1. This writ petition under Article 226 of Constitution of India is filed, to declare the action of second respondent herein/Assistant Director of Mines and Geology, Vizianagaram, in seizing proclainer P.C-130 belonging to second petitioner, placing the same in the custody of third respondent herein/Village Revenue Officer, Chinagudaba village, demand notice No.2052/Q/2001, dated 24.10.2019, issued by second respondent, as illegal and arbitrary, consequently set aside the order impugned in the writ petition.
2. The petitioner obtained quarry lease for an extent of 1.414 hectares in Sy.No.1 of Chinagudaba village, Garugubilli Mandal, Vizianagaram District, by way of transfer under lease deed dated 28.06.2013. On the same day, second respondent granted permission to first petitioner to commence quarry operations. On 15.06.2018, first petitioner filed application for renewal of lease/license and second respondent through proceedings dated 23.04.2019, recommended to consider renewal application of first petitioner by condoning delay of 10 days, Director of Mines and Geology by order dated 30.05.2019, condoning delay, directed Deputy Director of Mines and Geology to take further necessary action in accordance with law, the same is pending with Deputy Director of Mines and Geology.
3. While matter stood thus, second respondent issued show cause notice to first petitioner, to show cause, as to why action should not be initiated under Rule 26 of A.P Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1966 for the alleged violation. In the said show cause notice, factum of seizure of proclainer P.C-130 belonging to second petitioner, placing the same in 2 MSM, J wp_20404_ 2019 custody of third respondent was not mentioned. However, on 19.09.2019, first petitioner submitted interim reply to show cause notice contending that second respondent has no power to seize proclainer, while denying the other allegations in the show cause notice, requested to furnish certain information and documents to enable him to submit comprehensive reply, but second respondent did not submit information as demanded by first petitioner.
4. Second petitioner also submitted representation dated 19.09.2019 to third respondent, requesting to release proclainer which was kept in his custody by second respondent, but not released till today.
5. Again second respondent issued another show cause notice dated 27.09.2019, reiterating the allegations made in earlier show cause notice, stating that there is mistake in earlier show cause notice with regard to calculation of excess quantity mined i.e. 38,468 cubic meters instead of 38,268 cubic meters, called for explanation of first petitioner. Accordingly, first petitioner submitted his reply to show cause notice, but the order impugned in writ petition was passed by second respondent, demanding Rs.2,09,69,100/- in total for quarrying 38,468 cubic meters excess excavated and transported from lease area, the same is now challenged before this Court on the ground that the order is bereft of any reasons and no reason is recorded in the entire order for rejection of various contentions raised in interim reply, submitted by first petitioner, except a sentence in second para of second page of order that “the reply submitted by lessee/defaulter is not satisfactory”. When the order passed by administrative authority of quasi judicial authority is not supported by any reasoning or not disclosing any reason, the order is liable to be set aside, since it is contrary to principles of natural justice, requested to set aside the same.
6. Whereas, learned Assistant Government Pleader for Mines and Geology contended that there is a provision for appeal against such an order passed by second respondent, but without invoking the jurisdiction of appellate authority, first petitioner cannot approach this Court for issue of writ of mandamus.
7. As seen from the material on record, correspondence between authorities and petitioners, more particularly, show cause notices issued by second respondent and reply to show cause notice submitted by first petitioner is not in dispute. The only question before this Court is whether the reason recorded by second respondent for passing order, while rejecting the submissions of first petitioner, in reply, to show cause notice dated 27.09.2019, amounts to violation of principles of natural justice? Though the impugned order dated 24.10.2019 was passed by second respondent demanding to pay Rs.2,09,69,100/-, the order is reflecting only one sentence, for rejection of explanation of first petitioner. The relevant para is extracted herein for better appreciation:
“In reference third cited, the lessee/defaulter has submitted reply stating that the show cause notice is not issued as per the norms laid down in APMMC Rules, 1966 and seizure of vehicles is also not legal and hence, requested to drop the further action. The reply submitted by the lessee/defaulter is not satisfactory”.
8. Though second respondent rejected reply, no reason is mentioned for such rejection and it is violative of principles of natural justice.
9. Though appeal is provided, when the order impugned in writ petition is against principles of natural justice, this Court can exercise power of judicial review under Article 226 of Constitution of India, against the order passed by quasi judicial authority or administrative authority.
