AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM

Audi Alteram Partem (audiatur et altera pars) is a Latin phrase meaning ‘hear the other side’ or ‘no man should be condemned unheard’. It is considered as the second fundamental principle of natural justice and is long established, that a judge or anyone exercising judicial power must hear both sides of a lawsuit and therefore provide equal opportunity to the plaintiff and defendant. Without fair play, the whole proceeding will be considered defective and voidable.

In India, the right to a fair hearing has been implied in Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India. The right to equality under Article 14 has been given a new and dynamic meaning, in the case of Maneka vs. UOI, wherein it was held that any action which is arbitrary in nature would be considered as a violation of the equality clause. An action could be considered arbitrary if it is given without providing an adequate opportunity to hearing both parties. Article 19 denotes reasonableness in both substantive and procedural aspects. Procedural reasonableness means the right to a fair hearing. Likewise, the procedure established by law under Article 21 means fair, just or right procedure. A procedure cannot be called fair procedure if it denies a right to a fair hearing. Article 331(2) of the Indian Constitution is another provision that expressly provides that right to notice and a reasonable opportunity, which acts as a safeguard against arbitrary dismissal or removal from service. 

The right to fair hearing also has international magnitudes as there are legislative provisions in Article 16 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950 and Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. 

Notice and hearing are considered to be the main elements of Audi Alteram Partem, wherein notice may be taken as a starting point of hearing. Unless a person knows the grounds implicated against him, he cannot defend himself. Therefore, a notice of cause must be served to the affected party by the concerned authority before starting the proceedings. On the contrary, it will be considered as a violation of natural justice. If the notice is a statutory requirement, it must be issued in a prescribed manner provided by the statute. Nevertheless, the omission to serve notice would not be considered fatal, if the notice has not been served because of his own fault. In LT Sing v. Board of Governor MACT, some students were held guilty of gross violence against another student. The notice could not be served because they had absconded. The action of the authority was held to be valid as the students were at fault.

The second element of Audi Alteram Partem rule is no one should be condemned unheard. It requires that both sides should be heard before passing any decision. This rule stressed that before passing any decision against any person, a reasonable opportunity of hearing must be given to that person. In Maneka Gandhi Vs. UOI, the passport of the petitioner was confiscated by the Government of India in consideration of public interest. No opportunity was given to the petitioner before taking the impugned action. The Supreme Court held that the order was violative of the principle of natural justice. There are some other elements for Audi Alteram Partem such as disclosure of evidence, cross-examination, right to counsel, and so on which are essential components of the principle.  

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