Read Order: Pt. B.D. Sharma University of Health and Sciences v. Kavita and others 

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, March 30, 2022: While dealing with a case wherein a licensee who remained in illegal possession of a shop for 10 long years and did not lead evidence or cross-examine the witnesses of the opposite parties even after being given 55 opportunities to do so, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the plea of violation of principles of natural justice is not entitled to be accepted unless and until it is shown in the facts and circumstances of a particular case that the rights of a party have been prejudicially affected. 

Additionally, the Bench of Justice Sudhir Mittal was of the opinion that the rules of natural justice are not rigid and have to be applied keeping in view the fact situation of a particular case and that a party claiming violation of the rule must show prejudice, especially in a case where the facts are indisputable and only one conclusion is possible. 

A shop was given on licence for the period of one year, to the first respondent pursuant to tender submitted by her. In terms of this tender, an agreement was executed by the first respondent and the one-year-long licence was issued. A clause in the agreement stated that on failure to vacate the premises on the last date of completion of the licence period, the licensee would be liable to pay a penal licence fee. On the expiry of six months, the competent authority could lock the premises.

On completion of one year period, a notice was issued to the first respondent to hand over vacant possession. To avoid the same, the first respondent filed a civil suit for an injunction restraining the petitioner from dispossessing her from the shop in dispute forcibly.   An order came to be passed in the said suit directing the petitioner not to dispossess the first respondent except in accordance with the law. Thus, a petition was filed under Sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Haryana Public Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent Recovery) Act, 1972 . After 9 years of filing, this petition was allowed. The possession of the first respondent was held to be illegal and she was directed to vacate the premise. 

An appeal was filed by the first respondent on the ground that proper opportunity was not granted to her to cross-examine the witness of the petitioner and that she was also not given the opportunity to lead her own evidence. The appellate court set aside the order of the Collector and remanded the matter back. Hence, impugning this decision, the present petition was made. 

It was the case of the petitioner that a total of 55 opportunities were granted to the respondent to cross-examine, and if she was interested in such cross-examining and in leading her own evidence she could even have filed an application for this purpose but the same was not done and thus, the appellate Court was in error in remanding the case. 

From the facts of the matter, the Court observed that the first respondent was undisputedly a licensee and that she exploited the loopholes in the law to retain possession of the shop in dispute for over 10 years in excess of the licence period. There is, thus, no equity in her favour, held the Court. Also, the Court was of the opinion that the argument that no opportunity of cross-examination was granted to the appellant was completely misplaced. An error in the language is sought to be exploited, added the Court. 

Further, the Court went on to state, “Had she been serious about the cross-examination and about an opportunity to lead evidence, an application could very well have been filed for the purpose but no such attempt was made.”

Also, the Court added that in any case, an opportunity to cross-examine would be an exercise in futility as admittedly the first respondent was a licensee for a period of one year only and thus, nothing material could have been elicited in cross-examination and nothing useful could have been brought on record even if an opportunity to lead evidence had been specifically granted. 

On the plea of Natural Justice, the Court opined that the plea of violation of principles of natural justice is not entitled to be accepted unless and until it is shown in the facts and circumstances of a particular case that the rights of a party have been prejudicially affected. Also, the Court added that if the facts are such that only one result is possible then even if principles of natural justice have been violated the Court will ignore the same. 

Applying this principle to the present case, the Court opined that the “useless formality” theory is clearly applicable in this case because the first respondent could not have elicited anything substantial by way of cross-examination nor could she have led any evidence to protect her possession and that the attempt is clearly to prolong the litigation so as to retain possession of the shop in dispute without there being any right to continue in possession. 

Thus, the order of the appellate authority was found not sustainable in law and was accordingly set aside. Also, keeping in view the fact that the first respondent managed to remain in illegal possession for over 10 years in excess of the licence period, the Court decided to adjudicate upon the lis between the parties by itself. 

Accordingly, the Court directed the first respondent to hand over possession of the shop in dispute within two weeks from the date of receipt of the certified copy of this order. 

0 CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment