Audi Alteram Partem – Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

Hear the other side or no man should be condemned unheard.

Explanation

Audi Alteram Partem states that no person shall be condemned, punished by a law court without being heard. Or in other words a party cannot be left to undergo any degree of punishment without an opportunity of being heard. This is considered to be a principle of fundamental justice or equity. For any judgement to be legally valid it should be passed after giving both the parties the right to defend themselves and put forward there side of the story. The maxim audi alteram partem is divided into two facets in accordance with the principle of natural justice. The first being notice followed by hearing. All the effected parties must be given a notice before the proceedings takes place. The notice id given to make the parties aware of the facts and issues in the case that is going to be adjudicated. This is done in order to give the parties sufficient amount of time in order to prepare for their defence. It is a sine qua non of the right of fair hearing. The second facet of audi alteram partam is the rule of hearing. He parties should be allowed to represent themselves and state the facts in accordance to their understanding. They should be heard by the court of law.

Origin

The principles of natural justice is based on fairness, reasonableness, equality and equity. The principle of Audi Alteram Partem is one of the basic concepts of the principle of natural justice. This doctrine gives a right that one shall be condemned of anything without being heard. This is based on the principles of natural justice and ensures a just and fair hearing. This legal maxim gives both the parties the right to be heard. The maxim is made with an aim to give an opportunity to both the parties to defend them. Any decision made without giving fair opportunity to both the parties is held to be against the principal of natural justice.

Illustration

For example whenever any person is arrested that person needs to be brought before the court of law within twenty four hours of his arrest. This is known as Hebeas Corpous. 

If any person is not being able to represent themselves through a lawyer then it the duty of the state to provide for legal aid. If any accused is not able to afford legal services then he has a right to free legal aid. 

Case Reference

In Suresh Koshy George v. The University of Kerala and Others [1] it was observed that 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. The concept of natural justice has undergone a great deal of change in recent years. In the past it was thought that it included just two rules namely : (1) no one shall be a judge in his own case (Nemo debet esse judex propria causa) and (2) no decision shall be given against a party without affording him a reasonable hearing (audi alterampartem).

In Shamnsaheb M. Multani v. State of Karnataka[2] it was held that the expression ‘failure of justice’ is too pliable or facile an expression which could be fitted in any situation. The criminal court, particularly the superior court should make a close examination to ascertain whether there was really a failure of justice or whether it is only a camouflage. One of the cardinal principles of natural justice is that no man should be condemned without being heard, (audi alteram partem). But the law reports are replete with instances of courts hesitating to approve the contention that failure of justice had occasioned merely because a person was not heard on a particular aspect. However, if the aspect is of such a nature that non-explanation of it has contributed to penalising an individual, the court should say that since he was not given the opportunity to explain that aspect there was failure of justice on account of non-compliance with the principle of natural justice.”

In the case of Union of India v. W.N. Chadha[3] the Apex Court has observed: The rule of audi alteram partem is a rule of justice and its application is excluded where the rule will itself lead to injustice. Thus, there is exclusion of the application of audi alteram partem rule to cases where nothing unfair can be inferred by not affording an opportunity to present and meet a case. This rule cannot be applied to defeat the ends of justice or to make the law ‘lifeless, absurd, stultifying and self-defeating or plainly contrary to the common sense of the situation’ and this rule may be jettisoned in very exceptional circumstances where compulsive necessity so demands.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference:

[1] Suresh Koshy George v. The University of Kerala, AIR 1969 SC 198

[2] Shamnsaheb M. Multani v. State of Karnataka, (2001) 2 SCC 577 

[3] Union of India v. W.N. Chadha, AIR 1993 SC 1082