Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph has reiterated the principles of natural justice as follows:

(1) 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.

(2) 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 public interest.

(3) 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.

(4) 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.

(5) 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 was hearing the challenging the cancellation of tender on the ground that it was “impractical” to go ahead with such tender. It was argued that such cancellation was illegal and arbitrary and against the principles of natural justice.

Applying the aforementioned principles to the facts of the case, the Court came to the conclusion that the respondent has been kept completely in the dark so far as the cancellation of the award of tender in his favour is concerned, the audi alteram partem rule having been breached in its entirety. Prejudice has indeed been caused to his client from the fact that one year of the contract period has been taken away.

[State of UP v. Sudhir Kumar Singh,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 847, decided on 16.10.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, J. heard a writ petition that sought to quash the order passed by the respondent whereby the petitioner had been inflicted with the punishment of stoppage of annual increment for six months in Departmental Proceeding.

The petitioner was a constable and was accused of coercion and it was alleged that he forcibly took a thumb impression on a blank paper. He was also accused of several offences under different sections of Penal Code, 1860. Pursuant to that charge, Enquiry Officer was appointed and departmental proceeding was initiated against the petitioner. The charges against the petitioner were proved and an enquiry report was not supplied to him in the first instance but along with the second show cause notice.

Learned counsel for petitioner, D.K. Dubey, contended that the lady who made the accusation told the Conducting Officer that she had not given any application in the hands of the petitioner nor did she know him. Furthermore, he argued that she had not made any complaint against the petitioner. Counsel, thus, pleaded that if there were no accusations against the petitioner, then the order was fit to be quashed.

Learned counsel for respondent, Rajesh Kumar Singh, submitted that impression was taken on a blank paper by the accused and she had stated that in the complaint petition, no explanation was given to her for the same. Also, it came later to her knowledge that no complaint was lodged against the petitioner. The counsel, further, submitted that the statement given by the lady that no complaint was filed against the accused was made under coercion.

The Court observed that the enquiry officer took into account the two complaints which were brought on record in the writ petition and the enquiry officer came to a conclusion that usage of coercion to obtain the statement in favor of the petitioner could not be ruled out and therefore, the petitioner was held guilty. The Court remarked that there was no illegality in the inquiry report and punishment order was in accordance with the law. Moreover, the Court remarked that when an employee was dismissed or removed from service and the inquiry was set aside because the report is not furnished to him, the non-furnishing of the report would cause prejudice to him or might not affect the nature of punishment at all. However, in the instant case, the petitioner was not able to highlight what prejudice had been caused to him due to non-supply of the enquiry report. Hence, the writ petition was dismissed.[Amiruddin v. State of Jharkhand, Writ Petition (S) No. 3142 of 2014, decided on 20-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While deciding a criminal petition filed under Section 482 of CrPC, a Single Judge Bench comprising of K.N. Phaneendra, J. allowed the application filed by the petitioners under Section 311 of CrPC for recalling witnesses, the Investigating Officer and the Medical Officer, for cross-examination holding that in the instant case, if the fullest opportunity is not given to attack the testimonies of such witnesses, it would definitely prejudice the rights and interest of the petitioners-accused persons.

Earlier, learned Sessions Judge rejected the application filed by the petitioners under Section 311 of CrPC, seeking to further cross-examine two witnesses in the  criminal cases concerned. He rejected the said application on the grounds that the applicants have already availed the opportunity to cross examine the said witnesses and have brought no material to show that due to inadvertence, they were not able to cross examine the said witnesses completely. The petitioners assailed this order.

The High Court perused the application filed by the petitioners and found that it was categorically stated therein, that in their examination-in-chief, the concerned witnesses have stated about the dying declaration of the deceased. It was also noticed that the learned counsel for the accused, failed to cross-examine the said witnesses on the aspect of the dying declaration and other evidence adduced by the said witnesses.

The Court was of the opinion that due to some lapses on part of the counsel, prejudice should not be caused to the accused persons. It is the fundamental basic principal of criminal jurisprudence that fullest opportunity should be given to the parties by the first Court itself, so as to avoid any further complications and multiplicity of proceedings. While dealing with such applications, the Court should examine whether it deserves consideration or not. Merely because of delay in filing application or lack of proper explanation would not render such application infructuous.

