3rd year, B.COM LLB (HONS),



Ridge v. Baldwin is a UK labour case heard by the House of Lords. The judges who heard the case extended the doctrine of natural justice into the realm of administrative decision making. This case was a landmark decision which played a significant role by permanently incorporating principles of natural justice into administrative law as basis for judicial review.


The appellant Mr. Edge, had become the chief constable of the county borough of Brighton in 1956, by serving for 33 years under the Brighton police force. At the gathering of the Watch Committee, the police fancier on 7th March, 1958 stated that he must be expelled but the appellant stated that the determination was void and of no ramification because he was not given any notice on the grounds for which the committee proposed to expel him from his service.

The appellant contended before the court that in proceeding under the act of 1882 the Watch Committee was bound to observe the principles of natural justice. Before they could arrive at a decision, they were bound to inform the appellant on the grounds in which they proposed to act and give him a fair hearing of being heard in his own defence.
The case was brought before the 5 judge bench in the House of Lords before Lord Reid, Evershed, Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Hodson and Devlin.


     1.     Whether principles of natural justice apply for judicial and quasi-judicial actions as laid down by the Donoughmore Committee and to Brighton Watch Committee in this instant case?
     2.     Is there any scope for extension of these principles from being universal in nature to pure administrative actions?
     3.     If they can be extended to the administrative bodies, can the decision of an authority be held as void because it violated the fair hearing concept imbibed in the doctrine of Audi Alteram Partem?


The Lordships with a majority of 4:1 held that, “Every judicial act is subjected under the principles of natural justice and they dominate the majority of the administrative acts as judicial for this purpose”. The term ‘quasi-judicial’ accordingly came into infatuation, as an epithet for powers which though administrative, were required to be exercised as if they were judicial i.e. in accordance with natural justice. The House of Lords also held that i
n spite of the fact that there are no efficacious words in a statute, requiring that the gathering might be apprehended, yet the equity of customary law will supply the exclusion of the assembly[1]. House of Lords held that latitude of hearing had to be given even in administrative proceedings if the administrative order would transform the rights and liabilities of the citizens.
Lord Evershed laid down that, the power of dismissal in the 1882 Act could not have been exercised and cannot now be exercised until the Watch Committee have informed the constable of the grounds on which they proffer to proceed and have given him a conventional opportunity to present his case in defence.
 Lord Morriss cites a case which holds high significance.
In, Spackman v. Plumstead Board of Works[2], referring to another statute Lord Selborne said: “There would be no decision within the meaning of the statute if there were anything of that sort done contrary to the essence of justice “.


The perspective drawn by the House of Lords was entailed by the Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Dr. Binapani Dei[3] and State of Maharashtra v. Jalgaon Municipal Council[4] wherein it was held that regulatory requests which include quotidian outcomes must be passed reliably with the principles of natural justice. The articulation “common outcomes” implies where rights and liabilities are influenced. In this way, before boycotting a man he should be given a hearing. Natural justice is a suggested necessity of regulatory choices which influences rights and liabilities.

It has now been established that the distinction between the quasi-judicial and administrative functions is not relevant as duty to hear is attracted wherever an action is likely to have civil consequences to a person as in case of Mohinder Singh v. Chief Election Commissioner[5] where it was held that, ‘The basic principle is that where a person or public body has the power in reaching a decision to affect the rights of subjects, then that person must go further with what have become known as the rules of natural justice and the real test is the denouement of the decision on the right of the person affected.’

A similar situation like Ridge v. Baldwin arose in the case of
State Bank of Patiala v. S.K.Sharma[6], where it was held by the Apex Court that, ‘In the case of violation of a procedural provision, the position is this: Procedural provisions are generally meant for affording a reasonable and mediocre opportunity to the delinquent officer/employee. They are, generally speaking, conceived in his interest. Infraction of any and every procedural equipping cannot be said to automatically
vitiate the enquiry held or order passed.- Except cases falling under ‘no notice’, ‘no opportunity’ and ‘no hearing’ categories, the complaint of disobeying of procedural provision should be examined from the point of view of prejudice. Procedural lapses can be overlooked if there is a sizeable compliance and no prejudice is caused due to the non-compliance.


The case holds a very significant value even in the present day and is a good law and shall remain so due to the ratio laid down in it. Earlier, merely quasi-judicial and judicial acts were considered to be compliable with the principles of natural justice but today due to this landmark decision of the House of Lords even pure administrative actions would have to comply with the principles of natural justice if they decide the civil rights and liabilities of a person.

[1] Administrative Law, William Wade,10th Ed. 2009 p.502-3.

[2] L.R. 10 A.C. 229.

[3] 1964 AC 40 (1967)

[4] AIR 1967 SC 1269

[5] AIR 1978 SC 851

[6] 1996 3 SCC 364

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