1. This is an application for the issue of a writ of certiorari to call for the records of the proceedings connected with the removal of the petitioner from the office of the President of the Panchayat Board, Kayalpatnam, and to quash the proceedings of the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards.
2. The petitioner was the President of the Panchayat Board of Kayalpatnam in Tiruchendur Taluq, in Tinnevelly District, having been elected to that office in October 1934. On 7th March 1936, the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards issued a notice to the petitioner under Sections 43 and 233, Local Boards Act, drawing his attention to several irregularities in the discharge of his duties as the President of the said Panchayat Board and calling upon him to show cause within 15 days from the date of receipt of that notice why those irregularities should not be regarded as deliberate abuse of his powers falling under the purview of Section 43(1), Madras Local Boards Act, and warranting his removal from the office of President. The petitioner sent an explanation on 21st March 1936. The Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards, holding that the explanation offered by the petitioner was quite unsatisfactory and could not be accepted, removed the petitioner from the office of President of the said Panchayat in exercise of the powers delegated to him by the Local Government Under Section 233, Madras Local Boards Act, and in virtue of the powers conferred Under Section 43(1) of the said Act. It is to quash those proceedings removing the petitioner from the office of President of the Panchayat Court that this application is filed.
3. It is not disputed that the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards has been authorized by the Local Government to take action Under Section 43, Madras Local Boards Act, whenever it was found necessary. The question therefore for consideration is whether the requirements of Section 43 of the Act have been complied with in the matter of these proceedings. Section 43(1) authorizes the Local Government to remove, by notification, any President or Vice-President of a Local Board who, in their opinion, wilfully omitted or refused to carry out or disobeyed the provisions of the Act or any rules, bye-laws, regulations or lawful orders issued thereunder or abased the powers vested in him. And Sub-section 2 of Section 43 runs as follows:
The Local Government shall, when they propose to take action Under Sub-section (1),give the President or Vice-President concerned an opportunity for explanation and the notification issued under the said sub-section shall contain a statement of the reasons of the Local Government for the action taken.
4. As already observed, the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards is authorized to take action in these matters. On 7th March 1936, the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards gave a notice to the petitioner stating that the District Panchayat Officer had brought to his notice that the petitioner as the President of the Kayalpatnam Panchayat Board had committed certain irregularities and directing the petitioner to show cause within 15 days why those irregularities should not be regarded as deliberate abuse of his powers. Ten charges were levelled against the petitioner. The petitioner submitted an explanation in respect of these charges on 21st March 1936. He denied the truth of all the charges except two, viz. (1) those relating to the removal of the Office of the Panchayat Board to a new building without the consent of the Board, and (2) that the works sanctioned by the Panchayat Board were not executed. In respect of these two, he gave explanations; with regard to the first, he stated that the office was removed to a new building because the old building was unsafe and that the sanction of the Board was not obtained because there was no provision in the Act requiring such sanction. With regard to the second, he stated that it was not possible to execute the works as it was the rainy season.
5. After receipt of the explanation, the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards made an order for the issue of a notification to the effect that on 7th March 1936 the President of the Panchayat Board was given a notice Under Section 43(1), Madras Local Boards Act, to show cause why he should not be removed from the office for the reasons mentioned in the notice, that the explanation offered by the President on 21st March 1936 was quite unsatisfactory and could not be accepted and that therefore in exercise of the powers delegated to him by the Government Under Sections 233 and 43(1), Madras Local Boards Act, he (the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards) removed the petitioner from the office of the President of the said Panchayat. Out of the ten charges mentioned in the notice of 7th March 1936, only seven are mentioned in the final order removing the petitioner from the office of President The other three relating to the non-verification of the cash balance in January 1936, to the disregard of public opinion in his administration of the Board and to the omission to collect the full amount of the demand were dropped. The explanation offered by the petitioner about the remaining 7 charges was found to be unsatisfactory and unacceptable. The order makes mention of the fact that besides the notice issued by the Inspector and the-petitioner's explanation about it, the report of the District Panchayat Officer, Tinnevelly, dated 23rd April 1936 and also other connected papers had been perused before that order was made.
