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M/S. Sesa Goa Limited and Another Vs. State of Goa, Through the Chief Secretary Government of Goa and Others - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtNational Green Tribunal Principal Bench New Delhi
Decided On
Case NumberApplication No. 49 of 2012
Judge
AppellantM/S. Sesa Goa Limited and Another
RespondentState of Goa, Through the Chief Secretary Government of Goa and Others
Excerpt:
environment (protection) act, 1986 - section 5 -swatanter kumar, (chairperson) challenge 1. the goa coastal zone management authority (for short ‘authority) vide its order dated, 4th march, 2011, took the decision and issued the following directions: 14. decision of gczma:- gczma members deliberated on the points of reference made in the complaint made by khemlo sawant. from the documentation it is seen that, the jetties existed prior to 1991 and the activity of loading is an ongoing process at amona. proceedings to the hearing were referred to. it is observed that, m/s sesa goa has proceeded to rapidly expand their jetties without obtaining any prior approval from this authority and other local authority. at present the factual position appears that the jetties are more than double in area and this expansion is unauthorized......
Judgment:

Swatanter Kumar, (Chairperson)

Challenge

1. The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (for short ‘Authority) vide its order dated, 4th March, 2011, took the decision and issued the following directions:

14. Decision of GCZMA:-

GCZMA members deliberated on the points of reference made in the complaint made by Khemlo Sawant. From the documentation it is seen that, the jetties existed prior to 1991 and the activity of loading is an ongoing process at Amona. Proceedings to the hearing were referred to. It is observed that, M/s Sesa Goa has proceeded to rapidly expand their jetties without obtaining any prior approval from this Authority and other local Authority. At present the factual position appears that the jetties are more than double in area and this expansion is unauthorized. GCZMA Members also observed that the conveyor system is not authorized at site though there are NOCs or approvals from CoP or GSPCB. It is seen that M/s Sesa Goa has sought to submit a plan with its earlier reply dated 01/12/2009 ; which appears to be fraudulently generated and hence this document cannot be relied upon. Further the enquiries by Deputy Collector and SDO (Bicholim) has no finding in its report and the same cannot be relied upon.

15. GCZMA Members after perusing all documents provided, the contents of the complaint, replies to show cause notice issued, replies submitted, documentary evidence produced before the Authority in its hearing and other facts of the case concluded that;

i. The activity of loading iron ore is going on prior to 1991

ii. The jetties in question, exist prior to 1991;

iii. The jetties in question, have been expanded unauthorisedly over double the area of operation over the area beyond 65 sq. mts is illegal and needs to be stopped. Further the unauthorized portion needs to be surveyed and removed forthwith.

16. Directions:

Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; the GCZMA directs:-

i. M/s Sesa Goa to forthwith stop the activity over the illegal portion of the jetties in question and take action to remove the extended unauthorised portion within 15 (fifteen) days from the date of receipt of these Order failing which the Addl. Collector (North) shall take action to remove the same without any further reference to M/s Sesa Goa and the cost of removal shall be recovered from M/s Sesa Goa.

ii. The Additional Collector (North) to undertake the survey of the jetties in question, mark the area over and above 65 sq. mts and take action to stop the activity over the extended unauthorised portion of the jetties in question.

2. The legality and correctness of the above decision and directions are questioned by the applicants, M/s Sesa Goa and Ors. inter-alia but primarily on the following grounds:

1. The impugned order is violative of principles of natural justice.

2. The impugned order has been passed upon allegations and considerations which did not form part of the show cause notice issued to the applicants.

3. The Authority in its order has relied upon certain reports and documents which were never furnished to the applicants. Consideration of such reports and documents has caused serious prejudice to the rights of the applicants.

4. Undisputedly and in fact admittedly, the jetties were in existence prior to 1991 and therefore, the conclusions arrived at by the Authority are contrary to record.

5. The Costal Regulation Zone Notification (for short the ‘Notification) itself was issued in the year 1991 and cannot, both in fact and in law, have any application to the existing jetties.

6. In fact, the Notification itself does not contemplate such retrospective application.

Facts

3. The necessary facts giving rise to the above challenge can in short be noticed at this stage itself. Applicant No. 1 is a company registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 and is engaged in the business of extraction, sale and export of mineral ore. For the purpose of this business, the applicants used barges for carrying mineral ore from the loading point to the port. These loading points were in the nature of jetties which the applicants use for loading iron ore to the barges. According to the applicants they had constructed ‘jetties in the year 1969 and the plans for the same were approved by the Captain of Ports in the year 1969. Some modifications/repairs were carried out to the jetties and they were extended in the year 1987.

4. According to the applicants, Mr. Khemlo Sawant, Respondent No. 3, is an ex-employee of the company, whose services were terminated on the grounds of misconduct that he committed from time to time during his tenure with the company. Respondent No. 3 is nothing but a disgruntled person who had filed a complaint to the Authority with a malafide intention to settle his personal score. On the basis of this complaint the Authority, served a show cause notice, dated 16th November, 2009, upon the applicants. In this show cause notice, it was alleged that there is an illegal construction of the Hopper and Belt System for loading iron ore close to jetty no. 2.

5. This show cause notice was replied to by the applicants vide its communication dated 1st December, 2009. In the reply, applicants stated that, the said system was legally installed and also annexed documents to support such contentions. The applicant company, without prejudice to its contention and as an abundant caution vide letter dated 10th February, 2010, also requested for regularization of the improvised loading facility in the form of the conveyor belting system. Even after submitting all these documents nothing was heard from the Authority which clearly gave an impression to the applicants that the proceedings therefrom had been dropped.

6. However, the Authority again served a show cause notice dated 1st January, 2010, upon the applicants, stating therein, that there has been illegal construction and operation of jetties without Coastal Regulation Zone (for short ‘CRZ) and other statutory approvals. In this show cause notice no reference was made to the first show cause notice dated 16th November, 2009. The Applicant submitted a reply to the said show cause notice as well, stating therein, that the jetties in question were legal structures as they were constructed in 1969 and had been operational since then. The Applicants had obtained certain documents including the ‘No Objection Certificate (NOC) on 27th February, 1969 issued by the Captain of Ports, the letter including the payments made to the Captain of Ports towards Port dues, the House Tax Receipt issued by the village Panchayat of Amona and also the ‘Consent to Operate under the Air (Prevention and Control) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control) Act, 1974, respectively.

7. This matter was pending before the Authority when the applicants received ‘stop work notice on 11th October, 2010 from the office of the Deputy Collector and Sub Divisional Officer. It was only later that the applicants came to know that another notice has also been issued in furtherance to the first notice already issued by the said Authority. In that letter to the Deputy Collector, the Authority, stated that illegal construction of jetty 1 and 2 is being carried out in alleged violation of Notification and, therefore, the same should be stopped. In pursuance of the said notice, the officials from the office of the Mamlatdar, Bicholim and the Authority visited the site for an inspection. Since, there was no renovation of jetties, nothing adverse was noticed by the visiting team and there was complete silence on part of the office of the Deputy Collector. Vide letter dated 29th October, 2010, the Authority referred the matter to Deputy Collector and SDO and directed them to conduct a summary inquiry with further directions to provide the company with an opportunity of a personal hearing. The Deputy Collector granted a personal hearing to the applicant company and asked the applicants to produce relevant documents. The applicants filed its reply on 16th November, 2010, and the additional report was also filed on 18th November, 2010. The officers of the Deputy Collector neither dealt with applicants nor did the applicants receive any order or report in conclusion of the proceedings conducted by the Deputy Collector. At that point of time the copy of the report of Deputy Collector was not even furnished to the applicants. However, from the impugned order dated 4th March, 2011, the applicants came to know that some report has been submitted by the Deputy Collector and that report has been made the basis for passing the impugned order vide communication dated 2nd December, 2010. The Authority called upon the applicants to appear for a personal hearing on 16th December, 2010 at 4.00 p.m. This notice referred to the show cause notice dated 1st January, 2010, where it had been alleged that there was an illegal construction and operation of jetties. In this notice of hearing there was no reference to the show cause notice, dated 16th November, 2009. The applicants also filed additional reply on 15th December, 2010, where they claim to have relied on certain documents that amply demonstrated that jetties in question were legal and constructed in the year 1969, and thereafter modified/repaired in the year 1987. The matter was again called for hearing on 12th January, 2011 and on the date of hearing specific emphasis was laid by the applicants on their part that the show cause notice dated 16th November, 2009, was not the subject matter of the hearing and that the various arguments that were raised on behalf of the applicants were not even considered by the Authority concerned. Thereafter, the applicants received the order dated 4th March, 2011, on 9th March, 2011, which is subject matter of the challenge in the present application. The contentions raised by the applicants were, that despite the fact that in the para 15 of the impugned order, the Authority came to the conclusion that loading of iron ore has been going on prior to the year 1991, and the jetties in question were in existence prior to 1991, still the Authority has erroneously arrived at the conclusion that jetties have been unauthorisedly extended to an area above 65 sq.m, which is illegal. The jetties were constructed in the year 1969 while the Notification came into force in the year 1991 and, thus, has no application. The documents that were filed, including the plan, clearly showed that the jetties had been constructed in the year 1969 after obtaining NOC from Captain of Ports and later obtained consent from the Goa Pollution Control Board when it came into existence. The village panchyats in its Resolution dated 12th August, 2010, have accepted the fact that the jetties were used for loading of iron ore and had been in existence since 1969.

8. It was also the contention of the applicants that the Hopper and Belt system were in question and permission for the same had been obtained from the Captain of Ports and Goa State Pollution Control Board. The applicants in the alternative submitted that even if it is assumed, that too without admitting, that the conveyor belting system was installed in the year 1992, still the CRZ Regulations would be inapplicable inasmuch as the Notification would only be applicable from the date the Coastal Zone Management Plan was finalized, which was in the year 1996 and, thus, the same would have no application in relation to years 1991 and 1992. The documents relied upon, particularly the report of the Collector and the documents annexed to the reply filed by the complainant, Mr. Khemlo Sawant, as mentioned in the order dated 4th March, 2011 had not been furnished to the applicant. All these aspects clearly showed that the impugned order is violative of the principles of natural justice and suffers from the infirmity of non-application of mind.

On behalf of the Authority it was contended that the Notification does not provide for any specific procedure that ought to be adopted by the Authority. The Authority, in fact, in the present case has acted in consonance with the principles of natural justice. It was competent to adopt the procedure that it considered to be proper. The second show cause notice was issued and then, after granting a personal hearing to the applicants, the order dated 4th March, 2011 was passed. During the hearing, or otherwise, no document was asked for and, in fact, some documents which have been relied upon by the Authority while passing the impugned order were the documents filed by the applicants itself.

9. The learned Counsel appearing for the Authority, during the course of argument, fairly stated that the copy of the report submitted by the Collector and some other documents, including the one stated in para 12 of the impugned order, were not furnished to the applicants. He also stated that the Authority or any of its authorized officers have not conducted any inspection of the jetties in question. Even if any benefit is given to the applicants on the basis of documents relied upon, at best, the jetties could be extended to area of 65 sq.m, while at the site they were found to be more than 270 sq.m and thus, as these jetties are illegal they cannot be used for transport of mineral ore.

10. We may also notice that the impugned order was challenged by the applicants before the High Court of Bombay, Goa Bench in W.P. 169 of 2011 and vide order dated 14th September, 2012, the High Court of Bombay transferred this matter to this Tribunal.

Legal Analysis

11. From the grounds of challenge as well as the contentions raised, it clearly emerges that the main plank of submission on behalf of the applicants revolves around the non-compliance of the principles of natural justice.

12. The Notification dated 19th February, 1991, was superseded by the Notification dated 15th September, 2010/6th January, 2011, issued by Department of Environment and Forest and Wildlife, Government of India. This Notification deals with ‘high tide line on the landward side along the sea front as well as restriction on the setting up and expansion of industries, operations or processes and the like, in the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone). It also declares certain activities as ‘prohibited activities within the CRZ.

13. A plain reading of this Notification clearly shows that it does not by specific language provide for any procedure for taking action against the violators of the restrictions or even the manner in which the Authority will proceed if it finds that any activity, or act or omission has been done in violation to the said Notification. It is a settled cannon of administrative law that if a specific procedure has not been provided for and the authority empowered to perform such functions passes orders which particularly may have severe consequences affecting the rights of others, then it can only do so in compliance with the principles of natural justice and the absence of the same would invite judicial review and would render such action invalid in law. Thus, first and foremost it must be understood as to what is Law of Natural Justice.

14. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Swadeshi Cotton Mills vs. Union of India (1981) 1 SCC 664 stated that

“The phrase is not capable of a static and precise definition. It cannot be imprisoned in the straight-jacket of a cast-iron formula. Historically, “natural justice” has been used in a way “which implies the existence of moral principles of self-evident and unarguable truth”. In course of time, Judges nurtured in the traditions of British jurisprudence, often invoked it in conjunction with a reference to “equity and good conscience”. Legal experts of earlier generations did not draw any distinction between “natural justice” and “natural law”. “Natural justice” was considered as “that part of natural law which relates to the administration of justice”. Rules of natural justice are not embodied rules. Being means to an end and not an end in themselves, it is not possible to make an exhaustive catalogue of such rules. But two fundamental maxims of natural justice have now become deeply and indelibly ingrained in the common consciousness of mankind, as pre-eminently necessary to ensure that the law is applied impartially, objectively and fairly. Described in the form of Latin tags these twin principles are: (i) audi alteram partem and (ii) nemo judex in re sua”

15. The above two maxims have attained a definite meaning, connotation in law and their contents as well as implications are well- established and firmly understood. These, nevertheless are not statutory rules. Each one of these rules leads to charges with exigencies of different situations. They do not apply in the same manner to situations which are not alike. They are not immutable but flexible. These rules can be adapted and modified by statutes, statutory rules and also by constitution of a Tribunal which is to decide a particular matter and the rules by which such Tribunal is governed. In England the law in this regard is not different from the law in India. In Norwest Holst Ltd. vs. Secretary of State for Trade(1978) 3 All England Reports 280, Ormond LJ observed: “the House of Lords and this Court have repeatedly emphasized that the ordinary principles of natural justice must be kept flexible and must be adapted to the circumstances prevailing in any particular case.”

16. In the case of Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel (1985) 3 SCC 398, another Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court stated: “that the question whether requirements of natural justice have been met by the procedure adopted in a given case must depend to a great extent on the facts and circumstances of the case in point, the constitution of the Tribunal and the rules under which it functions.”

17. It must be noticed that the aim of rules of natural justice is to secure justice, or to put it negatively, to prevent miscarriage of justice. Despite the fact that such rules do not have any statutory character, their adherence is even more important for the compliance of the statutory rules. The violation of the principles of natural justice has the effect of vitiating the action, be it administrative or quasi-judicial, in so far as it affects the rights of a third party. Flexibility in the process of natural justice is an inbuilt feature of this doctrine. Absolute rigidity may not further the cause of justice and therefore adoption of flexibility is important for applying these principles.

18. A Court or a Tribunal has to examine whether the principles of natural justice have been violated or not as a primary consideration, whenever and wherever such an argument is raised. Test of prejudice is an additional aspect. Normally, violation of principles of natural justice, like non-grant of hearing, would vitiate the action unless the theory of ‘useless formality is pressed into service and is shown to have a complete applicability to the facts of the case. We may notice that this theory, though has been accepted by the Courts, but is rarely applied.

19. In the case of Canara Bank v. A.K. Awasthi (2005) 6 SCC 321, the Supreme Court compared natural justice to common sense justice. It emphasized on the compliance with the principles of natural justice when a quasi-judicial body embarks upon determination of disputes between the parties or when an administrative action involving civil consequences is in issue. The Court held:

“9. The expressions “natural justice” and “legal justice” do not present a watertight classification. It is the substance of justice which is to be secured by both, and whenever legal justice fails to achieve this solemn purpose, natural justice is called in aid of legal justice. Natural justice relieves legal justice from unnecessary technicality, grammatical pedantry or logical prevarication. It supplies the omissions of a formulated law. As Lord Buckmaster said, no form or procedure should ever be permitted to exclude the presentation of a litigant's defence.

10. The adherence to principles of natural justice as recognised by all civilised States is of supreme importance when a quasi-judicial body embarks on determining disputes between the parties, or any administrative action involving civil consequences is in issue. These principles are well settled. The first and foremost principle is what is commonly known as audi alteram partem rule. It says that no one should be condemned unheard. Notice is the first limb of this principle. It must be precise and unambiguous. It should apprise the party determinatively of the case he has to meet. Time given for the purpose should be adequate so as to enable him to make his representation. In the absence of a notice of the kind and such reasonable opportunity, the order passed becomes wholly vitiated. Thus, it is but essential that a party should be put on notice of the case before any adverse order is passed against him. This is one of the most important principles of natural justice. It is after all an approved rule of fair play. The concept has gained significance and shades with time. When the historic document was made at Runnymede in 1215, the first statutory recognition of this principle found its way into the “Magna Carta”. The classic exposition of Sir Edward Coke of natural justice requires to “vocate, interrogate and adjudicate”. In the celebrated case of Cooper v. Wandsworth Board of Works the principle was thus stated: (ER p. 420)

“Even God himself did not pass sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make his defence. ‘Adam (says God), ‘where art thou? Hast thou not eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? ”

Since then the principle has been chiselled, honed and refined, enriching its content. Judicial treatment has added light and luminosity to the concept, like polishing of a diamond.

11. Principles of natural justice are those rules which have been laid down by the courts as being the minimum protection of the rights of the individual against the arbitrary procedure that may be adopted by a judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative authority while making an order affecting those rights. These rules are intended to prevent such authority from doing injustice.

12. What is meant by the term “principles of natural justice” is not easy to determine. Lord Summer (then Hamilton, L.J.) in R. v. Local Govt. Board3 (KB at p. 199) described the phrase as sadly lacking in precision. In General Council of Medical Education and Registration of U.K. v. Spackman Lord Wright observed that it was not desirable to attempt “to force it into any Procrustean bed” and mentioned that one essential requirement was that the Tribunal should be impartial and have no personal interest in the controversy, and further that it should give “a full and fair opportunity” to every party of being heard.”

20. The above findings of the Court puts one matter beyond ambiguity, i.e., the affected party is entitled to a full and fair opportunity, and such an opportunity, shall, both in fact and in substance, be granted to ensure that justice is not only done but also seems to have been done.

21. In the present case we are concerned with the application and the various facets of the maxim audi alteram partem. The Courts have consistently emphasized that this is a highly effective rule devised by the Courts to ensure that a statutory authority arrives at a just decision and it is calculated to act as a healthy check on the abuse or misuse of power.

22. The doctrine of audi alteram partem has three basic essentials. Firstly, a person against whom an order is required to be passed or whose rights are likely to be affected adversely must be granted an opportunity of being heard. Secondly, the authority concerned should provide a fair and transparent procedure and lastly, the authority concerned must apply its mind and dispose of the matter by a reasoned or speaking order. While referring to this principle in the case of Assistant Commissioner, Commercial Tax Department, works contract and leasing, Kota vs. Shukla and Bros (2010) 4 SCC 785, the Supreme Court of India stressed upon the need for recording reasons and for the authority to act fairly. The court held as under:

“11. The Supreme Court in S.N. Mukherjee v. Union of India while referring to the practice adopted and insistence placed by the courts in United States, emphasized the importance of recording of reasons for decisions by the administrative authorities and tribunals. It said “administrative process will best be vindicated by clarity in its exercise”. To enable the courts to exercise the power of review in consonance with settled principles, the authorities are advised of the considerations underlining the action under review. This Court with approval stated:

“11. … ‘the orderly functioning of the process of review requires that the grounds upon which the administrative agency acted be clearly disclosed and adequately sustained.”

12. In exercise of the power of judicial review, the concept of reasoned orders/actions has been enforced equally by the foreign courts as by the courts in India. The administrative authority and tribunals are obliged to give reasons, absence whereof could render the order liable to judicial chastisement. Thus, it will not be far from an absolute principle of law that the courts should record reasons for their conclusions to enable the appellate or higher courts to exercise their jurisdiction appropriately and in accordance with law. It is the reasoning alone, that can enable a higher or an appellate court to appreciate the controversy in issue in its correct perspective and to hold whether the reasoning recorded by the court whose order is impugned, is sustainable in law and whether it has adopted the correct legal approach. To sub serve the purpose of justice delivery system, therefore, it is essential that the courts should record reasons for their conclusions, whether disposing of the case at admission stage or after regular hearing.

13. At the cost of repetition, we may notice, that this Court has consistently taken the view that recording of reasons is an essential feature of dispensation of justice. A litigant who approaches the court with any grievance in accordance with law is entitled to know the reasons for grant or rejection of his prayer. Reasons are the soul of orders. Non-recording of reasons could lead to dual infirmities; firstly, it may cause prejudice to the affected party and secondly, more particularly, hamper the proper administration of justice. These principles are not only applicable to administrative or executive actions, but they apply with equal force and, in fact, with a greater degree of precision to judicial pronouncements. A judgment without reasons causes prejudice to the person against whom it is pronounced, as that litigant is unable to know the ground which weighed with the court in rejecting his claim and also causes impediments in his taking adequate and appropriate grounds before the higher court in the event of challenge to that judgment. Now, we may refer to certain judgments of this Court as well as of the High Courts which have taken this view.”

23. The recording of reasons by the administrative and quasi-judicial authorities is a well-accepted norm and its compliance has been stated to be mandatory. Of course, reasons recorded by such authorities may not be like judgments of courts, but they should precisely state the reasons for rejecting or accepting a claim which would reflect due application of mind. The Bombay High Court in the case of Pipe Arts India Pvt. Ltd v. Gangadhar Nathuji Golmare, 2008 (6) MLJ 280 held:

“8. The Supreme Court and different High Courts have taken the view that it is always desirable to record reasons in support of the Government actions whether administrative or quasi-judicial. Even if the statutory rules do not impose an obligation upon the authorities still it is expected of the authorities concerned to act fairly and in consonance with basic rule of law. These concepts would require that any order, particularly, the order which can be subject matter of judicial review, is reasoned one. Even in the case of Chabungbambohal Singh v.Union of India and Ors: 1995(1) SCALE 857 , the Court held as under:

His assessment was, however, recorded as "very good" whereas qua the appellant it had been stated unfit. As the appellant was being superseded by one of his juniors, we do not think if it was enough on the part of the Selection Committee to have merely stated unfit, and then to recommend the name of one of his juniors. No reason for unfitness, is reflected in the proceedings, as against what earlier Selection Committees had done to which reference has already been made.

9. The requirement of recording reasons is applicable with greater rigour to judicial proceedings. Judicial order determining the rights of the parties essentially should be an order supported by reasoning. The order must reflect what weighed with the Court in granting or declining the relief claimed by the applicants.

10. In the case of Jawahar Lal Singh v. Naresh Singh and Ors: 1987CriLJ698 , accepting the plea that absence of examination of reasons by the High Court on the basis of which the trial Court discarded prosecution evidence and recorded the finding of an acquittal in favour of all the accused was not appropriate, the Supreme Court held that the order should record reasons. Recording of proper reasons would be essential, so that the Appellate Court would have advantage of considering the considered opinion of the High Court on the reasons which had weighed with the trial Court.

11. May be, while entertaining the interim applications, the orders are not expected to be like detailed judgments in final disposal of the matter, but they must contain some reasons which would provide adequate opportunity and ground to the aggrieved party to assail that order in appeal effectively.

12. In the case of State of Punjab and Ors. v. Surinder Kumar and Ors. : [1992]194ITR434(SC) , while noticing the jurisdictional distinction between Article 142 and Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court stated that powers of the Supreme Court under Article 142 are much wider and the Supreme Court would pass orders to do complete justice. The Supreme Court further reiterated the principle with approval that the High Court has the jurisdiction to dismiss petitions or criminal revisions in limini or grant leave asked for by the petitioner but for adequate reasons which should be recorded in the order. The High Court may not pass cryptic order in relation to regularisation of service of the respondents in view of certain directions passed by the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Absence of reasoning did not find favour with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also stated the principle that powers of the High Court were circumscribed by limitations discussed and declared by judicial decision and it cannot transgress the limits on the basis of whims or subjective opinion varying from Judge to Judge.

13. In the case of Hindustan Times Ltd. v. Union of India and Ors. : [1998]1SCR4 , the Supreme Court while dealing with the cases under the Labour Laws and Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 observed that even when the petition under Article 226 is dismissed in limini, it is expected of the High Court to pass a speaking order, may be briefly.

14. Consistent with the view expressed by the Supreme Court in the afore-referred cases, in the case of State of U.P. v. Battan and Ors. (2001)10SCC607 , the Supreme Court held as under:

The High Court has not given any reasons for refusing to grant leave to file appeal against acquittal. The manner in which appeal against acquittal has been dealt with by the High Court leaves much to be desired. Reasons introduce clarity in an order. On plainest consideration of justice, the High Court ought to have set forth its reasons, howsoever brief, in its order. The absence of reasons has rendered the High Court order not sustainable.

15. Similar view was also taken by the Supreme Court in the case of Raj Kishore Jha v. State of Bihar and Ors. JT 2003 (Supp.2) SC 354.

16. In a very recent judgment, the Supreme Court in the case of State of Orissa v. Dhaniram Luhar 2004CriLJ1385 while dealing with the criminal appeal, insisted that the reasons in support of the decision was a cardinal principle and the High Court should record its reasons while disposing of the matter. The Court held as under:

8. Even in respect of administrative orders Lord Denning, M.R. In Breen v. Amalgamated Engg. Union observed:

The giving of reasons is one of the fundamentals of good administration." In Alexander Machinery (Dudley) Ltd. v. Crabtree it was observed: "Failure to give reasons amounts to denial of justice." "Reasons are live links between the mind of the decision-taker to the controversy in question and the decision or conclusion arrived at." Reasons substitute subjectivity by objectivity. The emphasis on recording reasons is that if the decision reveals the "inscrutable face of the sphinx", it can, by its silence, render it virtually impossible for the Courts to perform their appellate function or exercise the power of judicial review in adjudging the validity of the decision. Right to reason is an indispensable part of a sound judicial system; reasons at least sufficient to indicate an application of mind to the matter before Court. Another rationale is that the affected party can know why the decision has gone against him. One of the salutary requirements of natural justice is spelling out reasons for the order made; in other words, a speaking-out. The "inscrutable face of the sphinx" is ordinarily incongruous with a judicial or quasi-judicial performance.

17. Following this very view, the Supreme Court in another very recent judgment delivered on February, 22, 2008, in the case of State of Rajasthan v. Rajendra Prasad Jain Criminal Appeal No. 360/2008 (Arising out of SLP (Cri.) No. 904/2007) stated that "reason is the heartbeat of every conclusion, and without the same it becomes lifeless."

18. Providing of reasons in orders is of essence in judicial proceedings. Every litigant who approaches the Court with a prayer is entitled to know the reasons for acceptance or rejection of such request. Either of the parties to the Us has a right of appeal and, therefore, it is essential for them to know the considered; opinion of the Court to make the remedy of appeal meaningful. It is the reasoning which ultimately culminates into final decision which may be subject to examination of the appellate or other higher Courts. It is not only desirable; but, in view of the consistent position of law, mandatory for the Court to pass orders while recording reasons in support thereof, however, brief they may be. Brevity in reasoning cannot be understood in legal parlance as absence of; reasons. While no reasoning in support of judicial orders is impermissible, the brief reasoning would suffice to meet the ends of justice at least at the interlocutory stages and would render the remedy of appeal purposeful and meaningful. It is a settled cannon of legal jurisprudence that the Courts are vested with discretionary powers but such powers are to be exercised judiciously, equitably and in consonance with the settled principles of law. Whether or not, such judicial discretion has been exercised in accordance with the accepted norms, can only be reflected by the reasons recorded in the order impugned before the higher Court. Often it is said that absence of reasoning may ipso facto indicate whimsical exercise of judicial discretion. Patricia Wald, Chief Justice of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Article, Black robed Bureaucracy or Collegiality under Challenge, (42 MD.L. REV. 766, 782 (1983), observed as under:

My own guiding principle is that virtually every appellate decision requires some statement of reasons. The discipline of writing even a few sentences or paragraphs explaining the basis for the judgment insures a level of thought and scrutiny by the Court that a bare signal of affirmance, dismissal, or reversal does not.

19. The Court cannot lose sight of the fact that a losing litigant has a cause to plead and a right to challenge the order if it is adverse to him. Opinion of the Court alone can explain the cause which led to passing of the final order. Whether an argument was rejected validly or otherwise, reasoning of the order alone can show. To evaluate the submissions is obligation of the Court and to know the reasons for rejection of its contention is a legitimate expectation on the part of the litigant. Another facet of providing reasoning is to give it a value of precedent which can help in reduction of frivolous litigation. Paul D. Carrington, Daniel J Meador and Maurice Rosenburg, Justice on Appeal 10 (West 1976), observed as under:

When reasons are announced and can be weighed, the public can have assurance that the correcting process is working. Announcing reasons can also provide public understanding of how the numerous decisions of the system are integrated. In a busy Court, the reasons are an essential demonstration that the Court did in fact fix its mind on the case at hand. An unreasoned decision has very little claim to acceptance by the defeated party, and is difficult or impossible to accept as an act reflecting systematic application of legal principles. Moreover, the necessity of stating reasons not infrequently changes the results by forcing the judges to come to grips with nettlesome facts or issues which their normal instincts would otherwise cause them to avoid.

20. The reasoning in the opinion of the Court, thus, can effectively be analysed or scrutinized by the Appellate Court. The reasons indicated by the Court could be accepted by the Appellate Court without presuming what weighed with the Court while coming to the impugned decision. The cause of expeditious and effective disposal would be furthered by such an approach. A right of appeal could be created by a special statute or under the provisions of the Code governing the procedure. In either of them, absence of reasoning may have the effect of negating the purpose or right of appeal and, thus, may not achieve the ends of justice.

21. It will be useful to refer words of Justice Roslyn Atkinson, Supreme Court of Queensland, at AIJA Conference at Brisbane on September 13, 2002 in relation to Judgment Writing. Describing that some judgment could be complex, in distinction to routine judgments, where one requires deeper thoughts, and the other could be disposed of easily but in either cases, reasons they must have. While speaking about purpose of the judgment, he said,

The first matter to consider is the purpose of the judgment. To my mind there are four purposes for any judgment that is written:

(1) to clarify your own thoughts;

(2) to explain your decision to the parties;

(3) to communicate the reasons for the decision to the public; and

(4) to provide reasons for an appeal Court to consider.

22. Clarity of thought leads to proper reasoning and proper reasoning is the foundation of a just and fair decision. In Alexander Machinery (Dudley) Ltd. v. Crabtree 1974 ICR 120, the Court went to the extent of observing that "Failure to give reasons amounts to denial of justice". Reasons are really linchpin to administration of justice. They are link between the mind of the decision taker and the controversy in question. To justify our conclusion, reasons are essential. Absence of reasoning would render the judicial order liable to interference by the higher Court. Reasons is the soul of the decision and its absence would render the order open to judicial chastism.”

24. Another Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in the case of S.N. Mukherjee vs. Union of India (1990) 4 SCC 594, while referring to the English law as well as the judgments of the Supreme Court, stated that the failure to give reasons amounts to denial of justice. A party appearing before the Tribunal is entitled to know, either expressly or inferentially the reasons stated by the Tribunal, and what it is to which the Tribunal is addressing its mind. The decision should be in the form of a reasoned document available to the parties affected and thus, the party should be informed of the reasons. The Apex Court in the case of Ravi Yashwant Bhoir v. Collector (2012) 4 SCC 407, reiterated that it is a settled preposition of law that even in administrative matters, the reasons should be recorded as it is incumbent upon authorities to pass a speaking and reasoned order. The Court noticed that the expanding horizon of the principles of natural justice provides for the requirement to record reasons unless recording of such reasons is specifically excluded by a Statute.

