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Principle of Natural Justice in a Departmental Enquiry?

J.K Aggarwal v. Haryana Seeds Development Corporation Ltd. And Others 1991 AIR SC 1221


FACTS OF THE CASE:

The dispute arises with the respondent having a government company titled Haryana Seeds Development Corporation Ltd. initiating an inquiry against him. When the Appellant asked for services of legal representation the Inquiry Authority denied it. The appellant then challenged it before the High Court but it was dismissed.


BENCH:

Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah and Justice K.N Saikia


ISSUES:

Whether the inquiry authority violated the principle of natural justice by denying the Appellant representation by a counsel?

Whether the principle of natural justice applies to a Departmental Inquiry?


ARGUMENTS:

The counsel of the Appellant, Shri Lekhi argued that the inquiry authority has violated the principle of natural justice by denying the Appellant right to be represented by a counsel. Even though, the Rule which governs that proceeding itself provides that the accused person shall be allowed assistance if the inquiry may result in the dismissal of the accused.


Arguments on behalf of Respondent

The counsel of the Respondent, Shri Tewatia argued that the act of the inquiry authority didn’t violate the principle of natural justice. He argued that the provisions of the “Haryana Civil Services Rules, 1952” (hereinafter referred as ‘the rules’) says that it is the discretion of the inquiry authority whether to provide legal representation to the person.


JUDGMENT

The Hon’ble judges with reference to the arguments presented and the legal precedents held with The same question of representation were answered in Pett v. Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. The court held that it depends on the rules that regulate the tribunal proceedings and if the rules say nothing then he has no right. Now it all depends on the discretion of the tribunal. But that discretion must be exercised in good faith and properly. This is the same reason why the court intervened the proceedings as there was no proper exercise of the discretion. The court in Dickson v. Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said that the court is not bound and shall not wait until the injustice happened.


The Hon’ble judges tried to make a nexus and relate the present case with the above-discussed cases as the proceedings in the present case were regulated by the rules.


As the respondent was represented by its manager who was well versed of law. And the rule itself says that it is the discretion of the authority to permit representation by a lawyer. Here one of the relevant factors is that whether there is the possibility that because of non-representation there will be unequal combat and will it may lead to failure or denial of justice as the person representing the respondent is officer trained in law. The bench said that “denial to grant the request of representation by a lawyer in a situation where the other party is trained in law or represented by a lawyer, will amount to a denial of a reasonable request to legal representation and eventually the principles of natural justice would be violated.”


The bench supported its view with the observation made by the learned Master of Rolls in Pett’s case that -

“In defending himself one may tend to become nervous or tongue-tied. Moreover, the appellant, it is claimed, has had no legal background. The refusal of the service of a lawyer, in the facts of this case, results in denial of natural justice.”


Finally, to remedy the situation the court held that as the appellant had no assistance of a lawyer at the time of cross-examination therefore, the court ordered that some of the witnesses be re cross-examined. Apart from that the earlier examination-in-chief and cross-examination will be in the record.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamal Kishor, 4th Year Student from MNLU Nagpur.

Editor: Vijayalakshmi Raju

You can contact the author at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kamal-kishor-518b76157

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