The Court was of the view that in the circumstances of the case, if the said witnesses were not allowed to be reexamined with regard to the dying declaration, it would definitely prejudice the rights and interest of the accused persons. Accordingly, the petition was allowed, the impugned order was set aside and the trial court was directed to recall the witnesses concerned for further cross-examination. [Sunila v. State of Karnataka, Crl. Petition No. 6003 of 2017, order dated 16.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: This writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution is directed against the order of punishment dated 8/12/2011, whereby the petitioner has been dismissed from service. The petitioner who was selected in Rajasthan Judicial Service was promoted to the post of Additional District Judge (Fast Track) and while he was posted at Baran, a Memorandum under Rule 16 of the Rajasthan Civil Services Rules, 1958, was issued to the petitioner. It was alleged that he accepted bribe of Rs. 20,000 per accused and discharged accused from grave offences under Sections 302, 365 I.P.C. and framed charges for offences under Sections 148, 120B, 304/149 & 201 I.P.C. of lesser gravity, vide his order dated 8.12.2003. He was also alleged to have accepted the bail applications of accused persons in judicial custody including accused Banshi Lal not considering the fact that bail application of accused Banshi Lal u/S. 439 Cr.P.C. had already been rejected by District & Sessions Judge, Baran thus acting with corrupt and ulterior motive to give undue benefit to accused persons and committing gross misconduct.
After hearing the parties, the Inquiry Judge, on the two charges, inter alia came to the conclusion that although the charges were not proved by leading evidence, yet, the delinquent officer had failed to observe sufficient degree of caution and judiciousness which was expected of him being member of Higher Judicial Service. The Inquiry Judge ordered the same to be placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice. The inquiry report dated 31/3/2011 being placed before the Full Court, the Full Court was of the opinion that the officer appears to have acted with corrupt motive.
It was submitted by counsel for the petitioner that the Inquiry Judge by his inquiry report clearly absolved the petitioner of charge no. 1 and on a totally vague charge no. 2, though came to the conclusion that no evidence was produced in support of charge no. 2 and that the same was not proved, still went on to make observations and found the petitioner guilty of failure to maintain judicial efficiency, a charge which was neither indicated nor framed.

Learned counsel appearing for the respondent High Court vehemently opposed the submissions made by the petitioner’s counsel and submitted with reference to Articles 226 and 235 of the Constitution that the jurisdiction of this Court in interfering with the decision of the Full Court is limited and that this Court is not sitting as an appellate authority qua the decision of Full Court and, therefore, no interference was called for in the order impugned.
The High Court while adjudicating the matter pointed out that when the inquiry report was placed before the Full Court, the Full Court by its resolution dated 22/5/2011 while accepting the report, was of the opinion that the officer appears to have acted with corrupt motive also. The Full Court then directed sending of a copy of inquiry report along with resolution of the Full Court to the delinquent officer inviting his representation. The admitted facts which emerge from the record are that despite specific direction by the Full Court to send copy of the resolution of the Full Court to delinquent officer (petitioner), only the copy of the inquiry report was sent and the resolution of the Full Court was made available to the petitioner only after the order impugned dismissing the petitioner from service was passed on 8/12/2011.

The High Court opined that  as admittedly the copy of the resolution of the Full Court was not made available to the petitioner, the same apparently was in violation of the resolution itself as well as express provisions of Rule 16(10A) of the Rules, 1958 and thus resulted in causing prejudice to the petitioner, who being unaware of the opinion of the Full Court did not make any representation qua the said opinion of the Full Court.

The High Court, disposing of the writ petition and remitting the matter back to the disciplinary authority to take up the inquiry afresh, held, “In view of the fact that the opinion of the Full Court was not communicated to the petitioner and petitioner could not make any representation qua the said opinion, further the Full Court rejected the representation and the State acting on the opinion of the Full Court has ordered for dismissal of the petitioner, the order of dismissal stands vitiated.” [Ghanshyam Giri v. Rajasthan High Court through the Registrar General, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2559, decided on 20.9.2017.]