C.S.P. Singh, J.
1. The points raised in this petition and in the other connected petitions are the same. They are being disposed of by a common judgment.
2. The dispute relates to a land situate in village Dhimarpur. Tehsil Powayan, District Shahjahanpur. It appears that the land was recorded sometime back in the name of Satya Jeet Singh and Padamjeet Singh. Proceedings under the U. P. Imposition of Ceiling of Land Holdings Act took place and the land was declared as surplus. Thereafter the petitioner in the present petition filed objections under Section 14 of the Act. claiming rights in the surplus land. These petitions were dismissed by the prescribed authority as also by the appellate authority. A writ petition filed against that decision was also dismissed. The matter is now pending in this Court by way of a petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
3. In the year 1969, the village was brought under consolidation operations. The petitioners have averred that in the records prepared by the Consolidation authorities, they were shown as tenure-holders of the disputed land and notices in C. H. Form 5 were also issued showing them as tenure-holders. No objections were filed within the time prescribed under Section 9 (2) of the Act-Subsequently, an objection was filed on 10-2-1970. by the Additional Collector Shahjahanpur, stating therein that the land had been declared as surplus in proceedings under the U. P. Imposition of Ceiling of Land Holdings Act and had vested in the State of U. P. and that the objections could not be filed within the time prescribed under Section 9 (2) of the Act, and as the fact that the names of the erstwhile tenure-holders continued to be recorded in the revenue papers, came to the knowledge of the authorities on 8-2-1970 the delay in filing the objections be condoned. This application was not supported by an affidavit. Replies were filed to this by the petitioners supported by an affidavit, wherein, it was alleged inter alia that the decision in the U. P. Imposition of the Ceiling of Land Holdings Act had not become final and the matter is pending in the High Court, and further that the papers relating to the consolidation cases had been examined as far back as 25-10-1969 as also on 8-2-1970. which went to show that the State had knowledge of these proceedings much earlier. It was also asserted that a letter was sent in the first week of January 1970 by the Consolidation Officer to the Ceiling Officer giving information of the consolidation proceedings and inviting them to objections against the proposed entries. A true copy of the alleged letter has been filed as Annexure 12 to the petition. The State filed a counter-affidavit to the affidavit filed on behalf of the petitioners in Section 5 proceedings. In paragraph 9 of this affidavit, it was asserted that although the land in dispute had been declared as surplus land by the prescribed authority of Sitapur the entries in the record had not been corrected in pursuance of these orders, and the mistake came to the knowledge of the State when the Additional Collector (Executive) made investigation for the first time on 8-2-1970, a stand was also taken up that the period of limitation should count from the date of knowledge and in any event the delay should be condoned. The Consolidation Officer found that although objections had been filed by the State on behalf of the Gaon Samaj In some case on 25-10-1969. yet it could not be said that the State had knowledge of the entries in the present case before 8-2-1970. Taking into account the decision under the U. P. Imposition of Ceiling of Land Holdings Act. he took the view thatin case the delay in filing the objections was not condoned, it would amount to setting at naught the judgment given by these authorities. He also expressed the suspicion that the delay in correcting the revenue records, subsequent to the decision of ceiling authorities, might have been due to machinations of the tenure-holders concerned and if the State Government thought fit the matter may be enquired into, and proper action taken against the persons concerned. The various petitioners filed as many as seven revisions before the Deputy Director of Consolidation. An application was also moved before the Deputy Director of Consolidation for summoning the Ceiling Clerk along with letter No. 165/C. O. Banda dated 7-1-1970 which was alleged to have been received on 17-1-1970 by the District Magistrate at serial No. 176 of the Dak Bahi by the Ceiling Clerk Hardwari Lal. The Deputy Director of Consolidation rejected this application by observing:--
'Keep on file. In my opinion, no Investigation is needed, nor is it necessary to send for papers on admissible points since the applicant is not expected to know the existence of such letters.'
On merits, he held that the stake of the State Government in the case was considerable, and it was immaterial that the objections had been filed on information sent by the Consolidation Officer, and that the delay being only of three months no inconvenience could be caused to the applicants in case the application was allowed. He, accordingly, upheld the order of the Consolidation Officer.
4. Counsel for the petitioners has contended that the Consolidation Officer was biased against the petitioners, inasmuch as he had showed undue interest in the case of the State by sending a letter asking it to file objections and as such the decision given by him was vitiated. It has also been urged that none of the two officers have considered the relevant factors, which were necessary for deciding as to whether sufficient cause had been shown for condonation of delay.
5. Counsel for the State has urged that inasmuch as only the application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act has been allowed, this is not a fit case for interference under Article 226 of the Constitution. He has also refuted the other contentions raised on behalf of the petitioners. It is. undoubtedly true that normally Courts are loath to interfere with orders condoning delay. This, however, is not a rule inflexible and in appropriate cases even an order under Section 5, Limitation Act can be interfered with under Article 226 of the Constitution. This objection must, therefore, be overruled. As there was considerable controversy as to whether the consolidation authorities had sent Information to the Ceiling Department regarding the pendency of the cases in the village and asking them to file objections I sent for the Dak Bahi of the Collector, Shahjahanpur. At serial No. 176 of the Dak Bahi, letter No. 165/C O. Banda dated 7-1-1970 purporting to have been sent by the A. C. O. Banda is entered as having been received by the Offlcer-In-Charge Ceilings on 17-1-1970. This letter according to entry in the Dak Bahi purports to have been sent by the A. C. O. Banda. Originally, the officer entered at this item, who is purported to have sent the letter was entered as S. O. C. but thereafter it has been cut out, and the A. C. O. has been entered therein. Counsel for the State has urged that this letter Is not the one which has been filed as Annexure '1' to the petition as item No. 176 of the Dak Bahi purports to relate to a letter sent by the Assistant Consolidation Officer. Banda. This contention, however, does not appear to be correct, because the entry in the register runs as under:--
176 A. C. O. ) O C. Ceiling
Banda L. No. 165/)
C- O.) Signed, Illegible.
Banda at 7-1-70.
6. It will be noticed that after 'letter No.' the designation is shown to be 'C. O. Banda.' This would go to indicate, the letter was that of the C. O. Banda and it may be that it was sent on his behalf by the A. C. O. Banda. If the letter had been of the A. C. O. Banda, the name of C. O. Banda. as the authority sending the letter would not have been shown in this entry. The fact that such a letter has been sent. has. however, not been admitted in the counter-affidavit. The Consolidation Officer concerned, who was the best person to deny the letter has denied sending the letter on the basis that he does not remember that he sent such a letter. The denial is clearly evasive and cannot be accepted in view of the fact that the Dak Bahi of the Collector contains entry of such a letter. It must, therefore, be held that the Consolidation Officer, Banda sent the letter Annexure 1 to the Ceiling Officer asking him to file an objection under Section 9, and also to arrange for prosecuting the same. This to my mind, was to say the least improper on his part. The Consolidation Officer while deciding objections acts as a quasi-judicial tribunal, and he has to conduct the proceedings in such a manner as would not engender a reasonable apprehension in a litigant that he would not get a fair trial in that forum. Judicial tribunals which are invested with judicial or quasi-judicial powers must conduct the proceedings in such a manner that justice must not only be done but must appear to be done to the litigant public. On an allegation of bias being made it is not necessary to prove actual prejudice, and all that is necessary is to show that the proceedings were conducted in such a manner that a litigant could reasonably apprehend that the final decision was biased (See Manak Lal Advocate v. Dr. Prem Chand Singh, AIR 1957 SC 425). Now nothing can be more subversive to the faith of a litigant in a tribunal, than when a tribunal takes up cudgels on behalf of another party- In the present case, the duty of sending notices, even if it be assumed that a notice was necessary to the State Government, was upon the Assistant Consolidation Officer under Section 9 of the Act. The Consolidation Officer has to decide such cases as cannot by conciliation or settlement be decided before the Assistant Consolidation Officer. It is no part of the duty of the Consolidation Officer at the initial stage to send notice under Section 9 or to ask the possible contesting party to file an objection and to take step for prosecuting the same. The Consolidation Officer, as it would appear from Annexure 1 has resorted to such a step. This being so, bias in law is clearly attributable to the respondent No. 1. Counsel for the State has relied upon the case of Bhusan Saran v. Onkar Singh, AIR 1956 All 715 and has urged that mere apprehension of bias is not sufficient and before a party can succeed, he must establish that there was a real likelihood of bias in the case. The law on the subject has been authoritatively pronounced in its subsequent decision in AIR 1956 All 715 (supra) which has already been referred to above. Even if the test laid down by this Court is accepted, it cannot be said in the circumstances that there was no likelihood of any bias, as any reasonable litigant could apprehend after coming to know of the letter sent by the Consolidation Officer Banda, that the Consolidation Officer was likely to take a view favourable to the State inasmuch as he was soliciting objections and asking the officers concerned to take steps for prosecuting the objection. The Consolidation Officer had thus disqualified himself from deciding the cause, and his decision cannot be upheld. It has, however, been urged that the decision of the Dy. Director of Consolidation Is unexceptionable Inasmuch as the infirmity, if any attaching to the decision of the Consolidation Officer cannot be carried forward to that of the Deputy Director of Consolidation. Themain reason given by the Deputy Director of Consolidation is that the stakes of the State in the subject-matter of dispute were high and that the delay in filing the objection, being only of three months no prejudice would be caused to the petitioners in case the delays were condoned. The fact that the stakes of a particular party are high in a matter, is wholly irrelevant for deciding as to whether sufficient cause has been shown for condoning the delay,
7. The second reason given by the Deputy Director of Consolidation is that the petitioners would not be prejudiced in case the delays were condoned is also erroneous. The petitioners were entitled to the confirmation of the record prepared under Sections 8 and 8-A of the Act. in view of the fact that no objections had been filed within time. The reopening of the matter would definitely prejudice their interest. The delay in filing the objection was not nominal and was of three months. The Deputy Director of Consolidation has not gone into the question as to whether there ^was sufficient cause for not taking action within time. In this respect he seems to have accepted the finding of the Consolidation Officer, that the officer of the State Government got knowledge of this entry for the first time on the 8th February 1970. That finding, as has been held is that of a biased tribunal and as such void and is non est in the eye of law. The decision of the Deputy Director of Consolidation as such cannot be supported on the findings given by the Consolidation Officer. The two reasons given by the Deputy Director of Consolidation for condoning the delay are wholly irrelevant The order of the Deputy Director of Consolidation as such cannot be sustained and has to be quashd. Considering the nature of the controversy, it would, however, be in the interest of justice that the matter should be re-examined.
8. I, accordingly, allow the petition and quash the order of the Consolidation Officer and that of the Deputy Director of Consolidation, The matter will now go back to the Consolidation Officer, other than the one who decided the case earlier and the application of the State Government dated 10-2-1970 should now be decided in accordance with the law. The petitioners are entitled to their costs.