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Maya Devi v/s Union Territory, Chandigarh

    C.W.P. No. 9724 of 1999

    Decided On, 05 August 2000

    At, High Court of Punjab and Haryana


    For the Appellant: S.K. Jain, Advocate. For the Respondent: Lisa Gill, Advocate.

Judgment Text

Jawahar Lal Cupta, J.The petitioners were allotted a built-up booth on April 9, 1987 in Sector 17, Chandigarh. Some years later, on July 8, 1992, the lease was cancelled for failure to pay the amount due. After pursuing the departmental remedies, the petitioners approached this Court through CWP No. 14865 of 1995. Vide order dated July 3, 1997, the petition was dismissed. However, the petitioners were given the liberty to "apply for re-allotment of the property under Rule 21-A of the Rules of 1973". These rules are called 'The Chandigarh Lease Hold of Sites and Buildings Rules, 1973.'2. The petitioners submitted an application on July 23, 1997. The Assistant Estate Officers rejected it vide order dated December 12, 1997. A copy of the order is at Annexure P.4. The petitioners filed an appeal. Vide order dated January 20, 1998, the Chief Administrator dismissed this appeal. The petitioners filed a petition before the Adviser. It was dismissed vide order dated June 23, 1999. Copies of the orders passed by the Chief Administrator and the Adviser are at Annexures P.5 and P.6 with the writ petition. Aggrieved by these orders, the petitioners have approached this Court through the present writ petition. They allege that the orders are illegal and violative of the principles of natural justice. They pray that these be quashed.In response to the notice of motion, a written statement has been filed on behalf of the respondents.Counsel for the parties have been hoard.3. The primary contention raised on behalf of the petitioners is that the Assistant Estate Officer had erred in rejecting the petitioners' request for the grant of re-al-lotment without even giving a notice or hearing. Learned counsel further submits that even the appellate and revisional authorities had failed to exercise the jurisdiction vested in them. The claim made on behalf of the petitioners has been controverted by Mrs. Lisa Gill, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents.4. We have perused the order dated December 12, 1997 passed by the Assistant Estate Officer. The petitioners' claim for re-allotment was rejected on the ground that it would mean "giving a handsome benefit to those who have cared a fig for the rules and the terms of allotment which were duly conveyed to them....." Mr. Jain, learned counsel submits that the booth had been allotted to the petitioners at a price of Rs. 5,33,000/- on February 22, 1987. By July 1, 1997,the petitioners had paid an amount of Rs. 13,52,408/-. Despite this, the authority has taken the view that the petitioners were not entitled to the re-allotment of the site. We think the grievance made by the counsel is justified. In fact, it further appears that an order to return an amount of Rs. 3,44,158/- was passed. Thus, an amount of Rs. 10,08,250/- is still being retained by the respondents. And yet, the petitioners' request for re-allotment has been turned down.5. The order apparently had serious consequences for the petitioners. The authority was exercising its power under a statutory rule. It was bound to exercise its discretion in a just and equitable manner. This discretion had to conform to the rules of fair-play. An opportunity of hearing should have been given to the petitioners to explain their position. None having been given, we are unable to sustain the order.6. It also deserves mention that the Chief Administrator while dismissing the petitioners' appeal has inter alia observed that there is no right of appeal or revision "against such administrative decisions of the Estate Office". We are afraid that the statutory power vested in the Estate Officer is not purely administrative. Since valuable rights of the citizens are involved, the power has to be exercised in conformity with the statutory rules and the principles of natural justice. Still further, it is not a purely administrative power. The authority is dealing with public property and the rights of the citizens. Its actions must conform to the rules applicable to quasi-judicial proceedings.7. Before parting with the case, we may also notice that the Chief Administrator had passed the order on January 20, 1998. He had directed that the order be communicated to the petitioners. The endorsement on the order indicates that it was issued on August 6. 1998. Why did the office take more than six months ? There is no answer. Such unexplained delays cause harassment to the citizen and create doubts about the bona fides of the officials working in the office. We hope and trust that the Chief Administrator and all concerned shall take appropriate steps to ensure that such delays are not repeated. Even in this case, it would be appropriate to look into the matter and to find out as to why the Superintendent concerned did not issue the order for a period of more than six month

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s. Action should be taken against the erring official. Since we are remanding the matter, we do not wish to say anything more at this stage.8. In view of the above, the writ petition is allowed. The impugned orders, copies of which are at Annexures P.4, P.5 and P.6 are set aside. The matter is remanded to the Estate Officer for a fresh decision. The petitioners shall not be evicted from the site till the matter is finally decided. The petitioners are also entitled to their costs which are assessed at Rs. 5000/-.9. Petition allowed.