MADHI RAM BANSI LAL Vs. DIVISIONAL FOREST OFFICER, NABHA AND OTHERS
LAWS(P&H)-1954-12-9
HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA
Decided on December 20,1954

Madhi Ram Bansi Lal Appellant
VERSUS
Divisional Forest Officer, Nabha And Others Respondents

JUDGEMENT

G.L. Chopra, J. - (1.) THIS is a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution for a writ or other appropriate direction quashing the order of the dismissal passed against the petitioner by the Divisional Forest Officer (respondent No. 1). The facts that give rise to this petition are these: The petitioner was appointed as Chaukidar in the erstwhile Nabha State on 22 -8 -1987 Bk (7 -12 -1930) (AD). On 4 -4 -2001 Bk. he was appointed a Forest Guard. On the formation of the Union -, he was integrated on a permanent and pension able civil post Class IV. On 11 -8 -1953, when the petitioner was posted as Forest Guard as Bir Bauran, one Thakar Das lodged a complaint that illicit grazing was going on in that Bir. The Divisional Forest Officer to whom the complaint was made accompanied Thakar Das to the Bir and found a number of cattle strayed in the Bir and grazing. To him, the forest appeared to be heavily damaged, and this in his opinion was due to constant grazing for some days. Some of the cattle were seized at the spot. The statement of Umra, who was with the cattle, was recorded. Madhi Ram petitioner was not present when the cattle were seized or the statement of Umra was recorded. On his appearing on the scene a little later, he was asked to produce the damage -book. The book was not with him at the time, nor could he produce it within the time allowed to him for the purpose. When the Divisional Forest Officer left the Bir the petitioner did not accompany him nor did he seek permission to stay behind. It may be mentioned here that the Divisional Forest Officer did not make any note of his inspection that day. On 12th August, he directed, the Range Officer to call for an explanation of the Forest Guard as to why he was unable to produce the damage -book a]j the time of inspection. On 13th August, Rattan Singh Daroga submitted a report that he had again found some cattle grazing in the Bir, two of which he was able to seize on the spot. On 14th August the petitioner was suspended and charge -sheeted. The charges delivered to him on 15th August were (1) that heavy illicit grazing was going on for several days in Bir Baurah and that the same could not have been possible without his connivance, and (2) that he could not produce the damage -book when demanded and also that at the time of the Divisional Forest Officer's departure he neither cared to accompany or ask permission to stay back. The petitioner was allowed five day's time to submit his explanation. The reply was submitted as directed. The Divisional Forest Officer then called for a report from the Range -Officer. The report when submitted was considered unsatisfactory and he was again asked to make a detailed report. In the meantime the Divisional Forest Officer recorded the statements of Baggu son of Jawahar Singh, Baggu son of Gaman, Sadhu Singh and Thakar Das on 14th August and that of Mukand Singh Contractor on 19th August. Thakar Das was the person who complained about the illicit grazing, Mukand Singh was the person in whose favour the grass of Bir Bauran was auctioned for one year in July 1953. The cattle were supposed to the grazing in the Bir on 11th August with his permission. The petitioner was not called to take part in the proceedings and was not present when these statements were recorded. In his presence the inquiry started on 8 -10 -1953 with an order to the following effect: The evidence against you has been read out to you. You can be granted time if you want to recall any of the witnesses, or to produce any other witness, or to make any oral statement yourself. In reply, the petitioner simply stated that he would produce his evidence on 12th October. On that day he submitted a list of four witnesses. Out of them, three were examined. The fourth did not appear when called. The Divisional Forest Officer thereupon made the following order: Your defence has been recorded. For the offence you have committed you will be dismissed. You are allowed to make any statement or to produce any further evidence you desire. To this the petitioner replied that he had nothing more to state nor did he want to produce any more evidence. As a result of this inquiry, the Divisional Forest Officer dismissed the petitioner, vide his order dated 17 -12 -1953. The petitioner referred an appeal to the Conservator of Forest. That was dismissed on 12 -5 -1954. The present petition was then presented on 2 -6 -1954.
(2.) THE order of his dismissal is attacked by the petitioner on two grounds: (1) that he was not allowed reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken in regard to him as enjoined by the provisions of Art. 311 (2) of the Constitution, and (2) that the inquiry oh ended the principles of natural justice and the procedure laid down by the Rules inasmuch as none of the witnesses against him was examined in the petitioner's presence. On consideration of the facts of this case and after hearing counsel for the parties at some length I am inclined to think that the petitioner was not allured reasonable opportunity to show cause against the grounds on which the order of his dismissal was based. Article 311 (2) requires that before a person holding a civil post under the Government is dismissed or removed or reduced in rank he should be given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken in regard to him. This does not merely mean that he should be heard for what he has to say as regards the quantum of penalty that is proposed to be awarded. The purpose of notice is to afford him an opportunity to satisfy his employer that the action pranced to be taken against him is not justified because of the reasons to be given and substantiated by him. The explanation that he may offer is not confined to the quantum of punishment that may be imposed on the facts alleged against him, but extends to his showing that the allegations are baseless and that no action whatsoever is called for. Any other interpretation of the article will render the only safeguard against an unwarranted action of the Government with regard to the services of its employees ineffective and illusory. In order to enable the public servant to show cause against the action the Government proposes to take in regard to him he should be informed of the allegations against him and the grounds which have led the Government to take the particular action. It is only then that he may be in a position to show that the allegations are baseless and the grounds unjustified. It will not thus suffice to inform him of the action that the Government proposes to take and ask him if he has anything to say against it. Unless he is also told or can be shown to have known what imputations against him actually are, no purpose is served by giving him notice of the penalty that the Government proposes to inflict.
(3.) IN High Commissioner for India v. I.M. Lal', : AIR 1948 PC 121 (A), their Lordships of the Privy Council while interpreting the phrase the reasonable opportunity of showing cause against "the action proposed to be taken in regard to him" in S. 240 (3) of the Government of India Act, 1935., quoted the following observations of the learned Chief Justice of the Federal Court and expressed their agreement with the view taken therein. It does however, seem to us that the subsection requires that as and when an authority is definitely proposing to dismiss or reduce in rank a member of the civil service he shall be so told and he shall be given an opportunity of putting his case against the purposed action and as that opportunity has to be a reasonable opportunity, it seem to us that the section requires not only notification of the action proposed but of the grounds on which the authority is proposing that the action should be taken and that the person concerned must then be given a reasonable time to make his representations against the proposed action and the grounds on which it is proposed to be taken. It is suggested that in some cases it will be sufficient to indicate the charges the evidence on which those charges are put forward and to make it clear that unless the person can on that information show good cause against being dismissed or reduced if all or any of the charges are proved, dismissal or reduction in rank will follow. This may indeed be sufficient in some cases. In our judgment each case will have to turn on its own facts but the real point of the sub -section is in our judgment that the person who is to be dismissed or reduced must, know that that punishment is proposed as the punishment for certain acts or omissions on his part and must be told the grounds on which it is proposed to take such action and must be given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause why such punishment should not be imposed. In 'Shyam Lal v. State of U.P.', : AIR 1954 All 235 (B), Aggarwal J., on a reference to some of the earlier decisions of his Court on the question of reasonability of the show -cause -notice observed - We respectfully agree with this view. In our opinion the expression 'showing cause' as used in Art. 311 does not imply that a mere opportunity of submitting an explanation is enough. It implies that adequate opportunity of leading evidence in support of the contention of the persons concerned and controvert the contentions raised against him must be given, and where necessary opportunity of cross -examining witnesses of the other side and of addressing arguments should also be afforded.;


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