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A. Venugopala Chettiar Vs. the State Represented by the Secretary, Food and Agriculture Department and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCommercial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1969)1MLJ400
AppellantA. Venugopala Chettiar
RespondentThe State Represented by the Secretary, Food and Agriculture Department and ors.
Cases ReferredIn State of Orissa v. Bidyabhushan
Excerpt:
- .....the sale bill, which he was unable to substantiate. hence, since charge 3 alone remained as a proved charge, the learned judge had necessarily to address himself to the question whether the punishment ultimately imposed could be sustained, or should be interfered with in writ jurisdiction. the learned judge referred to the dicta of the supreme court in state of orissa v. bidyabushan : (1963)illj239sc . and, after a detailed discussion, came to the conclusion that the infringement of condition 5 of the licence, namely, charge 3, could relate to, and justify, the actual penalty imposed in the case, notwithstanding that the other charges had failed. this is the one point stressed before us by learned counsel for the writ petitioner mr. ramaswami.5. we may notice that the judgment of.....
Judgment:

M. Anantanarayanan, C.J.

1. The writ appeal is within a limited compass, and, stated, very briefly, it really involves the interpretation and application of the principle laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. B.K. Takkamore : [1967]2SCR583 , to the facts of the case.

2. The facts are that the appellant was the holder of a licence under the Madras Foodgrains Dealers Licensing Order, 1958. Charges were framed against him for alleged infringement of the terms of the licence, and derelictions of duty in the light of obligations undertaken by the licensee. There were four such charges; two of them related to possession of excess stock on physical verification, and the third charge related to transport on 21st July, 1959 of 70 bags of rice, for sale, outside the State to Kerala, without the issue of a sale bill as required by condition 5 of the licence. The fourth charge related to non-delivery of a large quantity of rice towards procurement.

3. The charges were held proved, and the writ appellant was punished, by his licence being suspended for a period of nine months. This was confirmed by the District Revenue Officer, on appeal. It was ultimately reduced to a period of suspension for three months by the Government. The writ appellant then filed W.P. No. 533 of 1961 for quashing the orders in. this matter, and the petition was heard by Srinivsan, J., and dismissed.

4. It is important to note that, in the course of his Judgment dismissing the writ petition, the learned Judge appears to have come to the conclusion that the fourth charge was totally baseless, and that charges 1 and 2 also could not be held substantiated. But the learned Judge agreed with the Departmental Authorities in holding that charge 3 was entirely proved. It is seen by us from the record that, with regard to charge 3, the licensee attempted to put forward a factual explanation concerning that state of the transported grain, and his failure to issue the sale bill, which he was unable to substantiate. Hence, since charge 3 alone remained as a proved charge, the learned Judge had necessarily to address himself to the question whether the punishment ultimately imposed could be sustained, or should be interfered with in writ jurisdiction. The learned Judge referred to the dicta of the Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Bidyabushan : (1963)ILLJ239SC . and, after a detailed discussion, came to the conclusion that the infringement of condition 5 of the licence, namely, charge 3, could relate to, and justify, the actual penalty imposed in the case, notwithstanding that the other charges had failed. This is the one point stressed before us by learned Counsel for the writ petitioner Mr. Ramaswami.

5. We may notice that the judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Bidyabhushan : (1963)ILLJ239SC , has been discussed in State of Maharashtra v. Takkamore : [1967]2SCR583 , and reference has also been made to other available precedents on this particular principle. In State of Orissa v. Bidyabhushan : (1963)ILLJ239SC , the principle was stated in the form that, where certain of the charges are found to be non-existent or vitiated by a total absence of proof, and only some of the charges or a single charge can be held to survive, the question is whether the order may nevertheless ' be supported on any finding as to substantial misdemeanour for which the punishment can lawfully be imposed.' In the latest decision, that passage has again been set forth, and the principle is enunciated in the form that, even if certain of the grounds are found to be nonexistent or irrelevant, the order can be sustained, if the Court is satisfied ' that the authority would have passed the order on the basis of the other relevant and existing grounds.'

6. Obviously, this is a question of the actual facts, and the extent to which a reasonable nexus can be established, between the surviving charge or charges, and the punishment imposed. In the present case, one charge definitely did survive, and has been held to be proved by all the authorities below and by the learned Judge. In a sense, it may be characterised as technical, but, nevertheless, it is a charge of some significance, for the reason that it relates to an infringement of an important term of the license, and the explanation sought to be put forward by the licensee for this infringement, was never substantiated. Obviously, to test the reasonableness of the connection between the surviving charge and the order, the penalty has to be scrutinised. In this case, it is penalty of deprivation of rights under the licence, for a period of three months. The Authorities could very well have imposed that penalty, even if this had been the only charge, and might well have done so without rendering themselves liable to any averment of excessive harshness. Hence, on the criterion as stated by their Lordships, and applying it to the facts of this case, we do not think that there is room for interference in writ jurisdiction.

7. The writ appeal has accordingly to be dismissed. But we must make it clear that, in our view, since the Authorities were content to impose only a suspension for a limited period of three months, even at a stage when the other charges were considered relevant and established, equitable considerations do seem to require a review of the actual quantum of punishment, at the present stage. Certainly, for the proved charge, suspension of the licence would be a proper punishment. But the Authorities may consider whether the period of suspension ought not to be substantially reduced, since the three other charges were found by the learned Judge,, to be not at all supported by evidence.

8. With these observations, the writ appeal is dismissed. No costs.


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