25. Such a view has been expressed by the Supreme Court consistently in the past. In the case of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education vs. K.S. Gandhi (1991) 2 SCC 716, the Supreme Court had emphasized that it is implicit that principles of natural justice or fair play do require recording of reasons as a part of fair procedure. In an administrative decision, its order/decision itself may not contain reasons. Even if it is not the requirement of rules, but at least, the record should disclose reasons. It also held that recording of reasons excludes chances of arbitrariness and ensures a degree of fairness in the process of decision making. The Court also noticed that omission to record reasons may vitiate the order. The Court while noticing that omnipresence and omniscience of the principles of natural justice act as deterrence to arrive at arbitrary decisions in flagrant infraction of fair play, held as under:

“21. Thus it is settled law that the reasons are harbinger between the minds of the maker of the order to the controversy in question and the decision or conclusion arrived at. It also excludes the chances to reach arbitrary, whimsical or capricious decision or conclusion. The reasons assure an inbuilt support to the conclusion/decision reached. The order when it affects the right of a citizen or a person, irrespective of the fact, whether it is quasi-judicial or administrative fair play requires recording of germane and relevant precise reasons. The recording of reasons is also an assurance that the authority concerned consciously applied its mind to the facts on record. It also aids the appellate or revisional authority or the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 or the appellate jurisdiction of this Court under Article 136 to see whether the authority concerned acted fairly and justly to mete out justice to the aggrieved person.”

26. The consistent view of the courts has been that recording of reasons is an essential feature of the principles of natural justice. Natural justice cannot be understood in isolation. It must be examined while keeping in mind the facts and circumstances of a given case. As already noticed, violation of principles of natural justice and its consequences in law would always be relatable to a situation in a given case. Providing of notice, giving a fair opportunity to put forward its case and to record reasons are the essential features of the doctrine of natural justice. It is neither permissible nor prudent to permit violation of these rules and prejudice, though is a relevant consideration, may not always be an indispensable aspect. The cases in which, ex facie, a serious violation of principles of natural justice is shown, the Court or the Tribunal may declare the action invalid and ineffective, even in absence of proven prejudice.

27. Another very important aspect of recording of reasons by administrative or quasi-judicial authority is that the reasons so recorded must have a nexus and should deal with the grounds which have been raised by the affected party for consideration by such authority. Recording reasons without dealing with such contentions would tantamount to non-recording of reasons. The authority concerned is expected to apply its mind to all aspects of a case but most importantly to the contentions raised by the affected party in relation to the grounds or supporting arguments without which no adverse order could be passed against such party. If such grounds are not dealt with in the order passed by the authority, neither the party nor the appellate authority would be able to comprehend as to why their contentions have been rejected, as the reasons are harbinger between the mind of the maker of the order, to the controversy in question and the decision or conclusion arrived at. This is the acid test for examining fair opportunity and proper application of mind by the authority concerned.

28. The importance of the doctrine of natural justice is evident from the fact that with the development of law it has been treated as an ingredient of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. ‘Natural Justice means a fair process. A fair process essentially must exclude arbitrariness and exclusion of arbitrariness would ensure equality and equal treatment before law. This new dimension of audi alteram partem as a facet of natural justice has been noticed by D.D. Basu, Shorter Constitution, 44th Edition 2012:

“Once it is acknowledged that non-arbitrariness is an ingredient of Art. 14 pervading the entire realm of State action governed by Art. 14, it has come to be established, as a further corollary , that the audi alteram partem facet of natural justice is also requirement of Art. 14, for, natural justice is the antithesis of arbitrariness. The right of audi alteram partem is a valuable right recognized under the Constitution of India wherein it is held that, the principle of the maxim which mandates that no one should be condemned unheard, is a part of the rules of natural justice. Such right of hearing conferred by a statute cannot be taken away even by Courts.”

29. Reference could also be made to the judgments in the case of DTC Mazdoor Union v. DTC, AIR 1991 SC 101 and Basudeo Tiwari v. Sido Kanhu University, (1998) 8 SCC 194.

30. Now, we may examine whether there has been a violation of principles of natural justice, its extent and consequences. The first and the foremost contention in this regard raised on behalf of the applicants is that the report of the Deputy Collector which was part of the record and which has also been referred to in the impugned order was never furnished to the applicants, though, the applicants had submitted the documents when the enquiry was conducted by the Deputy Collector. According to the applicants, it has caused serious prejudice to them. In the impugned order, it has been, noticed “further, the enquiries by the Deputy Collector and SDO (Bicholim) has no finding in its report and the same cannot be relied upon.”

31. As already noticed, no dispute has been raised before us by the learned counsel appearing for the Respondent No.3 that the copy of the report of the Deputy Collector and that of the SDO had not been furnished to the applicants. However, the contention is that in the facts and circumstances of the case it was not necessary to furnish these documents to the applicants. They had no significance as they were not relied upon by the Authority. This contention does not have any merit. It is clear that the Deputy Collector had acted in furtherance to the letter of the Authority dated 23rd September, 2010. In furtherance to it he had issued the stop work order dated 11th October, 2010 as well as submitted the report.

32. On the one hand, remarks have been recorded to say that reports cannot be relied upon but on the other in paragraph 6 of the order, it has been specifically stated, “the Deputy Collector (Bicholim) conducted a hearing and has submitted a report that the jetties were in existence before 1991. He has not stopped loading/unloading operation at the site. He indicates them to be legal in nature. From the record available in the file, the jetties appear not to be totally legally constructed and the Village Panchayat had ordered for its demolition. Other facts of the case reveal that the claim of jetties existing in 1969 appear to be untrue and the Land Record Survey plans of 1976 do not have the same indicated on their plans.”

33. Both the above comments cannot co-exist. Either the report has not been considered and relied upon in its entirety or it has been relied upon partially or otherwise. From the order it is clear that the said reports have been relied upon.

34. The Deputy Collector (Bicholim) had also been asked to conduct an enquiry vide letter of Authority dated 29th October, 2010. The enquiry was conducted by the Deputy Collector in which the applicants had participated and he had submitted his report without furnishing a copy thereof to the applicants. Once the report was called by the Authorities and it formed part of the record, it was expected of the Authorities to furnish a copy of the report to the applicants as well. Furthermore, what remarks have been recorded supra would be of no consequence as the record being part of a quasi-judicial functioning, could not be brushed aside in that fashion. If it recorded findings which were favorable to the applicants, they should have been taken into consideration and judged appropriately. If the remarks were against the petitioner, similar process should have been followed in the event.

35. It is also contended that a number of other documents which had been filed by the complainant along with his reply or were otherwise collected by the Authorities had not been furnished to the applicants. There is also no dispute to the fact that the documents which had been furnished to the Authorities by the complainant had not been furnished to the applicants on the pretext that they were the documents of the applicants themselves. This argument of Respondent No.3 cannot advance their case any further. Once the documents were relied upon by the Authority in recording its conclusions, then such documents ought to have been furnished to the applicants. These documents included, reply of the claimant dated 21st December, 2009 and a copy of the Plan dated 29th September, 2005. According to the applicants, the non-furnishing of the report and other documents, as afore-indicated, has caused serious prejudice to their right of defense as they did not know what case is being put up by the Authorities for the purposes of deciding the show cause notice in question.

