The breach of the Audi Alteram Partem rule cannot by itself, without more, lead to the conclusion that prejudice is thereby caused, observed the Apex Court
The Supreme Court was hearing the appeal of the state against the judgment of Allahabad High Court that had set aside the cancellation of some tenders on the ground of breach of natural justice.
The Court dismissed the appeal of State while observing the facts of the case, the Court held that the cancellation of the award of tender in favour of the applicant, the principle of audi alteram partem was breached in its entirety. The Court also held that writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is maintainable at the instance of an aggrieved party to enforce a contractual obligation of the State or its instrumentality when the State acts in an arbitrary manner.
The Court sum up the principle of audi alteram partem in the following points
- Natural justice is a flexible tool in the hands of the judiciary to reach out in fit cases to remedy injustice. The breach of the audi alteram partem rule cannot by itself, without more, lead to the conclusion that prejudice is thereby caused.
- Where procedural and/or substantive provisions of law embody the principles of natural justice, their infraction per se does not lead to invalidity of the orders passed. Here again, prejudice must be caused to the litigant, except in the case of a mandatory provision of law which is conceived not only in individual interest but also in the public interest.
- No prejudice is caused to the person complaining of the breach of natural justice where such person does not dispute the case against him or it. This can happen by reason of estoppel, acquiescence, waiver and by way of non-challenge or non-denial or admission of facts, in cases in which the Court finds on facts that no real prejudice can therefore be said to have been caused to the person complaining of the breach of natural justice.
- In cases where facts can be stated to be admitted or indisputable, and only one conclusion is possible, the Court does not pass futile orders of setting aside or remand when there is, in fact, no prejudice caused. This conclusion must be drawn by the Court on an appraisal of the facts of a case, and not by the authority who denies natural justice to a person.
- The “prejudice” exception must be more than a mere apprehension or even a reasonable suspicion of a litigant. It should exist as a matter of fact or be based upon a definite inference of likelihood of prejudice flowing from the non-observance of natural justice.
The Court while upholding the judgment of High Court held that we, therefore, uphold the impugned judgment of the High Court on the ground that natural justice has indeed been breached in the facts of the present case, not being a case of admitted facts leading to the grant of a futile writ, and that prejudice has indeed been caused to Respondent No.1. In view of this finding, there is no need to examine the other contentions raised by the parties before us.
Case: STATE OF U.P vs. SUDHIR KUMAR SINGH
Case No.: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3498 OF 2020
Coram: Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph