(1) This is an appeal from the judgment of Ramakrishnan, J., dismissing a petition (W. P. No. 379 of 1961) filed under Article 226 of the Constitution by the appellant C. Lakshmiah Reddiar for the issue of a writ of certiorari or any other appropriate writ to quash the proceedings of the Board of Directors of the Sriperumbudur Taluk Co-operative Marketing Society dated 19-3-1961 in so far as they relate to the rejection of the nomination paper of the appellant in connection with the election of the directors of the Society. The appellant's nomination was rejected on the ground that he had not brought to the society a quantity of 50 maunds of paddy for sale through the Society. The main ground on which the appellant impugned the order of the Board of Directors was that the entire proceedings relating to the scrutiny of nomination papers were vitiated by gross violation of all principles of natural justice inasmuch as the directors who had offered themselves for re-election, took part in the disposal of the objection to the nomination of the appellant. The appellant alleged that his nomination was rejected to avoid competition. The directors had acted as Judges in their own cause.
The respondent society opposed the application on two grounds : (1) That the directors, who sought the election, did not take part in the rejection of the appellant's nomination, and even if they did, there was no warrant in the bye-laws that such directors should not be present at the meeting, (2) that the Society was a private Society and the proceedings relating to the internal administration of such a society will fall outside the special jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. The learned Judge, Ramakrishnan, J., who heard and disposed of the application, dismissed it, holding that the directors had conformed by-law 6 in substance in the disposal of the objection and that there was no violation of any principle of natural justice. Hence this appeal.
(2) Certain Regulations (which were referred to by Ramakrishnan, J., as bye-laws) were made by the Society for the conduct of the election of directors from among the members of the Society. Regulations 5 and 6 are material to the disposal of this appeal. They run thus :
'5. The nomination papers shall be scrutinised and disposed of by the Board of directors and by two other members nominated for the purpose by the Board of Directors on the second day following the last date fixed for the receipt of nomination papers at the meeting convened for the purpose and the list of candidates eligible for election shall be published on the notice board of the Society after scrutiny on the same day : Provided that such of the directors as stand for re-election shall not take part in the scrutiny.
6. Any objection to the nomination shall be made in writing before 5 p.m on the day following the last date fixed for the filing of the nominations and they shall be disposed of by the Board of directors at its meeting in the presence of the two other members nominated by the Board for the purpose mentioned in rule 5.'
Two members appear to have been nominated for the scrutiny of the nomination papers as contemplated by Regulation 5. These two members admittedly did not reject the appellant's nomination paper on scrutiny. After the scrutiny was over the Board of Directors dealt with the objections to the several nominations including the nomination of the appellant before us. It was not disputed before us that all the directors present at the meeting, except the ex-officio directors, were themselves candidates for the election and they had participated in the proceedings which included inter alia the objection of the nomination of the appellant. Prima facie, regulation 6 does not expressly prohibit such of the directors as stood for re-election from taking part in the proceedings for consideration of the objections of nominations. The contention to Mr. Kumaramangalam was that though there is no such express prohibition, there was a well recognised canon of natural justice which should be followed, viz., that no man can be a judge in his own cause.
Here was a case where obviously there would be a conflict between duty and interest. He has also submitted that the spirit underlying the prohibition contained in regulation 5 would equally apply to the stage of consideration of the specific objections to the nominations. If the directors, who stood for re-election, should not take part in the scrutiny of the nomination papers under Registration 5, it does not stand to reason that they can take part in a consideration of an objection to any nomination. He relied on the ruling of this Court in Dr. Ramakanth v. Surgeon General, : AIR1951Mad227 , that in an enquiry held by a quasi judicial Tribunal no members of the Tribunal should take part, who were interested in the result of the subject-matter of the enquiry before such Tribunal. In that case certain members elected to the Madras Medical Council were present at a meeting of the Council at which objections regarding the election of such members to the council were considered. The principle underlies the connection of 'bias' as vitiating the decision of a Tribunal entrusted with judicial or quasi judicial functions.
(3) The learned Advocate-General raised a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the writ petition. The objection was that a writ could not issue under Article 226 of the Constitution to any body, which was not a judicial or quasi judicial Tribunal statutorily entrusted with the right and duty to decide disputes between parties. This limitation on the power to issue prerogative writs is stated thus is one of the leading authorities on the subject. Rex. V. Electricity Commissioners, 1924 1 KB 171 :
'Wherever any body of persons having legal authority to determine question affecting the rights of subjects, and having the duty to act judicially, act in excess of their legal authority they are subject to the controlling jurisdiction of the King's Bench Division exercised in these writs.'
In R. v. Disputed Comm. of Dentai Tech., 1953 1 AELR 327, Lord Goddard, C. J., described thus the class of bodies to which the prerogative writs issue :
'The bodies to which in modern times the remedies of these prerogative writs have been applied are all statutory bodies on whom Parliament has conferred statutory powers and duties the exercise of which may lead to the detriment of subjects.'