36. It is also the contention of the applicants before us that the order suffers from non-application of mind as the various documents which had been produced by the applicants have not been considered by the authorities. These included:

a. Application dated 22/1/1969 made by SGL to the Captain of Ports;

b. Permission/NOC from the Captain of Ports dated 27/2/1969;

c. Resolution of the Panchayat dated 12/8/2010 confirming that the Panchayat records indicate existence of Jetties from 1969;

d. Notice/Resolution from the Communidade of Navelim dated 12/9/1968;

e. Affidavits of 11 local and prominent villagers from Amona;

f. Outward Registers of the Panchayat of Amona in relation to the permission for repairs of the jetty granted in the year 1987;

g. Internal communications of SGL dated 9/7/1987; 6/10/1987; 16/10/1987; 3/8/1987; 25/8/1987; and 2/9/1987;

h. Daily Ore Stock Movement Reports dated 7/5/1987 and 8/5/1987 in relation to the two jetties:

i. Topo sheet of the area prepared in the year1991.

37. Non-consideration of these documents by the authorities again has prejudicial effect on the case of the applicants. Still another contention is that the impugned order suffers from non-application of mind as the various contentions raised by the applicants have not been considered, much less in their correct perspective. Inter alia, it is contended that the documents relating to payment of riverine dues could not form the basis for the true and correct determination of the area of the jetties which were in existence prior to 1991. In fact, the area of 65 sq. mt5s. referred to in the document dated 24th October, 1996 relates merely to a ‘portion of one of the jetties protruding in the river.

38. The area of the jetties was in serious dispute as the Captain of Ports had alleged that even the area of the ship which was being used for loading/unloading was part of the area which was chargeable to riverine dues. That dispute itself was pending and as such no reliance could be placed upon such a contention. The impugned order does not consider the contention at all that conveyor belting system was operating only after obtaining the permission from the Captain of Ports and Goa State Pollution Control Board. Furthermore, even if as an argument it is assumed that the conveyor belting system was installed in the year 1992, then it was clear that the CRZ Regulations came into force only upon finalization of the Coastal Zone Management Plan, which in relation to the area in question, was done in the year 1996. This contention has not been dealt with by the Authorities. The hearing had been conducted by the Authority but the impugned order has been passed by the Member Secretary, which is not permissible in law. Also, the Authority ceased to exist in February, 2009 as its term came to an end and unless a fresh Authority was constituted, no order could be passed in the eyes of law. Non-consideration of these submissions, according to the applicants, has denied him a fair trial and has prejudiced its interest. Non-consideration of the submissions and non-furnishing of these documents clearly violates the doctrine of audi alteram partem and would vitiate the impugned order. It is contended that it is not even the case of Respondent No.3 that this violation at the first stage had ever been corrected at a subsequent hearing or stage. A defect of natural justice in trial body can be cured by the presence of natural justice in the appellate body. This would result in depriving the litigant of his right to appeal from the initial body. To buttress the contention, reliance has been placed upon Institute of Chartered Accountants v. L. K. Ratna (1986) 4 SCC 533.

39. We may notice that this contention of the applicants has merit, primarily for the reason that there was a clear admission made before us that the report and some other documents had not been furnished to the applicants by the Authority. In fact, during the course of hearing, the matter was also adjourned to find out if the documents have been supplied and the answer to the same was found to be in negative at a subsequent hearing in other words, no attempt has been made to correct the violation of principles of natural justice at the initial stage. Lastly, it is also contended on behalf of the applicants that the impugned order and the directions contained in the order are beyond the purview and scope of the show cause notice. The show cause notice dated 16th November, 2009 was never part of the proceedings that culminated into passing of the impugned order dated 4th March, 2011. The show cause notice dated 1st January, 2010, in fact, was projected as the sole show cause notice for taking action against the applicants. Furthermore, the grounds taken in the show cause notice are different than the ones on the basis of which the impugned order has been passed. In other words, the impugned order is beyond the ambit and scope of the show cause notices issued to the applicants. To that extent the applicants have been taken by surprise and such proceedings are again violative of the principles of natural justice. Reliance in this regard has been placed upon the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Godrej Industries Ltd. V. Commissioner of Central Excise (2008) 17 SCC 417 and Trilochan Dev Sharma v. State of Punjab (2001) 6 SCC 260.

40. It is true that in the above cases the Supreme Court has clearly stated that an order passed on grounds not taken in the show cause notice is not sustainable. Furthermore, in paragraph 12 of the judgment in the case of Trilochan Dev Sharma (supra), the Supreme Court observed: “It follows as a necessary corollary that what has not been provided as a ground providing reasons for proposed removal cannot be relied upon as furnishing basis for the order of removal.” The authorities exercising its power of passing orders of civil consequences against parties are expected to apply their minds to all facets. All such factors must be put to the applicant and the applicant have a right to put forward his case on each of such issues. In the present case, even if we assume that both the show cause notices are the foundation, as was recorded in the impugned order, even then, in none of these notices has it been recorded anywhere that the jetties were in excess of 65 sq. meters (area over and above), were unauthorized, illegal and work in that behalf should be stopped. This is a very material allegation which ought to have been made in the show cause notice itself. On the contrary in the show cause notice it has been stated that there was illegal construction/operation of jetties, loading/unloading without approval and the absence of such other statutory approvals. The show cause notice talked of the purpose of reconstruction, construction, development, repair, renovation between 200 meters to 500 meters of the high tide line. These allegations have not been discussed in the impugned order. In fact, the notice clearly stated that the alleged illegal construction was highly detrimental to the coastal ecosystem, riverine ecosystem due to destruction of sand dunes, coastal vegetation etc. None of these grounds have been dealt with in the impugned order.

41. Still another contention raised before the Tribunal is that there was no illegal construction/loading/unloading activities at the jetties. The applicants, vide their letter dated 10th February, 2010, without prejudice to their rights, had requested the office of the Authority to regularize the improvised loading facility in the form of conveyer belting system in Survey No. 32 of village Amona. This application has not been reacted to by the Authority finally, may be in view of the proceedings pending before it in furtherance to the show cause notice. Reliance has been placed upon the provisions of the Notification of 2011 in this regard. The activities which are directly related to the water front or directly need offshore facilities have been made an exception to the prohibited activities within the CRZ. Furthermore Clause 4 of the Notification states about regulation on permissible activities in CRZ area except those prohibited in Para 3 of the Notification, Clause 4(f) reads under:

“(f) construction and operation for ports and harbors, jetties, wharves, quays, slipways, ship construction yards, breakwaters, groynes, erosion control measures;”

42. The said Notification while dealing specifically with the CRZ of Goa declares construction of jetties as permissible by the Gram Panchayats. In other words, the claim of regularization needs examination by the competent authority. Certainly, we are not even remotely indicating or should be understood to have indicated whether regularization should or should not be permitted. It is for the concerned authorities to examine the said request of the applicants, in accordance with law and with strict adherence to the prescribed procedure.

