249, the Courts in the United Kingdom had enunciated this principle in the early times. This principle was adopted under various legal systems including India and was applied with some limitations even to the field of administrative law. However, with the development of law, this doctrine was expanded in its application and the Courts specifically included in its purview, the right to notice and requirement of reasoned orders, upon due application of mind in addition to the right of hearing. These principles have now been consistently followed in judicial dictum of Courts in India and are largely understood as integral part of principles of natural justice. In other words, it is expected of a tribunal or any quasi judicial body to ensure compliance of these principles before any order adverse to the interest of the party can be passed. However, the exclusion of the principles of natural justice is also an equally known concept and the legislature has the competence to enact laws which specifically exclude the application of principles of natural justice in larger public interest and for valid reasons.

Generally, we can classify compliance or otherwise, of these principles mainly under three categories. First, where application of principles of natural justice is excluded by specific legislation; second, where the law contemplates strict compliance to the provisions of principles of natural justice and default in compliance thereto can result in vitiating not only the orders but even the proceedings taken against the delinquent; and third, where the law requires compliance to these principles of natural justice, but an irresistible conclusion is drawn by the competent court or forum that no prejudice has been caused to the delinquent and the non-compliance is with regard to an action of directory nature. The cases may fall in any of these categories and therefore, the Court has to examine the facts of each case in light of the act or the Rules and Regulations in force in relation to such a case. It is not only difficult but also not advisable to spell out any straight jacket formula which can be applied universally to all cases without variation.[JT 2010 (10) SC 26 : (2010) 10 SCC 744 : (2010) 11 SCR 112 : (2010) 9 SCALE 291]