A.N. Varma, J.
1. The petitioner is a confirmed Stenographer and was eligible to appear at the promotion examination for appointment as Inspector of Income-Tax. The said examination was held in 1978 at which the petitioner appeared.
However, he was declared failed on the ground that in two of the papers he used unfair means as found by the competent authority. The petitioner contends that the said decision of the competent authority, holding that the petitioner had used unfair means at the said examination, is unsustainable in law having been arrived at without affording any opportunity to the petitioner. Aggrieved by the decision of the competent authority the petitioner filed representations before higher authorities but without any success. By a letter dated 6-9-1979 the petitioner was informed that the Central Board of Direct Taxes, to which the petitioner submitted representation, having considered the petitioner's representation, had declined to interfere in the matter.
2. Aggrieved by the aforesaid orders the petitioner has approached this Court for quashing the result of the petitioner at the said examination. The grounds urged in support of the petition is that the decision reached by the competent authority holding that the petitioner had used unfair means at the said examination affected rights of the petitioner in a serious way in that it deprived the petitioner of prospects of promotion which were open to him under the applicable service rules. The decision entailed civil consequences affecting rights of the petitioned adversely and consequently he was entitled, under principles of natural justice, to have been afforded opportunity to meet the charge of use of unfair means at the said examination.
3. Having heard learned counsel for the parties we are clearly of the opinion that this petition is entitled to succeed on the contention raised by learned counsel for the petitioner. In the counter affidavit which has been filed on behalf of the respondents it is not disputed that no opportunity was given to the petitioner before the competent authority arrived at the decision that the petitioner had used unfair means. It is, however, asserted by the respondents that the relevant service rules do not contemplate giving of any opportunity to the petitioner, before the competent authority holds the petitioner guilty of using unfair means andconsequently the petitioner was not entitled to any opportunity.
4. The legal position on the subject is now fairly well settled by a series of decisions of the Supreme Court rendered from time to time. It would be sufficient to refer to the decision in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India reported in AIR 1978 SC 597. Their Lordships have ruled that even in an administrative proceeding which involves civil consequences the doctrine of natural justice which arose for consideration in that case was whether even though there were no positive words in the Passports Act requiring that the party whose passport was proposed to be impounded shall be heard, the principles of natural justice were attracted. The Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative and observed that natural justice is a great humanizing principle intended to vest law with fairness and to secure justice. The Supreme Court further held that whether the power is quasi-judicial or administrative in character in either case if the proposed action affects an individual adversely or it visits him with adverse civil consequences, the principles of natural justice must be held to be applicable and implicit in the statute which is silent on whether or not opportunity should be given to the person affected.
5. Further, we have perused the applicable service rules, namely, Rules for Departmental Examination for Income Tax Inspectors and we find that there is nothing which might suggest that the principles of natural justice were, either expressly or by necessary intendment, intended to be excluded. Relevant rule in this connection is Rule VI, which reads thus :
'Rule VI : Treatment of candidates using unfair means.
A candidate who is or has been declared by the Competent Authority to be guilty of:
(i) obtaining support for his candidature by any means; or
(ii) impersonating; or
(iii) procuring impersonation by any person; or
(iv) submitting fabricated document or documents which have been tampered with; or
(v) making statements which are incorrect or false, or suppressing material information;
(vi) resorting to any other irregular or improper means in connection with his candidature for the examination; or
(vii) using unfair means in the examination hall, or
(viii) misbehaving in the examination hall, or
(ix) attempting to commit or as the case may be abetting the commission on all or any of the Acts specified in the foregoing clauses, may in addition to rendering himself liable to criminal prosecution, be liable;
(a) to be disqualified by the competent authority from the examination for which he is a candidate and declared as failed obtaining zero marks in all the papers in which he has appeared in that examination,
(b) to be debarred either permanently or for specified period,
(c) to disciplinary action under the appropriate rules--explanation : Competent Authority for the purpose of this rule will be DI (IT & A).'
6. It is apparent from a perusal of the aforesaid Rule that the Competent Authority is empowered to take a decision on such an issue as whether he has used unfair means at the examination, without an obligation to give to the candidate any opportunity of being heard at any stage. As mentioned above, the charge of use of unfair means not only results in the candidate being declared failed, but also carries with it a stigma which may affect future prospects of an employee.
7. Under these circumstances, applying the dictum of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi's case (AIR 1978 SC 597), it is apparent that the petitioner was entitled to be given an opportunity of showing cause against the charge of unfair means at the said examination.
8. The result of the petitioner at the said examination is, therefore, liable to be quashed. We, however, make it clear that it will be open to the respondents to declare result of the petitioner again afteraffording him an opportunity of showing cause against the charge of unfair means.
9. In the result, the petition succeeds and is allowed. The result of the petitioner at the aforesaid examination is quashed, subject to the observations made hereinabove. The parties shall, however, bear their own costs.