Natural justice is the basic means to gauge the appropriateness or inappropriateness of any administrative proceeding.
Principles of natural justice are also a yard stick to determine the fairness of any rules. As such any rules set by a committee, tribunal or court must confirm to the principles of natural justice.
A summary of what natural justice is was made Lord Denning (1962) in what he called “fair play in action”. He said that for natural justice to be done, one must,
“…know the case which is made against him. He must know what evidence has been given and what statements have been made affecting him: and then he must be given a fair opportunity to correct or contradict them…. Whoever is to adjudicate must not hear evidence or receive representations from one side behind the back of the other….”
What is “fair play in action”?
There are three key principles of fairness or justice that must guide all administrative decisions:
- People have a right to be heard: they must have a fair opportunity to present their case whenever their interests might be adversely affected by a decision;
- The ruling must be made by someone free of bias;
- The judgment must be based on evidence, not on speculation or suspicion, and the decision must be communicated in a way that makes clear what evidence was used in making the decision.
In general, an accused person or a person facing charges before a committee, tribunal or court of law must:
Have sufficient notice of any procedures being brought forward that involve their interests. In this regard reasonable attempts should be made to accommodate all relevant schedules;
Be provided with all the information about their case, both positive and negative;
Believe that anyone evaluating them (either on a committee or otherwise) is free from inappropriate bias. The determination of bias is based on the reasonable perception of the charged/accused person. Note that the key threshold is ‘perception’, and not bias ‘in fact’ or actual bias, which does not have to be proven. Also, the perception must, however, be reasonable.
Have the right to challenge any member of a tribunal for bias;
Have reasonable faith that any person making an administrative decision has sufficient expertise to understand the issues before them;
Be allowed to bring a person of their choice to the hearing to assist them (a colleague, or lawyer, for example);
Be allowed to call witnesses in support of their case where relevant;
Be allowed to present all evidence they deem relevant to make their case;
Hear all evidence against them and question any witnesses presented by other parties;
In a hearing, be able to ask for a break in the proceedings at any time to gather their thoughts or better prepare their case;
Receive a written statement as to the outcome;
Have access to the recordings of the hearing, if any are made.
Addressing your concerns about violations of natural justice
Judicial review is one of the remedies available to a person who feels that they have been treated unfairly before any administrative body. However, to approach the judicial review, the aggrieved person also needs legal advice and representation.
If you therefore feel that an unfair administrative action has been taken against you, please call us for proper advice.
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 12 Issue 1 of December 1st, 2017. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE