1. This writ petition has been placed before us in pursuance of my order of reference dated 10-8-1965.
2. On 27-1-1960, the Governor of Punjab appointed 1-5-1960 for the territories, which prior to 1-11-1956 were comprised of the Stale of Patiala and the East Punjab States Union, as the date on or before which applications for registration as dentists under Section 32 of the Dentists Act, 1948 accompanied by a fee of Rs. 20 were to be made to the Registration Tribunal constituted under the relevant notification dated 27-1-1960. The petitioner sent his application on 27-4-1960 which reached the Dentist Registration Tribunal, Ludhiana on 29-4-1960. The requisite fee of Rs. 20 was however, sent on 29-4-1960 and received by the addressee on 2-5-1960 because 1-5-1960 was a Sunday. The petitioner was required by means of a letter dated 28-11-1963 to appear before the Dentist Tribunal on 8-12-1963 which the petitioner did. He was, however, informed by the Registration Dental Council on 30-12-1963 that his application had been rejected because he did not fulfil the conditions for registration. In answer to another post-card from the petitioner dated, 23-1-1964, he was informed as per letter dated 3-2-1964 that the date fixed for the receipt of application forms and fee was 1-5-1900 and that though the petitioner's application had been received on 29-4-1960, his fee was received on 2-5-1960 This letter went on to say that under the Act a person should have been engaged in dentistry for five years before 1-5-1960 but according to the petitioner's declaration, he had been practising as a dentist only since before 1-11-1956. His application had, therefore, been rejected. On 17-2-1964 (3-2-1964 in the writ petition is wrong) the petitioner pointed out that the ground for late receipt of his fee was not quite correct and that in any case, the delay should be deemed to have been condoned as a result of his having been called for interview. He also pleaded that, in any event, he could be enrolled as a temporary registered dentist under Section 33(2) of the Dentist Act. This prayer was, according to the writ petition, also declined by the authorities concerned, though the order declining relief has not been produced in this Court.
3. In the present proceedings, the petitioner has concentrated his argument on the point that there being no separate forms for registration as a temporary registered dentist, and there being also no separate fee required for such registration, it was incumbent on the Tribunal concerned to register him as a temporary registered dentist, if a case for registration was made out The petitioner having declared that he had been practising as a dentist since 1-11-1956, and this declaration having not been disbelieved or controverted, he was entitled to such registration. In regard to the payment of the requisite fee, it is strenuously argued that the amount having actually been dispatched on 29-4-1960, merely because the post office delivered this amount on 2-5-1960, one day later, oh account of 1-5-1960, being a Sunday, the petitioner could not be considered to have committed any default in the payment of the requisite fee as required.
4. The respondents have not controverted the petitioner's contention in regard to the payment of fee and have not argued that in the circumstances stated, the actual receipt of the fee through the post office on 2-5-1960 was a default which entailed the consequence of invalidating the petitioner's application for registration on the ground of its being belated. Indeed, the fact that the petitioner was called for interview and his application was actually considered on the merits, which is obvious from the other reason assigned for its refusal, clearly goes to show that the petitioner's application was not excluded on the ground of not having been made within the prescribed time.
In fairness to the respondents however, I may also point out that in the written statement in paragraphs 5 and 6, it has been pleaded that although the Tribunal was competent to reject the petitioner's application for registration as his fee had not been received within time, yet the petitioner was given an opportunity to appear before the Tribunal on 8-12-1963, which also suggests that the Tribunal did not consider the late receipt of the fee to be fatal to the petitioner's application being considered on the merits. The Registration Tribunal under Section 32(3) of the Dentists Act was under an obligation to examine every application received on or before the appointed dale. Indeed, from the original record, I find that the petitioner's application was in fact entertained and he was even asked to intimate the date from which he had been working as a dentist as his principal means of livelihood. The petitioner did not respond, but even so he was required to appear before the Tribunal. I have thus no hesitation in holding that the petitioner's application was in fact not excluded from consideration on the ground of its having not been made on or before the appointed dale. To resort, in the written statement, to the plea of belated nature of the petitioner's application, in the circumstances of the present case, does not seem to me to harmonise with the democratic traditions of a welfare State like ours. It is also somewhat surprising that in spite of the reply in paragraphs 5 and 6 as noticed above, it should again have been pleaded that calling the petitioner for interview did not mean condonation of delay in submitting the application, there being no provision for such condonation Our attention has not been drawn to any mandatory or other insurmountable bar to the entertainment of a petition in regard to which only fee is received late on account of the appointed date being a Sunday. The view that there is no provision for condonation does seem to me clearly to betray a superficial authoritarian thinking, not in accord with the basic conception that rules of procedure are meant to promote and not to obstruct the cause of substantial justice. The learned Advocate General, in my opinion rightly did not lake his stand on Ibis highly technical and unethical plea.
5. In so far as the claim to the registration of the petitioner as a temporary registered dentist is concerned, all that the learned Advocate Genera) has contended is that this claim was not specifically made in the petitioner's application and therefore, not considered or adverted to by the Registration Tribunal. It has not been specifically denied in the written statement that the petitioner had been practising as a dentist since, November, 1956 as declared by him, though one can spell out want of knowledge from the written statement even in this regard. I quite agree that the petitioner did not specifically pray in his application for his registration as a temporary registered dentist in the alternative, and, may be that he had attempted on a somewhat unprecise and dubious declaration to create an impression that he had been engaged in practice as a dentist as his principal means of livelihood for a period of five years prior to the commencement of the statute but this, by itself, did not prevent the Tribunal from considering the petitioner's qualification for being registered as a temporary registered dentist. It is not the respondent's case that any separate application was required for the purpose of registering the petitioner as a temporary registered dentist or that any other formality required by law for this purpose had to be complied with.
In any event, when on 17-2-1964 the petitioner clearly brought to the notice of the Registrar, Punjab Dental Council (as per Annexure ' F ' to the writ petition) that he was entitled to be registered as a temporary registered dentist, then it is not understood why this prayer was not considered and at the bar no cogent reason has been shown for this omission. In the written statement, all that has been stated is that the petitioner's request for temporary registration was not entertained because he had not applied for the same within time. This again is, in my opinion, an ultra-technical view which is not supported by the statutory intendment and indeed the petitioner's application was as noticed earlier, in fact entertained. The application contained facts, which if true, would fully entitle the petitioner to temporary registration as a dentist as required by Section 33(2) of the Dentists Act. In our Welfare set up I need hardly emphasise, that, the State departments arc expected to deal with the citizens in a sympathetic, humane and rational manner particularly when their right to practise a profession or to carry on an occupation is involved of course, subject to the express or necessarily implied provisions of law To adopt a rigid mechanical or doctrinaire altitude in such matters is wholly inconsistent with the democratic traditions which are being built in the administrative set up in this Republic However without saving anything more on this aspect. I have no hesitation in setting aside and quashing the impugned order and directing the Registration Tribunal to consider the petitioner's application for registration as a temporary dentist within the contemptation of Section 33(2) of the Dentists Act after requiring him to produce the relevant material in support of his qualifications for such registration The learned Advocate General, it must he said in fairness in him, has not opposed this course.
6. For the foregoing reasons this petition is allowed in the terms stated above but without any order as to costs.