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THE IMPORTANCE OF 'AUDI ALTEREM PARTEM' IN THE INDIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

By- Sharmeen Shaikh

Introduction:

The Indian legal system is governed by certain basic principles which form the core of the Indian judiciary, government and administration. Laws are drafted and implemented on the basis of certain principles of natural justice. These principles are important as they protect the citizens from the abuse of laws and also keep a check on the legislation. One such foundational value is ‘audi alterem partem.’


‘Audi alterem partem’ is a Latin term which literally means, ‘hear the other side.’ It suggests that to adjudicate upon any matter in any court of law, a fair hearing of both the parties is a must. No one should be condemned or punished without a fair hearing. Ignorance of this principle results to an unfair hearing and therefore, an unfair and biased judgement. Therefore, this principle is extended to mete out a just and fair outcome for disputes.


Composition:

The elements comprising this principle of natural justice include:

  • Right to Notice: Any person, against whom a complaint of any kind has been issued, has the right to receive a notice regarding the charges levelled. A person has the right to be informed so that he/she can defend themselves in an appropriate manner, in the court of law. If any order is passed without an appropriate notice, the order is presumed as void ab initio or void right from the beginning.

  • Right to Hearing: A person has the right to a fair hearing before the competent adjudicating authority. If an order is passed without giving a person a chance to represent or defend themselves, the order is deemed invalid.

  • Right Legal Representation: The accused has the right to secure legal representation so as to ascertain his/her rights. Right to legal counsel is extremely crucial so that the human rights of the accused are not violated. Legal representation also implies a humane approach towards the accused as every person has the right and should be provided the opportunity to defend himself/herself.

  • Right to Evidence: Evidence is the backbone of every legal trial. Therefore, it is a principle of natural justice that evidence should be received and submitted in the presence of both the parties in a court of law. The concerned parties of a dispute should be well-informed and duly notified during the submission of evidence during the course of a trial or legal suit.

Exceptions to the rule:

The exceptional situations that waive this principle of natural justice are:

  • Express or implied statutory exclusion of the principle,

  • Legislative and not administrative function,

  • Impracticability of the application and

  • In case of an administrative hearing.

Conclusion:

In a natural setting, the application of audi alterem partem is vital for a just and fair governance of India. It is an indication of a healthy and a functional democracy. The ignorance of this principle in the ordinary circumstances, defeats the human rights of the citizens, even if they are in the form of ‘accused’ in a particular legal dispute.


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