Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Atul Sreedharan, J. allowed a petition which was filed aggrieved by the order where after deciding a criminal case, the Additional Sessions Judge passed an order asking the Superintendent of Police to take action against the petitioner, who was the Investigating Officer of the case.

The petitioner is a police officer and was part of an investigation for offences punishable under Sections 25 and 27 Arms Act along with Sections 399 and 402 IPC. After completion of investigation, the charge sheet was filed against the accused and the charges were framed. Pursuant to the trial, the accused persons were acquitted. Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner has discharged his responsibilities with utmost honesty and sincerity in the capacity of the Investigating Officer. He had further stated that merely because the case had ended in an acquittal, it cannot be a ground for initiating action against the Investigating Officer. Counsel further stated that even otherwise, where the court feels that certain strictures must be passed against an Investigating Officer or action taken against him, it was essential in the interest of complying with the provisions of natural justice that he be given an opportunity and be heard with regard to those lapses.

The Court noted that the trial court has not put any questions to the witness or even suggested to the witness that it has deliberately botched up the investigation in order to protect the accused persons. The Court further reiterated the view of the Supreme Court in State of W.B. v. Babu Chakraborthy, (2004) 12 SCC 201 where it was held that the officers who were discharging their statutory duties cannot be blamed and that the action taken by the State Government and the officials concerned was for implementing the objects behind the act.

The Court was of the view that the present impugned order reflects that no opportunity of hearing was ever given to the petitioner herein to state his position with regard to the investigation. The petition succeeded and the impugned order was quashed finding it to be violative of principles of natural justice.[Himanshudhar Dwivedi v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Misc. Criminal Case No. 4531 of 2014, decided on 12-05-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For petitioner: Mr Bhupendra Shukla

For respondent: Mr C.M. Tiwari


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where process of cancellation of a tender was initiated without affording a chance to be heard to the lessees, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Vineet Saran and Surya Kant, JJ has held that any attempt by authority to circumvent the requirement of providing effective hearing before reaching a conclusion, cannot pass the muster.

“Natural justice is an important aspect while reviewing the administrative orders. Providing effective natural justice to affected parties, before a decision is taken, it is necessary to maintain rule of law. Natural justice is the sworn enemy of intolerant authority.”

Factual Background

A tender was passed for lease of land for purposes of development of necessary infrastructure such as Hotels etc., around Navi Mumbai Airport.

As complaints were made regarding irregularities in allotment of plots of land, change of user and deviation from the terms and conditions of the tender, a preliminary enquiry was held by the Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department as per the directions of the State Government of Maharashtra.

One of the Respondents placed on record letter dated 23.12.2010 addressed to the Urban Development Department and CIDCO, stating that it was shocked to see a newspaper report stating that a committee appointed by the State Government has recommended the cancellation of the allotment done in their favour.

Analysis

The perusal of the materials produced on record showed that the initiation of the enquiry by the Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department was suo-motu, without any natural justice being provided for the respondents. After arriving at a conclusion, a show-cause notice was issued by CIDCO to sanctify the enquiry.  A post­-decisional hearing was conducted just to sanctify the process of cancellation.

The Court said that,

“ the post-decisional hearing given to the respondent-lessee is reduced to a lip-service, which cannot be upheld in the eyes of law.”

The Court, hence, held that the conduct of the authorities indicated that the enquiry was not conducted with an open mind. The preexisting findings of the Principal Secretary recommending the cancellation of allocation has the potential to color the entire proceedings held subsequently just to meet the procedural requirements.

Finding that there was an element of abuse of bureaucratic power behind subsequent change in the tender allotment, the Court noticed that after conducting a tender process and receiving money, the Government backtracked which led to this present prolonged litigation.

The Court, hence, concluded that there was substantive violation of law or tender conditions, which mandate annulling the allotment and subsequent arrangements, thereby proving the conduct of the authority to be disproportionate.

[City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd v. Shishir Realty Private Limited, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1141, decided on 29.11.2021]


Counsels

For CIDCO: Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi

For State: Senior Advocate Atmaram Nadkarni

For PIL petitioner­-appellant: Advocate Harinder Toor

For respondents: Senior Advocates Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mukul Rohatgi


*Judgment by: Chief Justice NV Ramana

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Uttarakhand High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Manoj Kumar Tiwari, J., allowed petitions which were filed having the common question of law and facts thus were taken together with the consent of parties.

The petitioner was elected as Director/Member of Committee of Management of a Cooperative Society, namely, Buhuddesiya Narsan Gurukul Kisan Sewa Sahkari Samiti Ltd., Haridwar, on 23-07-2018 thereafter; he was elected as Chairman of the Committee of Management of the said Cooperative Society for a period of five years. On 08-08-2020, the Committee of Management passed a resolution for removal of the petitioner and two other persons (petitioners from the other petition) from the membership of Committee of Management of the Cooperative Society on the ground that they had absented from three consecutive meetings of the Committee of Management.

