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Failure to state allegations will vitiate punishment: Bench

Mohamed Imranullah S.

MADURAI: A notice issued by a Collector asking elected representatives such as panchayat presidents or vice-presidents to appear for an enquiry must contain the charge for which the enquiry was to be held. Failure to mention the allegations in the notice will nullify the consequential orders passed by the officer, the Madras High Court Bench here has held.

A Division Bench of Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice R. Subbiah passed the ruling while allowing a writ appeal filed by the vice-president of Mannor village panchayat in Palani Taluk of Dindigul district challenging an order passed by the Collector on November 2 revoking his power to sign cheques, related to the local body's bank account, along with the president.

“It is an elementary principle of law that a show cause notice issued to a person before taking any action must contain the allegations levelled against him in a specific manner so that he will be in a position to controvert or deny the allegations. Without making any imputation merely calling a person to appear for an enquiry is in violation of principles of natural justice,” the Bench said.

It held that in the present case, the Collector had merely asked the petitioner to appear for an enquiry on October 12 without citing any reason. Writing the judgement, Mr. Justice Vasanthakumar went on to state: “The idea behind the issuance of notice in any proceeding is to put on notice as to what are the imputations against the person concerned.

“The first respondent (Collector) who is discharging a statutory power vested in him under Section 203 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, is bound to act in a reasonable manner expected of from a statutory power, especially while dealing with a right of an elected representative of a local body. Issuing a notice need not be treated as a mere ritual or an empty formality.”

The Bench pointed out that the Collector ought to have been careful before taking away a statutory power conferred on a Panchayat vice-president under Section 188 (3) of the Panchayats Act, which states that all cheques for payment from village panchayat fund should be signed jointly by the president and vice-president or any other authorised member in their absence.

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