1. In this petition under Article 226(1)(b) and (c) of the constitution of India, the petitioner who claims to be the tenant of an extent of 0-05 guntas of land in Survey No. 173A of Janmane village, Taluk Sirsi, has challenged the order of the Land Tribunal in case No. LRM SR. 1468/6345 dated 13-10-1977 rejecting the application filed by the petitioner in Form No. 7 for being registered as an occupant and further granting occupancy right in favour of the 1st respondent.
2. The petitioner and the lst respondent both claim to be the tenants of the land in question and accordingly both of them made applications in Form No. 7 before the Land Tribunal for registration of occupancy. Both the applications were clubbed together and decided by the Land Tribunal by a common order.
3. The contention of Sri N.Shankaranarayana Bhat, the learned, Counsel appearing for the petitioner, is that Sri A. M. Hegde, who was one of the members of the Tribunal who participated in. the passing of the impugned order, was appearing for the 1st respondent before the Assistant Commissioner, Sirsi, in respect of the proceedings taken out with regard to the land in question between the same parties. Therefore, he further contended that the entire proceedings of the Tribunal culminating in the passing of the impugned order, are vitiated in view of the fact that Sri A. M. Hegde, participated in the proceedings.
4. The petitioner has produced Exhibit-E which is a copy 'of the order passed in No. RRT. AP. SR. 32/76-77 dated 13-9-1973. From this copy of the order, it is clear that Sri A. M. Hegde was appearing for the lst respondent in this writ petition who was the appellant in the proceedings before the Assistant Commissioner.
5. The 1st respondent has filed his statement of objections, in which, it is not denied that the proceedings before the Assistant Commissioner pertained to the land in question. The only statement made by him as that it was not Sri A. M. Hegde but it was one Sri R. A. 'Hegde who was appearing for the lst respondent in this writ petition who was the appellant before the Assistant Commissioner. The 1st respondent has not produced any documents To show that it was Sri P. A. Hegde and not Sri A. M. Hegde who appeared for the 1st respondents The petitions counsel, at the time of hearing, has also produced an authenticated copy of the order Exhibit-E, which was taken on record. From that authenticated copy, it is clear that it was Sri A. M. Hegde, who was one of the members of the Land Tribunal, and it was he who appeared for the 1st respondent, who was the appellant before the Assistant Commissioner.
6. This Court, in the case of Gulabchand v. Land Tribunal Blialki, reported in (1977) 1 Kant LJ 55, has laid down that where one member of the Tribunal was a practising Advocate who had appeared for the father of the respondent therein in a civil suit in respect of the same land and though the petitioner therein brought this fact to the notice of the Tribunal that member participated in the proceedings and right of occupancy was registered in the name of the respondent therein, under these circumstances, it was held that the petitioner therein had reasonable apprehension of bias and there was failure of justice by the participation of the said member in the proceedings.
7. In the instant case also, the petitioner raised an objection relating to the participation of, Sri A. M. Hegde in the proceedings of the Tribunal on the ground that he was appearing before the Assistant Commissioner on behalf of the first respondent in respect of the proceedings pertaining to the land, in question; in spite of this. Sri A. M. Hegde participated in the proceedings and the impugned order came to be passed against the petitioner as apprehended by him. The bias apprehended by the petitioner on the part of Sri A. M. Hegde, is reasonable having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case. In such cases, the test is not as to whether bias has affected the decision but the test is as to whether the bias apprehended by the petitioner was reasonable or not. Under these circumstances, the order of the Land Tribunal is vitiated by reason of the participation of Sri A. M. Hegde who having espoused the cause of the lst respondent as his Advocate in respect of the very land between the very parties could not have acted as one of the members of the Tribunal to decide the case. It is clearly opposed to the principles of natural justice.
8. Consequently the order of the Land Tribunal cannot at all be sustained. This petition succeeds. The order of the Land Tribunal is hereby quashed. The matter stands remitted to the Land Tribunal, Sirsi, with a direction to decide the same afresh in accordance with law and after affording an opportunity to the parties to adduce evidence and after hearing them.
9. No order as to costs.
10. Petition allowed.