Adequate opportunity cannot be termed as no opportunity – Patna High Court

In the case of Nizamuddin Ahmad Vs State of Bihar [Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.15447 of 2017] Patna High Court held that the principles of natural justice cannot be put in a straight-  jacket formula and plea of infraction of rules of natural justice or it is not a valid proceedings cannot come to rescue of a person unless prejudice is caused to the aggrieved person.

It was the case of the petitioner that Sub-Divisional Officer, Hathua vide his letter called upon the petitioner to show cause as to why the license of the public distribution shop of the petitioner be not cancelled. The said show cause-notice was issued in the light of the letter of the Block Supply Officer, reporting therein irregularities in the matter of distribution of ration/kerosene oil, realization of more than the fixed price, indulging in black marketing of the ration for the month of May 2015 and misbehavior with the beneficiaries.

The petitioner was called upon to submit his explanation. With the show cause notice the report of the Block Supply Officer, Kateya was made available to the petitioner. In his report the Block Supply Officer had stated that in view of the letter of Sub-Divisional Officer he had gone to village Singhwania and obtained the written statement of allegationists. These beneficiaries appeared before the Block Supply Officer with their original cards and they complained that they were always scolded by the dealer Nizamuddin Ahmed. He used to say that they can go anywhere to make their complaint but they will not be provided ration. It was alleged that the dealer had not given any ration for even one month. It was further alleged that whenever consumer used to go to take kerosene oil, the dealer would give only 2 litres of kerosene oil charging Rs.25/- per litre which was more than the fixed amount. The other consumers had informed the Block Supply Officer that the dealer had sold the ration of May 2015 in black market. When the Block Supply Officer had gone to the shop of the petitioner his shop was found closed and there was no board in front of the shop.

Vide his office letter the dealer was asked to mend his ways but there was no improvement in the behaviour of the dealer and he indulged in violating the rules and misbehaving with the beneficiaries. The petitioner denied all the allegations and alleged that due to personal enmity and for some reason few persons are doing politics and acting in conspiracy with each other they want to get the license of the petitioner cancelled. As regards the complaint of the five consumers, the petitioner submitted that the allegations were false and baseless, the five consumers had got the card only one month back from some sources and they had never come to lift the ration. It had been submitted in the reply that these consumers have acted with malice and in conspiracy they have tried to indulge the petitioner in false allegation of black marketing.

The Sub-Divisional Officer, Hathuwa held that the show cause submitted by the petitioner seemed to be concocted and as regards the allegation made in the report of the Block Supply Officer, Kateya the petitioner had not made available any evidence/documents in that context. The Sub-Divisional Officer, therefore, cancelled the license of the shop of the petitioner.

The petitioner preferred an appeal and his main contention in the appeal was that the licensing authority has passed the impugned order without considering his show cause. The petitioner contended that the Panchayat representatives have certified about the genuineness of the system being followed by the petitioner in the distribution of the rations but that had not been considered. The appellate authority found that show cause of the petitioner was available in the records of the licensing authority but there was no explanation with regard to the fact that the shops were found closed. The appeal was, therefore, dismissed. The revisional authority also refused to interfere. Then the present writ application had been preferred for issuance of a writ in the nature of certiorari to quash the impugned order.

It was submitted that the Block Supply Officer, Kateya is silent on the time of inspection, mode of investigation, inquiry and the Block Supply Officer did not collect any evidence regarding black marketing of the Government supplied ration. It was his submission that none of the authorities below have appreciated the submissions of the petitioner.

The State respondents have contested the writ application and it was their stand that the show cause notice was issued to the petitioner with the charges clearly mentioned in the same and the inquiry report of the Block Supply Officer was also enclosed with the show cause notice, therefore, the requirement of law and compliance with the principle of natural justice have been fulfilled.

Court held that, “The public distribution shop system caters the need of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and vulnerable above Poverty Line (APL) families, it is meant for those who need subsidized food articles and denial of the rations/kerosene to needy beneficiaries would defeat the very object of total food security and elimination of hunger. Thus, the Court is of the view that in the given facts and circumstance if the licensing authority has cancelled the license of the petitioner no fault may be found with the same. The appellate authority has rightly appreciated the materials present on the record and upheld the order of the licensing authority.”

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