1. The appeal was heard today. The learned Counsel for the Appellant argued that his client was denied a reasonable opportunity to be heard before the Assistant Collector. He further submitted that on 2-1-1979 he delivered a letter to the Assistant Collector in person, seeking extension of time for his reply to the show cause notice. No extension was granted. It was not even mentioned in the order of adjudication.
Although the request for extension was adverted to in the grounds of appeal before the Appellate Collector, she appears to have confused it with an earlier letter dated 7-9-1978 for inspection of records.
2. The learned Counsel pointed out that under Section 124 no order can be passed without giving the party a reasonable opportunity for personal hearing. He, himself, asked for extension of time for reply to show cause notice and in the circumstances, it cannot be that the right to be heard in person has been given up.
3. The Departmental Representative submitted that the show cause notice specifically asked the Appellant whether the Appellant wanted to be heard in person. However, nothing was shown to us to prove that the Appellant waived personal hearing or that he was offered a hearing before final orders were passed by the Assistant Collector.
4. Section 124 is quite clear and unless a person waives his right of personal hearing he has to be heard by the adjudicating authority. As this has not been done in the present matter, the Assistant Collector's order is vitiated by a breach of the principles of natural justice and by the violation of Section 124.
5. In the circumstances, the appeal is allowed; the order passed by the Appellate Collector, bearing No. 578/80 issued under C. No.APPL/DLH/PREV/ 15/79 dated 26-3-81, and order passed by the Assistant Collector, bearing No. 4/79 issued under C. No. VIII(SB)/10/26/78/281 dated 16-1-1978, are both set aside and the matter remanded to the Assistant Collector for fresh adjudication after giving the Appellant a reasonable opportunity to be heard in person.
6. Considering that this is an old matter, the Assistant Collector is directed to ensure that a hearing is given and orders passed within a period of three months from the date of receipt of this order. For purposes of record the appeal is taken as allowed.