G.K. Govinda Bhat, C.J.
1. This writ petition is directed against order dated 13-5-1975 made by the Land Tribunal, Narasimharajapura Taluk, under Section 45 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, registering Devamma Hegdathi - respondent No. 3 as occupant of 6 acres 24 guntas of land in Survey No. 4 of Karkeswara village, Narasimharajapura Taluk and rejecting the claim of the petitioner for registration of occupancy in respect of 2 acres 20 guntas out of 6 acres 24 guntas in the said Survey Number.
2. Respondent No. 3 Devamma Hegdathi made an application under Section 45 of the Land Reforms Act before the Land Tribunal for registration of occupancy in respect of 6 acres 24 guntas of agricultural land in Survey No. 4 of Karkeswara village. The petitioner Chinne Gowda, alleging that he was a sub-tenant under respondent No. 3 in respect of 2 acres 20 guntas out of 6 acres 24 guntas, made an application to the same Land Tribunal for registering him as occupant in respect of 2 acres 20 guntas.
3. The Land Tribunal fixed the date of hearing on 22-4-1975, on which date, both parties appeared and filed their respective statements in writing, Their evidence was also recorded on that date and the matter was adjourned to 13-5-1975 for further evidence. On the adjourned date, the petitioner did not appear; he sent an application through his brother to the Tribunal praying for adjournment on the ground of illness. The application was supported by a medical certificate. The Tribunal received that application, but did not pass any order thereon. Instead, it proceeded to examine the witnesses for both parties and thereafter made the impugned order upholding the claim of Respondent No. 3 and rejecting the claim of the petitioner. Aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner has approached this Court for relief under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.
4. The ground urged in support of the writ petition is that the Land Tribunal has violated the rules of natural justice as it has proceeded to examine the witnesses for the parties in the absence of the petitioner, who, for sufficient cause, was unable to be present at the enquiry.
5. In our opinion, this petition' ought to succeed. The Tribunal has not made any order rejecting the application of the petitioner for adjournment of the case; he was not set ex parte; the witnesses for respondent No. 3 as also the witnesses for the petitioner were examined in the absence of the petitioner on the basis of such evidence, the Tribunal proceeded to make a final order in the case.
6. That the conception of natural justice should, at all stages, guide those who discharge judicial as well as quasi judicial functions, is not merely an accepted but is an essential part of the philosophy of the Rule of Law. Whatever standard is adopted, one essential requirement is that the person concerned should have a reasonable opportunity of presenting his case.
7. We have to remember that Advocates are debarred from appearing for parties before the Land Tribunal and the parties have themselves to conduct their cases. Where a party is prevented by illness or other sufficient cause from appearing before the Tribunal. On the date fixed for enquiry, the Tribunal, in proceeding to examine the witnesses in the case in the absence of one of the parties, will be acting in clear violation of the rules of natural justice as the party, who is unable to attend the proceedings of the Tribunal, will be denied the reasonable opportunity of presenting his case.
8. We are, therefore, of the clear opinion that the order of the Tribunal, in so far as it rejected the claim of the petitioner for registration of occupancy in respect of 2 acres 20 guntas out of survey No. 4 of Karkeswara village is concerned, is liable to be quashed, and we quash the same. The order of the Tribunal, so far as it relates to the undisputed portion of 4 acres and 4 guntas in the said Survey Number, will stand, The Tribunal shall hear the application of the petitioner in the presence of respondent No. 3. Both parties shall be given an opportunity to lead further evidence. If respondent No.3 wants to rely on the evidence of the witnesses examined on 13-5-1975, those witnesses should be made available for cross-examination by the petitioner. If the Tribunal upholds the claim of the petitioner, the portion of land in respect of which he is granted registration of occupancy, shall be clearly demarcated so that there shall be no difficulty of identification of the two portions of Survey No. 4 of Karkeswara village, which has vested in the State Government under Section 4 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act. It is ordered accordingly.
9. The parties are directed to bear their own costs.
10. The learned Government Pleader is permitted to file his memo of appearance within two weeks.
11. Writ petition partly allowed.