Petitioners then had approached the District Assistant Registrar, Cooperative Societies, who had appointed an inquiry officer and based on the inquiry report District Assistant Registrar issued a notice to the Managing Director of the Cooperative Society concerned on 17-03-2021 calling upon him to show cause as to why disciplinary proceedings may not be initiated against him for fraudulently removing the petitioners from the membership of the Cooperative Society. It was further provided in the notice that petitioners shall be permitted to participate in the next meeting of the Committee of Management/Board of Directors. Later on, by the order dated 31-03-2021, passed by the Registrar in which he had set-aside the notice/order dated 17-03-2021 passed by District Assistant Registrar.

Counsel for the petitioner, Mr Jitendra Chaudhary & Mr B. N. Molakhi submitted that the order passed by the Registrar was passed without issuing any notice to the petitioners or without affording any opportunity of hearing to them.

The Court observed that Since the District Assistant Registrar in his order had provided that petitioners shall be entitled to participate in the next meeting of the Board of Directors/Committee of Management, therefore, it was incumbent upon the Registrar to provide opportunity of hearing to the petitioners before setting-aside the order/notice issued by the District Assistant Registrar.

The Court allowed the petition and held that since Registrar has passed the impugned order without hearing the petitioners, therefore, the impugned order, which has been passed in violation of principles of natural justice, cannot sustained.

[Krishna Pal Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 491, decided on 21-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Gauhati High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Achintya Malla Bujor Barua, J. allowed the writ petition and granted the respondents the liberty to continue proceedings against the petition at their behest by affording him the opportunity to be heard first.

The facts in a nutshell bring out that the petitioner, who is a registered contractor under the PWRD, was allotted work as per the letter of acceptance. Although the original period for completion of the work was 3 months, due to certain intervening factors, the time was extended. The petitioner submitted that the work was completed prior to the end of the extended period. Later on, there was a complaint from the Commissioner & Secretary to the Governor of Assam that the approach road to the Raj Bhawan was damaged. There was an enquiry on the said complaint and it is stated that the PWD had submitted a report that some loose materials were present in the bituminous mixture which was due to inadvertence. The petitioner proposed before the department that necessary rectification would be done at the cost of the petitioner. The rectification work although allowed, could not be completed by the petitioner because of some difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Accordingly, the petitioner prayed for some more time for completion of the repair work.

Counsel for the petitioner, I. Choudhary submitted that due to incessant rains a landslide further damaged the approach road to the Raj Bhawan. In the aforesaid circumstance, PWRD, Assam had issued the order by which the petitioner was debarred for a period of 3 months with immediate effect from performing any work.

Thus, the petitioner filed the said petition challenging the order on the grounds that it was passed without following the due procedure of law.

Nath, counsel for respondents, upon instruction made a statement that neither any show-cause notice nor any opportunity was given to the petitioner before the impugned order was issued by the PWRD.

The law as regards the blacklisting of a contractor had been settled by the Supreme Court in Erusian Equipment & Chemicals Ltd. v. State of W.B., (1975) 1 SCC 70 wherein it has been provided that blacklisting has the effect of preventing a person from the privilege and advantage of entering into lawful relationship with the Government for purpose of gains and therefore the person concerned should be given an opportunity to represent his case before he is put on the blacklist.

An excerpt from the Erusian Equipment verdict is pertinent to refer here:

“The blacklisting order does not pertain to any particular contract. The blacklisting order involves civil consequences. It casts a slur. It creates a barrier between the persons blacklisted and the Government in the matter of transactions. The blacklists are “instruments of coercion”

The Court while relying on the above-mentioned Supreme Court verdict allowed the writ petition and held that, since the order of debarring the petitioner was set aside on a technical reason, the Court granted liberty to the respondent authorities to still proceed against the petitioner by following due procedure of law i.e. by issuing a show-cause notice or giving him an opportunity to present his case first.[Oriental Engineers v. State of Assam, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 3443, decided on 19-08-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the Government of India order, by which the colleges/institutions have been directed not to admit students in the MBBS Course in the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ said that a reasonable opportunity of hearing contained in the proviso to Section 10A(4) of Medical Council Act, 1956 is an indispensable pre-condition for disapproval by the Central Government of any scheme for establishment of a medical college and hence the Central Government should consider afresh the materials on record pertaining to the issue of confirmation or otherwise of the letter of permission granted to the petitioner colleges/institutions.

The Court further said that the Supreme Court Mandated Oversight Committee is empowered to oversee all statutory functions under the Act, and further all policy decisions of the MCI would require its approval and that its recommendations, to state the least, on the issue of establishment of a medical college, can by no means be disregarded or left out of consideration. The Court clarified that the Oversight Committee is also empowered the Oversight Committee to issue appropriate remedial directions.

The order that was challenged was the order dated 31.05.2017 of the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Department of Health and Family Welfare) whereby the conditional permission for the establishment of the medical colleges for the academic year 2016-17, granted on the basis of the approval of the Supreme Court Mandated Oversight Committee had been cancelled and the colleges have been debarred from admitting students in the next two academic years i.e. 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Asking the Central Government to re-evaluate the recommendations/views of the MCI, Hearing Committee, DGHS and the Oversight Committee, as available on records, the Court directed that the process of hearing and final reasoned decision should be completed within 10 days. The matter will next be taken up on 24.08.2017. [Glocal Medical College and Super Speciality Hospital & Research Centre v. UOI, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 846, order dated 01.08.2017]