1. The petitioners herein applied to the Tahsildar, Nellore, for assignment of lands bearing S. Nos. 229, 230 and 231 in Venkannapalem village, Nellore Taluk, of an extent of 4 acres 82 cents on the ground that they are landless poor and they belong to a backward community called Palle Kapu. Objections to their applications were filed by some Harijans (Chinna Rangaiah and others) of Venkannapallem, but the Tahsildar. after due enquiry, granted pattas to the petitioners in his proceedings F. Dis-No. 480/71. The petitioners were given possession of the lands on 30-11-1961.
2. Aggrieved by the orders of the Tahsildar, the Harijans preferred an appeal to the Revenue Divisional Officer. Nellore, who in his proceedings L. Dis. No. 61205/61 dated 28-4-1962 rejected the appeal and confirmed the pattas granted in favour of the petitioners. Thereafter the Harijans preferred a revision petition to the Government against the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer. The Government in their Memorandum No. 2396/62-6 dated 5-2-1963 passed the following order:
'The Government have carefully examined the revision petition filed by Sri Ch. Rangiah and two others, Harijans of Venkannapalem village, Nellore Taluk, Nellore District, against the orders of the Revenue Divisional officer, Nellore issued in his L. Dis. 6205/61 dated 28-4-1962 regarding assignment of S. Nos. 229, 230 and 231 of Venkannapalem village in favour of Sri P. Ramiah and other of Eothapalem village. They observe that the Harijans (i.e., the petitioners) should get preference over others, especially when they are natives of Venkannapalem village. They further observe that the petitioners say that they are in procession of the lands. The Government therefore direct that the assignment made by the Revenue Divisional Officer in his L. Dis. 6205/61 dated 28-4-62 in favour of Sri Ramaiah and Sri P. Rajaish of Kothapalem village be set aside and the Sirvoijama cultivation of the Harijans be continued if they are under occupation of the land in question.
2. The stay ordered in Government memorandum is hereby vacated.
3. The revision petitioners are referred to the Collector of Nellore for orders.
(Sd.) K. G. Desikan
Deputy Secretary to Government.'
3. It will thus be seen that the Government purported to exercise their revisional power and cancelled the pattas granted to the petitioners and instead, directed that the Harijans be allowed to continue 'siveijama' cultivation of the lands if they are occupying them. In thus reversing the orders of the Tahsildar and of the Revenue Divisional Officer, the Government did not think it necessary even to give notice to the petitioners in whose favour pattas had been granted.
4. In a matter like this, even if the order passed by the Government cannot be strictly called judicial or quasi-judicial, there is a duty to act fairly, which means that before an order in favour of a party is set aside, he should be given a chance to make his representation. In this connection the observations made by Lord Parker, Chief Justice of England, in a recent case in Re. H. K. (an infant), (9167) 1 All ER 226 at p. 231, are instructive. The Lord Chief Justice observed as follows in a case in authorities against an immigrant who, they thought, was a minor, came up for consideration:
'........I doubt whether it can be said that the immigration authorities are acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity in those terms are generally understood. At the same time, however, I myself think that even if an immigration officer is not acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity, he must at any rate give the immigrant an opportunity of satisfying him of the matters in the sub-section, and for that purpose let the immigrant know what his immediate impression is so that the immigrant can disabuse him. That is not, as I see it, a question of acting or being required to act fairly. Good administration and an honest or bona fide decision must, as it seems to me, require not mere impartiality, not merely bringing one's mind to bear on the problem, but of acting fairly, and to the limited extent that the circumstances of any particular case allow, and within the legislative framework under which the administrator is working, only to that limited extent do the so-called rules of natural justice apply, which in a case such as this is merely a duty to act fairly.'
I would respectfully adopt the above view and hold that in a matter like the present, the Government were under a duty to act fairly, which means that before they set aside the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer affirming that of the Tahsildar, they should have given notice to the petitioners and to given an opportunity to them to present their case. Since that was not done, this writ petition is allowed, the impugned order of the Government in Memorandum No. 2396/B-2/62-6 dated 5-2-1963 is set aside the and the Government are directed to determine the revision petition preferred by Chinna Rangiah and others, after giving notice to the petitioners herein in whose favour pattas had been granted. In the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs.
5. Petition allowed.