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Any order passed as consequence of show cause notice can’t go beyond what is alleged in show cause notice: Allahabad High Court

The Allahabad High Court while allowing the petition observed that any order passed as a consequence of the show cause notice cannot go beyond what is alleged in the show cause notice.

The Court said that in the event, a particular case is made out in the show cause notice and the order passed subsequently is beyond the said show cause notice, the same would amount to violation of the principles of natural justice.

The Division Bench of Justice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Shekhar B Saraf passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Ramlala.

On 31.05.2022, the District Magistrate, Sonbhadra, based on some inspection report, issued a show cause notice as to why the petitioner may not be punished for having excavated over Plot.

The petitioner replied to the said notice and submitted that he had a lease of mining work with regard to Plot area 0.506 hectare and he also submitted that the petitioner was continuing with the mining work on the aforesaid plot alone.

However, when the final order dated 20.6.2022 was passed, it dealt with illegal mining over Plot, which was definitely not the subject matter of the show cause notice dated 31.05.2022.

Counsel for the petitioner stated that since the show cause notice was with regard to Plot No 824 Kha, the order ought to have dealt with illegal mining over Plot No 824 Kha and no other plot.

He has relied upon a judgment of the Supreme Court rendered in the case of State of Punjab v Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar and others; 2011 (14) SCC 770 and submitted that if the show cause notice is defective then the consequential proceedings cannot stand.

He further submitted that if the show cause notice was with regard to some other plot and the punishment is being imposed with regard to some other plot then it would be deemed that the authority, which had issued the show cause notice, was not clear of the subject matter and, therefore, when there is no clarity in the show cause notice itself, the authority which has passed the impugned order could not have passed the same with regard to some other plot.

Counsel for the petitioner also stated that when final order mentioned some other plot and the show cause notice mentioned some other plot then the entire proceedings were null and void.

Chief Standing Counsel Sandeep Kumar Singh, however, submitted that the order impugned was passed with regard to Plot No 421 Kha and during the proceedings the petitioner had participated and given explanation, therefore, there was no error in the order impugned and the Court may not interfere with the same.

The Court noted that the Supreme Court in a catena of judgments has held that the grounds, upon which the action is to be taken against a person, are required to be mentioned in the show cause notice.

The Court further noted that,

The principle that emerges from the above judgements is patently clear that a show cause notice is required to provide details of the nature of the offence and the grounds on which the show cause notice has been issued. Furthermore, the order that is subsequently passed, based on the show cause notice, cannot go beyond the said show cause notice and cannot in any manner penalise the notice on grounds that were not stated in the show cause notice.

The rationale for not allowing the respondents from going beyond the realm of the show cause notice is that the petitioner has to be given a chance to put up his case with regard to the said show cause notice. In the event, a particular case is made out in the show cause notice and the order passed subsequently is beyond the said show cause notice, the same would amount to violation of the principles of natural justice, as the petitioner would not have been aware of the new grounds or new factual elements and could never have placed his case for the above before the authority concerned. It is in this background that the Supreme Court in umpteen judgments has laid down the law that an order passed by an authority cannot go beyond the scope of the show cause notice.

“Having heard counsel for the parties, we find that in the show cause notice dated 31.5.2022, the District Magistrate, Sonebhadra had directed the petitioner to show cause with regard to the illegal mining over Plot No 824 Kha but when the order impugned was passed we find that it is with regard to Plot No 421 Kha. We also find that the plot, which was mentioned in the show cause notice, had no bearing with the order impugned in the instant writ petition. In the light of above, it is crystal clear that not only is show cause notice badly drafted and incomplete but also the order passed subsequently is inherently misconceived going way beyond the show cause notice issued”, the Court observed while allowing the petition.

The show cause notice dated 31.05.2022 and the order dated 20.6.2022 are quashed and set aside by the High Court.

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