Doctrine Of emplty Formality

The Doctrine of
Empty Formality : Explained

The doctrine of empty formality refers to a legal concept where certain procedural requirements or formalities are followed without any practical effect or meaningful outcome. Essentially, it acknowledges that adhering to certain legal procedures may become mere rituals or empty exercises, especially when they do not lead to any substantial change in the decision or outcome of a case.

Here are some key points about the doctrine of empty formality:


  • The doctrine often arises in situations where legal proceedings involve procedural steps that lack real significance or impact.
  • It recognizes that strict adherence to formalities should not override the pursuit of substantial justice.


  • Suppose a court conducts a hearing on a matter, but the evidence and arguments presented during the hearing are unlikely to alter the ultimate decision. In such cases, the hearing becomes an empty formality.
  • Similarly, if a notice is issued to a party, but the outcome is predetermined and unaffected by the notice, it serves no practical purpose other than fulfilling a procedural requirement.


  • Courts may exercise discretion to skip certain formalities when they serve no meaningful purpose.
  • The principle of natural justice (right to be heard) is flexible and need not be followed as an empty formality if it does not impact the case’s outcome.

    In summary, the doctrine of empty formality recognizes that legal procedures should serve a purpose and contribute to justice rather than being mere formalities devoid of substance2.