1. The appellant, Ghanshyam Das Shrivastava, was employed as a Forest Ranger by the State of Madhya Pradesh. By a government order, dated October 21, 1964 he was put under suspension with effect from October 30, 1964. The Divisional Forest Officer, South Baster Division, directed him to remain at Jagdalpur during the period of suspension. Certain charges were framed against him, and an enquiry was initiated. He did not participate in the enquiry. The enquiry proceeded exparte. On May 28, 1965 the enquiry officer submitted his report to the Government. He found the charges proved. He recommended that the appellant should be dismissed from service. On June 8, 1966, the Government passed an order dismissing him from service. Then he filed a writ petition in the High Court at Jabalpur. The writ petition was dismissed. He filed an appeal in this Court on the strength of a certificate granted by the High Court.
2. In this Court the appellant's main argument was that in the special circumstances of the case he got no opportunity to defend himself before the enquiry officer. The place of enquiry was Jagdalpur which 500 kilo metres away from Rewa where he was residing during his suspension. No subsistence allowance was paid to him, and he had no money to go to jagdalpur to face the enquiry. This Court took the view that if no subsistence allowance was paid to him and if he could not go to Jagdalpur and face the enquiry on account of the non-payment of subsistence allowance, the enquiry would be vitiated and the order of dismissal could not be sustained. As the High Court had not investigated the point raised by the appellant before this Court, the case was remanded to the High Court with the direction that the High Court should hear the parties on the question; 'whether the appellant was paid the subsistence allowance at any time before the disposal of the hearing before the Enquiry Officer, and whether on account of non-payment of the subsistence allowance he was unable to appear before the Enquiry officer.' The High Court was directed to dispose of the writ petition in the light of its finding on the question.
3. In the High Court the appellant and the respondent filed affidavit to in support of their case on the question. On a perusal of the entire evidence on record the High Court answered the question against the appellant. This appeal by special leave is directed against the order of the High Court dismissing the writ petition.
4. The High Court has found the following facts : The hearing of the case started before the Enquiry Officer at Jagdalpur on February, 1965. The case was heard on February 10, 11 and March 13, 1965. It appears that a part of the evidence for the Government was recorded on these dates. On March 20, 1965, the appellant received Rs. 312/- as subsistence allowance for the months of November and December, 1964 and January, 1965. Further evidence for the Government was recorded on April 3, 6 and 15, 1965. A second payment of Rs. 213/- as subsistence allowance was made to the appellant on May 13, 1965. As already stated, the Enquiry Officer submitted his report to the Government on May 28, 1965. These facts plainly show that a part of the evidence had already been recorded before the first payment of subsistence allowance was made to the appellant. Nevertheless, the High Court has held that he was not unable to appear before the Enquiry Officer on account of the non-payment of his subsistence allowance. The principal reasons given by the High Court in support of its view are these:
(1) The appellant did not complain specifically in the writ petition that he could not attend the enquiry as he had not been paid subsistence allowance and had no means of his own to meet the expenses of going to Jagdalpur om Rewa for facing the enquiry:
(2) His affidavit gives no particulars about the sources of his income and the estimate of expenses to be incurred by him in the enquiry and does not explain how be was unable to meet those expenses;
(3) The third class railway fare from Rewa to Jagdalpur is about Rs. 20/-. He would need a few more rupees for expenses during his stay at Jagdalpur. He had been draw a pay of Rs. 300/- per month;
(4) After he was dismissed from service, he filed a writ petition in the High Court. After his writ petition was dismissed by the High Court he came in appeal to this Court. This shows that he had enough money to attend the enquiry at Jagdalpur. The High Court summed up: 'In all these circumstances we find that it was not financial stringency which prevented the petitioner from co-operating in the departmental enquiry but that he was otherwise unwilling to do so.'
5. With respect, we find it difficult to share the view taken by the High Court, Paragraph 5 of the writ petition expressly alleges that on December 5, 1964, the appellant sent a letter to the Enquiry Officer informing that unless he was paid subsistence allowance he would not be able to face the enquiry proceedings. The letter was filed along with the petition. It is annexure H. The letter stated that 'Until and unless I am paid subsistence allowance.... I categorically refuse to face any proceeding as I have no capacity to do so because of acute shortage of funds.' (emphasis added). This is obviously specific pleading on the point for non-payment of subsistence allowance he was short of funds and could not attend the enquiry. It is true that his affidavit does not give any particulars about his sources of income and the estimate of expenses to be incurred in the enquiry. But it would prima facie suggest that he had no other sources of income except his pay. If he had no other sources of income, he could not invent them for the purpose of mentioning them in the affidavit. More significently, the Government affidavit does not allege that he had any other source of income except pay. The fact that he had been drawing a monthly pay of Rs. 300/- till October 1964 would not necessarily show that he had sufficient money to enable him to go to Jagdalpur to attend the enquiry in February, 1965 He was suspended on October 30, 1964 and thereafter he did not get subsistence allowance until March 20, 1965. Having regard to the prevailing High prices, it is not possible to draw any advance inference against him from the mere circumstance that he has been receiving a monthly pay of Rs. 300/- till October, 1965. The fact that he filed a write petition immediately on the passing of the order of dismissal and thereafter came appeal to this Court, would not establish that he had resources to enable him to attend the enquiry. It seems to us that on the whole the High Court has gone by conjectures and surmises. There is nothing on the record to show that he has any other source of income except pay. As he did not receive subsistence allowance till March 20, 1965 after a part of the evidence had already been recorded on February 9, 10 and 11, 1965. The enquiry proceedings during those days are vitiated accordingly. The report of the Enquiry officer based on that evidence is infected with the same defect. Accordingly, the order of the Government dismissing him from service cannot stand. It was passed in violation of the provisions of Article 311(2) of the Constitution for the appellant did not receive a reasonable opportunity of defending himself in the enquiry proceedings.
6. Accordingly, we allow the appeal with costs. Setting aside the order of the High Court, we allow the write petition and quash the order of the Government dated June 8, 1966 whereby the appellant was dismissed from service. It will be open to the Government to start a fresh enquiry in accordance with law against the appellant.