1. This order will dispose of Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 3694 and 3695 of 1972, as undisputably an identical question of law is involved in both these petitions.
2. The petitioner impugns the orders passed by the CWT under Section 18(2A) of the W.T. Act, 1957 (annex. P-4 in both the petitions), whereby he declined to waive or reduce the penalties imposed on him for the assessment years 1968-69 and 1969-70. The primary challenge of the petitioner is that before passing the impugned orders, no opportunity of hearing of any sort was granted to him and thus the principles of natural justice stood violated. In the return filed by the Commissioner it has been averred that before passing the impugned orders the matter had been considered by him carefully and the petitioner was not heard personally as no such opportunity was required to be given to him.
3. It now appears to be too late in the day to assert that the petitioner was not entitled to a hearing before the passing of the impugned orders (annex. P-4). It is undisputable that the remedy he was seeking by approaching the Commissioner under Section 18(2) is a statutory remedy available to him. It cannot possibly be accepted that the petitioner was not entitled to be heard in support of the claim put forth by him. By now it is well settled that before an order can be passed even by an executive authority, much less a quasi-judicial authority affecting the civil rights of an individual, an opportunity of being heard is a must.
4. In view of the above, the impugned orders (annex. P-4 in both the petitions) are unsustainable and deserve to be quashed. I order accordingly. As a necessary consequence of this, the case is sent back to the Commissioner for re-hearing in accordance with law and the observations made above. It is further made clear that till the final disposal of the case as directed above, the amount of penalties imposed on the petitioner would not be recovered. The petitioner through his counsel is directed to put in appearance before the Commissioner on May 10, 1982. I pass no order as to costs.