6. The question is whether, in making the order complained of, the Inspector had followed the procedure laid down by the statute. When the Inspector proposes to take action Under Section 43(1), he should give an opportunity to the President concerned to give an explanation. It is clear that by issuing a notice on 7th March 1936 to the petitioner to show cause why the acts mentioned therein should not be regarded as deliberate abuse of the powers warranting his removal from the office of President, an opportunity was given to the petitioner to explain. The petitioner did avail himself of that opportunity by submitting an explanation on 21st March 1936. The first requirement of Sub-section (2) of Section 43 has therefore been complied with.
7. The next requirement is that the notification issued under the said sub-section shall contain a statement of the reasons of the Local Government for the action taken. The order sets out 7 out of 10 charges mentioned in the notice of 7th March 1936. The Inspector then proceeds to say that in respect of those charges the explanation submitted by the petitioner was unsatisfactory and unacceptable. Probably he could have given more reasons having regard to the fact that a report from the District Panchayat Officer dated 23rd April 1936 had also been perused before the order was made. But by his omission to state more reasons, it cannot at all be said that he had not complied with the provisions of Section 43(2). He had given reasons for his removing the petitioner from the office of the President. His statement that the explanation given by the petitioner with respect to the 7 charges mentioned by him was unsatisfactory and not acceptable is certainly a statement of the reason for the action taken. In these circumstances it cannot at all be said that the requirements laid down by the statute had not been complied with.
8. But the learned advocate for the petitioner argues that the charges were vague, that there was no due enquiry in respect of those charges, that the report of the District Panchayat Officer was not supplied to the petitioner and the petitioner asked for his explanation about it and that therefore the order is not one made after the enquiry. All the charges cannot be said to be vague. At least as regards two of the charges, the petitioner himself admitted the truth of them and gave an explanation. And when the statute lays down what has to be done in matters of this kind, all that the authority need do is to observe the rules laid down by the statute. In this case it has been done, namely an opportunity had been given to the petitioner for an explanation in respect of the charges levelled against him. Even in Board of Education v. Rice (1911) AC 179, relied on by the petitioner, the observations of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Loreburn) are as follows:
In such cases the Board of Education will have to ascertain the law and also to ascertain the facts. I need not add that they must act in good faith and fairly listen to both sides, for that is a duty levying upon every one who decides anything. But I do not think they are bound to treat such a question as though it were a trial. They have no power to administer an oath and need not examine witnesses. They can obtain information in any way they think best, always giving a fair opportunity to those who are parties in the controversy for correcting or contradicting any relevant statement prejudicial to their view.
9. In this case, even in the first notice sent to the petitioner it was stated that it was the District Panchayat Officer who had brought to the notice of the Inspector that the petitioner had committed the irregularities referred to therein. The source of the information had thus been disclosed and an opportunity given to meet it. But the petitioner was certainly not entitled to have a copy of the Panchayat Officer's report either then or subsequently. In deciding whether the report of the District Panchayat Officer should have been disclosed to the petitioner or not, the observations of the Lord Chancellor in Local Government Board v. Arlidge (1915) AC 120 with respect to the reports of a health inspector are instructive:
It is said that the report of the inspector should have been disclosed. It might or might not have been useful to disclose this report, but I do not think that the Board was bound to do so any more than it would be bound to disclose all the minutes made on the papers in the office before a decision was come to.
10. In this Lord Shaw of Dumfermline agreed and said:
And I feel certain that if it were laid down in Courts of law that such disclosure should be compelled, a serious impediment might be placed upon that frankness which ought to obtain among a staff accustomed to elaborately detailed and often most delicate and difficult tasks.
11. The same view was taken by Lords Farmoor and Moulton. The cases relied on by the petitioner, viz. Fisher v. Keane (1876) 11 Ch D 353 and Labonchere v. Earl of Wharncliffe (1880) 13 Ch D 346, turn merely on the construction of the rules of the particular clubs concerned in these cases. As in this case the procedure laid down in the statute had been followed and as the notification contains a statement of the reasons for the action taken by the Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards, I do not think that this is a case in which a writ of certiorari should be issued. The petition is therefore dismissed with costs. Advocate's fees Rs. 50.