S. Velu Pillai, J.
1. The petitioner, the president of a panchayat, has filed this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution to quash an order Ex.P.1 by the respondent 1, State of Kerala, rejecting his appeal petition, Ex.P.2, directed against an order of the respondent 2 the Director of Local Bodies, by which he refused to cancel a resolution passed by the panchayat on 2 November 1957 accepting a letter of resignation purporting to have been signed by the petitioner. The chief ground on which Ex.P.1 was assailed before me was, that in making it, the respondent 1 called for a report from the respondent 3, the Deputy Director of Local Bodies and had acted upon it to the prejudice of the petitioner and without notice to him and that therefore the rules of natural justice have been violated. The first reply to this contention, on behalf of the respondent 4, the vice-president of the panchayat, who had been allowed to function as president, was that respondent 1 had not relied upon the report of the Deputy Director of Local bodies. This report was forwarded to Government with a covering letter which is referred to as the first paper read in Ex.P.1. Exhibit P.1 further says that the matter was enquired into and the Government have carefully examined all the relevant records. Incidentally it refers to a statement that the petitioner had signed the letter of resignation in the presence of the Deputy Director of Local Bodies, a fact which is made mention of in the report received from the Deputy Director. It is impossible to accept the contention of the learned Counsel for the respondent 4 that the report of the Deputy Director was not looked into in passing Ex.P.1.
2. The next question is, whether in doing so, the principles of natural justice have been violated. It was not disputed that the procedure which was followed by the respondent 1 in disposing of the appeal was quasi-judicial in character. The report was not compiled after an enquiry by the Deputy Director of Local Bodies, or with notice to the petitioner, and the petitioner had no opportunity of perusing its contents at any time. It was contended on behalf of the respondent 4 that the petitioner had no right to look into it and that the respondent 1 did not violate any principle of natural justice. In support of this, reliance was placed upon the decision of the House of Lords in Local Government Board v. Alridge 1915 A.C. 120, where in disposing of an appeal, a report was called for from the inspector who, under the provisions of the concerned statute, had to make a public enquiry. The objection was taken that the disposal of the matter without furnishing a copy of the report violated the rules of natural justice. The report could not be divorced from the public enquiry, the scope of which was stated thus by Lord Parmoor at p. 144 of the report:
If the report of the Inspector could be regarded as in the nature of evidence tendered either by the local authority or the owner of the premises, there would be a strong reason for publicity. In my opinion, it is nothing of the kind, and is simply a step in the statutory procedure for enabling an administrative body, such as the local Government board, to hear effectively an appeal against the order of the local authority. The obligation on the local Government board to hold a public enquiry in the locality is to enable the facts on either side to be ascertained by oral testimony subjected to the test of cross-examination, if either party should so require, and to ensure in this respect a full opportunity to the appellant to be heard before dismissing his appeal against the decision of the local authority.
Such being the scope of public enquiry conducted by the Inspector, it was held that no violation of the principles of natural justice could be spelled from a copy of the report being withheld. I do not think this case affords any parallel to the present where a report was drawn up by the Deputy Director of Local Bodies without any enquiry, as no doubt he was entitled to do, and was furnished to the Government for deciding the appeal. Government thus collected material to the prejudice of the petitioner, and in my opinion, the rules of natural justice demand that the petitioner ought to have been allowed an opportunity to answer the allegations against him in the report. This opportunity was not granted. In Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax A.I.R. 1955 S.C. 65, their lordships set aside an assessment under the Indian Incometax Act, 1922, on the ground that the material collected by the Income-tax Officer was not disclosed to the assesses before making the assessment. I come to the conclusion that Ex. P. 1 is vitiated by a violation of the principles of natural justice.
3. It therefore follows that Ex. P. 1 must be quashed. It is open to the respondent 1 to allow the petitioner a chance to answer the allegation in the report before disposing of his appeal. This petition is ordered as above. There will be no order as to costs.