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The order of a tribunal is sustainable when the opportunity of hearing is an empty formality: High Court of Telangana

An order issued by the tribunal is sustainable even when the opportunity of being heard is not available to either of the parties, when such an opportunity would not serve any useful purpose. This was decreed by the The Honourable Sri Justice P.Naveen Rao in the case of S. Surendhar Reddy Vs. The state of Telangana [W.P. No.15066 of 20201] on the 07th of July 2021 before the Hon’ble High Court at Telangana.

The brief facts of the case are, the State Government issued general notification in Namasthe Telangana and The Hindu daily newspapers on 09.04.2021 calling upon the parties to appear before the Special Tribunal on 15th or 16th April, 2021, to request for fresh hearing of the matters. In the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition, there is no averment of petitioner that he appeared before the Special Tribunal on the days specified in the notification and requesting for rehearing the case. The case in question dealt with restoration of name of Sri E. Krishna Reddy which was found on the Pahani for the year 1959-60, but subsequently his name was removed. Petitioners before the Special Tribunal prayed to restore the name of Sri E. Krishna Reddy from 1960 onwards as protected tenant and to grant consequential benefits to them. The prayer before the Special Tribunal was to restore the name of Sri E. Krishna Reddy as protected tenant relating back to the year 1960-61 onwards i.e., more than 60 years. Assuming that he was protected tenant and was entitled to all the benefits of protected tenants, having regard to the claim to restore name of Krishna Reddy dating back to pahani for the year 1960-61, the Tribunal held that there was inordinate delay in prosecuting the claim. The present petition is filed before this court claiming that this order was not sustainable on the sole grounds of not having an opportunity to be heard.

The court observed this case with respect to the judgement decreed by the court in Joint Collector ,Ranga Reddy district and another Vs. D. Narsing Rao and others [(2015) 3 SCC 695] wherein, it was observed that, “To sum up, delayed exercise of revisional jurisdiction is frowned upon because if actions or transactions were to remain forever open to challenge, it will mean avoidable and endless uncertainty in human affairs, which is not the policy of law. Because, even when there is no period of limitation prescribed for exercise of such powers, the intervening delay, may have led to creation of third-party rights, that cannot be trampled by a belated exercise of a discretionary power especially when no cogent explanation for the delay is in sight. Rule of law it is said must run closely with the rule of life. Even in cases where the orders sought to be revised are fraudulent, the exercise of power must be within a reasonable period of the discovery of fraud. Simply describing an act or transaction to be fraudulent will not extend the time for its correction to infinity; for otherwise the exercise of revisional power would itself be tantamount to a fraud upon the statute that vests such power in an authority.”

The court held that in normal circumstance, the said stand of the petitioner warrants acceptance and matter should go back to Special Tribunal. Opportunity of hearing is one of the basic requirements of a fair decision by a quasi-judicial Tribunal affecting right and/or interest in agricultural land. However, in the current case, the facts are such that an opportunity of hearing is just an empty formality. “There is inordinate and unexplained delay in prosecuting the grievance. Thus, in the facts of this case, opportunity of hearing is an empty formality. Petitioner cannot improve his case to invalidate the decision of the Special Tribunal even if an opportunity is afforded to him by the Special Tribunal.” The petition was dismissed since it would serve no purpose.

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