43. To put it simply, the impugned order on the one hand dealt with the issues which were not the allegations made in the show cause notice while on the other it does not discuss or appreciate any evidence in regard to the allegations that were made in the show cause notice. This leads clearly to one conclusion, that the Authority has failed to apply its mind to the facts of the case and has not even considered various legal and other submissions that had been raised by the applicants.

44. Another relevant factor is with regard to the inspection of jetties by the competent authority. As is evident from the above factual matrix, the dispute relates to illegal construction/renovation of the jetties and its extent. The extent could have been best determined by conducting an inspection. It is not in dispute before us that the Authority did not conduct any inspection of the site in question. The Deputy Collector had conducted an instant enquiry, the report of which has been mentioned in the impugned order, but at the same time it is stated that it returns no findings. The SDO and some officials had visited the site but no report thereof has been referred to in the proceedings and particularly in the impugned order. The Authority, thus, has ignored certain important aspects on the one hand and on the other, has decided the matter with reference to the events which were not part of the show cause notice.

45. Abuse of power and arbitrariness are two sides of the same coin. One triggers the other. The non-supplying of report, certain documents, non-application of mind, the content of the impugned order being beyond the scope of the show cause notice and non-communication of material relied upon, seen in the light of the background that no inspection was conducted by the Authority concerned, leads us to come to the insuppressible conclusion that there has been denial of fair opportunity to the applicants. The principles of natural justice have been violated. Non-recording of reasons in regard to the grounds and material submissions regarding the same by the Authority further substantiates the view that the impugned order is unsustainable in law. We are unable to hold that the procedure adopted by the Authorities completely eliminates the element of arbitrariness or that of a capricious decision. Adherence to the principles of natural justice, as an indefeasible part of rule of law is of supreme importance, particularly when an Authority like Respondent No. 2 embarks upon determining the disputes between the parties or passes any administrative order/action involving civil consequences. We have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that after the service of show cause notices, the proceedings and the impugned order are vitiated for the reasons afore-recorded.

46. Now, we must deal with the contention advanced on behalf of Respondent No.3 that the Notification of 2011 and for that matter even of 1991 did not provide for any specific procedure to be adopted by the authority while initiating such proceedings under the scheme of the Notification. Thus, the procedure adopted by the Respondent No.3 while passing the impugned order dated 4th March, 2011 does not call for any interference. The submission is that the Authority was competent to adopt a procedure that it may have deemed fit and proper.

47. The proposition of law advanced on behalf of the Respondent No.3 to a limited extent, may not be questionable. It is a settled canon of law that wherever the rules do not provide any specific procedure to be followed by the authority concerned while dealing with disputes and passing orders having civil consequences, it can adopt its own procedure. But equally true is that such procedure has to be in consonance with the principles of natural justice and the basic rule of law. The application of any procedure, in absence of specific provision of law, which infringes the principles of natural justice, cannot be sustained in law. Such procedure and the order passed upon such basis shall stand vitiated. As far as the merits of the present case are concerned, we have already returned a definite finding that there has been a serious violation of the principles of natural justice and the impugned order cannot stand the scrutiny of judicial review. The necessary corollary to the above discussion would be as to what will be the procedure that should be followed by the authorities in consonance with the principles of natural justice in absence of the prescription of any procedure in the Notification. Putting the allegations to the applicants by means of a notice, granting an opportunity to the affected party of being heard and recording of reasons while passing the orders are the fundamental essentials of the doctrine of audi alteram partem. So the authority must follow the procedure which would satisfy these basic ingredients before it can pass an order having civil consequences. Thus, we direct the authority to follow the following procedure while exercising its power in terms of the Notifications of 1991 and/or 2011:

(1) It must serve a notice to show cause, containing comprehensively all the acts/omissions/commissions which the affected party has committed, rendering it liable for any action in terms of the Notification.

(2) The affected party should submit its reply with complete documents to support the contents thereof, within the time prescribed in the show cause notice.

(3) The authority must furnish to the applicants, complaints, documents and/or any other material that it proposes to rely upon for the purposes of determining the controversy in issue.

(4) Wherever the records are voluminous and it may not be practical to furnish the copies of all such records, in that event the authority must provide an inspection of documents to the applicants and supply copies of such documents as the applicants may ask for, at his cost. Wherever the facts of the case require and the authority is of the view that the controversy can better be resolved by physical inspection of the site, then it must by itself or through such other appropriate high officer get the site in question inspected and furnish the inspection report to the affected party.

(5) The affected party should be provided a fair opportunity to put forward its case before the authority.

(6) After hearing the parties, the authority should pass a reasoned order. The order should deal, preferably with the grounds which have been raised by the affected party, as precisely as possible.

48. The above directions should be followed by the authority in all cases and with immediate effect.

49. Reverting to the case at hand, while we set aside the order dated 4th March, 2011, we grant liberty to the Authority to commence its proceedings from the stage of show cause notice/notices and proceed in accordance with the directions afore-contained from that stage. It is a settled principle of law that wherever the Courts or Tribunals set aside an order, it could always grant liberty and normally should grant liberty to the authority to commence its proceedings from the stage the defect had occurred in the proceedings. This principle has been well-settled by the Honble Supreme Court in the case of Managing Director, ECIL, Hyderabad v. Karunakaran(1993) 4 SCC 727and Shyam Sunder v. State of Haryana (2001) 3 Recent Service Judgements 371. Applying this principle to the facts of the present case, the Authority shall commence its proceedings from the stage of service of the show cause notices. The show cause notice dated 16th November, 2009 and 1st January, 2010 shall be the basis for proceeding further with the enquiry, however with specific liberty to the authority to make any additional or fresh grounds that it may deem fit, within two weeks from the date of pronouncement of this order. To these show cause notices, the applicants shall submit its additional reply, if any, within two weeks thereafter. The Authority shall then proceed with the matter in light of the above directions and pass the final order within four months from the date of pronouncement of this order.

50. We allow the application and set aside the order dated 4th March, 2011, with the above directions and liberties as granted. However, we leave the parties to bear their own costs.


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