In R. v. Statutory Visitors, Caterham, 1953 2 All ER 766 the same learned Chief Justice, after referring to the passage from 1924 1 KB 171, above cited, applied the same test (vide also Halsbury, 3rd Edn., Vol. II p. 134).
(4) Mr. Kumaramangalam was unable to overcome this objection. In the case before use the proceedings sought to be quashed were the proceedings of a meeting of the Board of Directors of a Co-operative Society. The Board in considering the objections to the nominations for the election of members of the Board of Directors is not a statutory Tribunal with authority to determine the rights of parties. No doubt the directors at a meeting of the Board discharged the functions entrusted to them by the regulations, but these regulations are framed by the Society itself and have no statutory force. Clearly, thereon an order of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot issue to quash the proceedings of such a body.
(5) On this ground the writ appeal must be dismissed and the dismissal of the appellant's writ petition confirmed.
(6) The appellant is not without remedy. He can seek redress under Sec. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act of 1932 which provides for the decision of any disputes touching the business of a registered Society by the Registrar of Cooperative Society. A full Bench of this Court in Madhava Rao v. Surya Rao, : AIR1954Mad103 (FB), held that a dispute relating to the election of Directors of a cooperative Bank registered under the provisions of the co-operative societys Act is one touching the business of the bank with in the meaning of section 51. of the Act. A recent decision of jagadisan, j., has extended the scope of section 51 of the Act so as to include a dispute of a candidate for election to the Board of Directors of a registered Society. The ratio decidendi of the Full Bench decision in Muthuvelappa Gounder v. Dy. Registrar of Co-operative Societies : (1960)2MLJ392 was applied to a dispute as to the validity of a nomination. He observed as follows :-
'It is not possible to dissociate the stage of nomination from the stage of return of the candidate after polling and declaration of the results in such a manner as to import the notion of business of society only to the latter stage of election and not to the former stage of nomination. In fact the whole process of election commences from the stage of nomination and the word election has been considered as including nomination also in its wide sense of the term.'
We are in entire agreement with this view of the learned Judge. The appellant can therefore challenge the rejection of his nomination by the Board of Directors before the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.
(7) It is obvious that when the appellant pursues such a remedy, the Registrar must himself dispose of the objection to the appellants nomination to determine whether the rejection by the Board of Director was proper. If the objection were to prevail on the merits, then the rejection of the appellant's nomination would stand. Otherwise, it would be overruled.
(8) The learned Advocate-General submitted that if the writ appeal is disposed of on this ground, viz, that the Board of Directors, is not a statutory Tribunal to which the writ of certiorari could issue, there can be on question of bias, because the disqualification based on bias applied only to quasi judicial tribunals, who are bound to act judicially. The learned Advocate-General drew out attention to the following observations of Lord Thankerton in Franklin v. Minister of Town and Country Planning, 1948 AC 87 :
'My Lords, I could wish that the use of the word 'bias' should be confined to its proper sphere. Its proper significance, in my opinion, is to denote a departure from the standard of even-handed justice which the law requires from those who occupy judicial office, or those who are commonly regarded as holding a quasi-judicial office, such as an arbitrator. The reason for this clearly is that, ties, he must come to his adjudication with an independent mind, without any inclination or bias towards one side or other in the dispute.'
The Board of Directors of this Society had not occupied either a judicial, or a quasi-judicial office and therefore, the principle of bias has no application of their actions. This is true, but, as we have already pointed out, when the objection to the appellant's nomination will have to be considered on the merits by the Registrar on a reference under section 51 of the Act, the question becomes academic whether the action of the direction was vitiated by bias. All that we can say is that in the circumstances the order of the Board will not have the effect of a prima facie decision against the appellant entitled to weight at the initial stage, subject, of course, to a displacement by another Tribunal. It is clear that the appellant cannot succeed in getting rid of the objection to his nomination merely on the ground that the directors, who were themselves standing for election had participated in the disposal of the objection.
(9) We cannot however, refrain from pointing out the defect in Regulation 6, as it now stands. That Regulation will, by itself, not prevent a candidate for election participating in a meeting to consider the validity of his own nomination. This is certainly not desirable in public interests. Steps must be taken to remedy the defect. There should be a specific provision such as is contained in Regulation 5 prohibiting the directors, who were seeking re-election from taking part in the disposal of objections to nominations. Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam referred to bye-law 18, which lays down that no member of the Board of Directors shall be present at a meeting of the Board when any matter in which he is personally interested is being discussed. It is not necessary to decide whether this will apply to a meeting of the Board at which objections to nominations are disposed of. If it does apply, then a difficulty may occur, as there may not be the prescribed quorum, if all such directors are excluded from the meeting. All these matters should be clarified by further bye-laws and regulations. More than that it is not necessary to say for the disposal of this appeal.
(10) The appeal fails and is dismissed, but there will be no order as to costs.
(11) Appeal dismissed.