10. In “West Bengal Central School Service Commission v. Abdul Halim (2019 (9) SCALE 573)”, the Apex Court discussed about scope of judicial review by High Court and held that:
“It is well settled that the High Court in exercise of jurisdiction Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India does not sit in appeal over an administrative decision. The Court might only examine the decision making process to ascertain whether there was such infirmity in the decision making process, which vitiates the decision and calls for intervention Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
In any case, the High Court exercises its extraordinary jurisdiction Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to enforce a fundamental right or some other legal right or the performance of some legal duty. To pass orders in a writ petition, the High Court would necessarily have to address to itself the question of whether there has been breach of any fundamental or legal right of the Petitioner, or whether there has been lapse in performance by the Respondents of a legal duty.
The High Court in exercise of its power to issue writs, directions or orders to any person or authority to correct quasi-judicial or even administrative decisions for enforcement of a fundamental or legal right is obliged to prevent abuse of power and neglect of duty by public authorities.
In exercise of its power of judicial review, the Court is to see whether the decision impugned is vitiated by an apparent error of law. The test to determine whether a decision is vitiated by error apparent on the face of the record is whether the error is self-evident on the face of the record or whether the error requires examination or argument to establish it. If an error has to be established by a process of reasoning, on points where there may reasonably be two opinions, it cannot be said to be an error on the face of the record, as held by this Court in Satyanarayan v. Mallikarjuna reported in AIR 1960 SC 137. If the provision of a statutory Rule is reasonably capable of two or more constructions and one construction has been adopted, the decision would not be open to interference by the writ Court. It is only an obvious misinterpretation of a relevant statutory provision, or ignorance or disregard thereof, or a decision founded on reasons which are clearly wrong in law, which can be corrected by the writ Court by issuance of writ of Certiorari.
The sweep of power Under Article 226 may be wide enough to quash unreasonable orders. If a decision is so arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could have ever arrived at it, the same is liable to be struck down by a writ Court. If the decision cannot rationally be supported by the materials on record, the same may be regarded as perverse.
However, the power of the Court to examine the reasonableness of an order of the authorities does not enable the Court to look into the sufficiency of the grounds in support of a decision to examine the merits of the decision, sitting as if in appeal over the decision. The test is not what the Court considers reasonable or unreasonable but a decision which the Court thinks that no reasonable person could have taken, which has led to manifest injustice. The writ Court does not interfere, because a decision is not perfect.”
In view of law declared by Apex Court, when the authorities did not follow procedure, passed an order contrary to principles of natural justice, this Court can exercise power of judicial review, under Article 226 of Constitution of India and interfere with such order.
11. At the same time, reasons are heart of order which conveys information to the effected party about specific violation and rejection of such objection raised by effected party. Time and again the Apex Court in Assistant Commissioner, Commercial Tax Department, works contract and Leasing, Kota v. Shukla and brothers ((2010) 4 SCC 785) held that the order passed by judicial authority or quasi judicial authority must disclose reasons, to arrive at such conclusion in passing such order. The Apex Court also referred various judgments in Siemens Engineering and Manufacturing Co., of India Ltd. v. Union of India and another (AIR 1976 SC 1785), Gurdial Singh Fijji v. State of Punjab ((1797) 2 SCC 368) and other judgments in Jawahar Lal Singh v. Naresh Singh and others ((1987) 2 SCC 222), Chabungbambohal Singh v. Union of India (1995 (Suppl) 2 SCC 83) and Hindustan Times Limited v. Unior of India ((1998) 2 SCC 242), concluded that the absence of reasoning as to the mandatory requirement of provision which conferred jurisdiction on the quasi judicial authority or a
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Court or administrative authority is mandatory. 12. By applying the tests laid down by Apex Court, to the present facts of case, it is abundantly clear that the order passed by second respondent is bereft of any reasons for rejection of reply submitted by first petitioner, thereby, the order is unsustainable under law and it is violative of principles of natural justice. On this ground alone, the order is liable to be set aside, without adverting to other contentions urged before this Court. 13. Hence, the order dated 24.10.2019 impugned in the writ petition is hereby set aside, directing second respondent to pass reasoned order, after affording an opportunity to petitioners, by following law declared by Apex Court referred in earlier paras, within a week from today. The learned Counsel for the petitioners is permitted to furnish a copy of this order to second respondent to act upon it and pass order. 14. With the above direction, the writ petition is disposed of. There shall be no order as to costs. 15. Consequently, miscellaneous petitions, pending if any, shall stand closed.