Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S. Muralidhar and B. P. Routray, JJ., quashed the impugned suspension order and allowed the petition.
The facts of the case are such that petitioner 1 is a Company engaged inter alia in the business of manufacturing sponge iron, pellet and other steel products in the State of West Bengal, with a two licences one for procurement of Iron ore and coal for processing, end-use and sale of residuals outside the State of Odisha on 7-04-2016, which was valid till 6-04-2021 and the other for manufacture of iron ore pellet and beneficiation of iron ore, for which a licence issued on 07-04-2016, valid till 06-04-2021, both of which stands renewed on 20-02-2021. There were three monthly return forms required to be submitted by Petitioner wherein noticing certain discrepancies show-cause notices were issued, the licences were suspended and the transit permits were also cancelled. Pursuant to the SCN petitioner filed a reply seeking to rescind rescission of the transit permits/licenses pointing out that there was a bona fide clerical error in filling out the figures in the forms. Later, Opposite Party 2 wrote a letter to Opposite Party 3 noting that a ‘fresh observation’ to be made by REAC, which prima facie pointed to “irregularities committed by the various entities of the Rashmi Group of Companies and their promoters”, which were under investigation of the Ministry of Environment of Forest and Climate Change (i.e. MoEF and CC). Despite the above revocation of suspension of the licences, there was a sudden stoppage in dispatch of iron ore, coal and manganese ores which led Petitioner 1 to send an email to Opposite Party 3 seeking the reasons therefor. Petitioner No.1 then made a representation to the Government of Odisha on 22-02-2021 protesting against the stoppage of issuance of transit permits. When no response was received, the present petition was filed.
Counsel for the petitioners Mr Pinaki Mishra submitted that that there were “fresh observations made by REAC as stated in the minutes of meeting dated 25-27th November 2020” from which “prima facie it appears that irregularities committed by the various entities of the Rashmi Group … are under investigation of MoEF & CC”. It was further submitted that the licenses issued to Petitioner 1, which incidentally have been renewed recently, pertaining to not just to iron ore, but also coal and manganese ore, all of which are required for running the units of Petitioner 1. It is submitted that the impugned order will cause great inconvenience, if the units are compelled to shut down. It was also submitted that revised forms have been filed.
Counsel for the respondents Mr Ashok Kumar Parija submitted that the discrepancy in forms A, E and L and to the fact that the revocation of suspension of license was made subject to Petitioner 1 rectifying the discrepancies in the said forms ‘immediately’ and undertaking ‘not to repeat such type of mistake’. It was further submitted that Petitioner 1 should be asked to file an affidavit stating that it has rectified the discrepancies.
The Court relied on judgment Commissioner of Police v. Gordhan Das Bhanji, AIR 1952 SC 16 and observed that the impugned action of suspension of the issuance of transit passes ought to have been preceded by an enquiry, that prima facie discloses wrong doing by Petitioner 1 in the form of violation of the terms of the license. The suspension of a licence even before the inquiry reveals prima facie violation of the terms of the license would obviously be vulnerable to invalidation on the ground of it being arbitrary and irrational.
The Court thus held that “the Court sees no justification in the Opposite Parties continuing to suspend the issuance of transit passes/permits to Petitioner No.1.”
In view of the above, petition was disposed off.[Orissa Metaliks Private Ltd v. State of Odisha, 2021 SCC OnLine Ori 148, decided on 08-03-2021]
Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.