(1) The facts of this case disclose how a citizen of this Republic may suffer by proper care not being taken by the departmental offices when hearing and disposing of quasi-judicial matters. A notice was sent to the present petitioner from the Court of Shri D. D. Sharma, Deputy Secretary to Government, Punjab, Rehabilitation Department, exercising the powers of the Chief Settlement Commissioner, Punjab, Chandigarh, informing him of the date of hearing of the revision petition fixed for 11-7-1958. The petitioner however alleges that he had filed an appeal.
This notice did not inform the petitioner that he was to appear before Shri Sharma at Jullundur. As a matter of fact, according to this notice, record had been called from the office of the Assistant Settlement Commissioner, Punjab, Jullundur, so as to reach the office of issue (which was shown at Chandigarh) before 11-7-1958, the next date of hearing. The petitioner arrived at Chandigarh and went to the office concerned but he was informed by the Reader that he should appear at Jullundur, if possible.
The petitioner immediately went to Jullundur but when he reached there, unfortunately the case had already been dismissed in default. It is noteworthy that neither party had appeared on 11-7-1958 before Shri D. D. Sharma. The present petition under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution has been filed challenging various orders on the merits. With respect to the order of Shri D. D. Sharma dated 11-7-1958, annexure 'G', it is stated in the petition that the respondent was bound under the law to afford an opportunity to the petitioner to be heard, and this right of hearing could not be denied in the manner it has been done by this respondent.
No reply or return has been filed by any of the respondents with the result that I do not find any rebuttal to the allegations contained in the writ petition on the record. The allegations contained in the petition must therefore be assumed to be correct. A judicial decision, reached when there is no notice or when there is improper notice in material respects, is rendered without jurisdiction and deserves to be quashed: See Ata Muhammad v. Shankar Das, AIR 1924 Lah 247. To similar effect are the observations by Achhru Ram, J. in Civil Misc. No. 195 of 1948 in Regular Second Appeal No. 1942 of 1945 decided on 8-12-1948.
But without going so far, I am certainly prepared to hold that such an order clearly violates the fundamental and basic rules of natural justice. The minimum requirements of the rules of natural justice which expression is other wise lacking in precision, are that the Tribunal exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions must Act in good faith and fairly listen to both sides for that is a duty imposed on everyone who is enjoined to decide a list. The Tribunal must therefore give the parties an opportunity of being heard and of submitting their case and their views.
In order effectively to discharge this obligation, it is mandatory that a reasonable notice of the place, date and time, where the proceedings are to be held, is given to the parties entitled to be heard. The Tribunal concerned must also conscientiously satisfy itself before proceeding to hear and dispose of the case, ex parte or in default, that such notice has in fact been duly served. This is one of the basic rules of Indian Justice. Another elementary rule of our Jurisprudence, which must also be borne in mind, is that no suitor should be made to suffer or be denied justice because of the remissness or mistake of the Court or the Tribunal, as the case may be.
The act or order of the Court or its officers should prejudice no man, is a well-known saying. Justice, it may constantly be kept in view, is the first and foremost objective, which has been secured to the citizens of this Republic, as contained in the solemn resolution in the preamble of our Constitution and this supplies the key-note to our scheme of Jurisprudence and our legal system. This Court must, therefore, be jealous in checking breaches of rules which are designed to ensure justice.
The supervisory power of this Court, as observed by my Lord the Chief Justice in Partap Singh v. Gurmej Singh, AIR 1958 Punj 409, is indefinite in character but unlimited in extent and is designed to prevent and correct errors and abuses. It is obvious that the fundamental rules of natural justice have been violated in this case and the petitioner has undoubtedly had no hearing before respondent No. 1. No explanation for the procedure adopted by him is forthcoming and I am constrained to hold that the order of Shri D. D. Sharma, Deputy Secretary to Government, Punjab, Rehabilitation Department, dated 11-7-1958 offends the rules of natural justice and has thus caused grave injury to the petitioner.
I cannot overemphasise the well-settled principle that justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done. It is only thus that the confidence of the citizens can be maintained in the quasi-judicial Tribunals; confidence which is most essential for the healthy growth of this Democratic and social welfare State.
(2) The only contention raised by respondent No. 4 is that it was open to the petitioner to approach respondent No. 1 with a request to re-hear the appeal and that this Court cannot interfere either under Art. 226 or under Art. 227 of the Constitution. In the first place the learned counsel has not drawn my attention to any express provision of law under which the petitioner was obliged or even could approach respondent No.1 as contended. And Secondly, even if it was open to the petitioner to adopt this course, an alternative remedy does not operate as an absolute bar to relief from this Court.
Besides, I am doubtful if such a remedy can be called really adequate or effective. After considering all the circumstances, I think, it is eminently a fit case in which I should, in the interests of justice, exercise my supervisor power under Art. 227 of the Constitution and set aside the order of dismissal for default dated 11-7-1958.
(3) For the reasons given above, in exercise of my powers under Art. 227 of the Constitution I set aside and quash the order of the Deputy Secretary, Rehabilitation, dated 11-7-1958. I hope a proper notice will now be given to the petitioner for the hearing of his appeal revision which would be heard in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made above. In the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs in this Court.
(4) Order accordingly.