Officers not applying mind while exercising powers: High Court - Hindustan Times
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Officers not applying mind while exercising powers: High Court

By, Chandigarh
Apr 13, 2023 01:19 AM IST

The high court asks Punjab chief secretary to apprise it whether officers are being given adequate training regarding it

Taking serious note of the ‘lack of knowledge of statutory provisions’ among officers in Punjab, the high court has asked the chief secretary to apprise it whether the officers are being given adequate training about how to exercise their powers.

The bench of Punjab and Haryana high court said training will help in mitigating chances of avoidable litigation.
The bench of Punjab and Haryana high court said training will help in mitigating chances of avoidable litigation.

“It prima facie appears that because of lack of knowledge about the statutory provisions that the officers exercise their powers without the application of mind or in ignorance of the statutory provisions. A mechanism has to be developed to impart training in a specialised manner,” the bench of justice JS Puri observed adding that this can help in mitigating chances of avoidable litigation.

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The court of justice JS Puri acted on a plea from Gurwinder Singh from Moga, appointed as a dealer under the Essential Commodities Act.

In his plea, he had argued that an order has been passed suspending his license and on the same date a show-cause notice was also issued to him. His counsel, Sanjeev Kumar Arora argued that under the provisions, no order of suspension can be passed without giving an opportunity for a hearing. However, on the day on which the order of suspension has been passed, on the same date, the show-cause notice has been issued. Therefore, it is a direct violation of the principle of natural justice. As per provisions, a suspension order can be passed without giving an opportunity for a hearing but that has to be limited to a period of 90 days. But in the case at hand, the suspension order has no time period, the court was told adding that the order could not have been passed.

It was also brought before the court that suspension can be done in contemplation of any proceedings for cancellation of his licence but as per the show-cause notice, there is no contemplation of any cancellation proceedings. In this way, the action was not only contrary to the law but it was also oppressive in nature, it was argued.

It also came before the court that earlier, in a similar dispute in 2022, 73 petitions were filed against an order passed by the district controller, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, Moga, without any authority of law. Subsequently, in the high court, the government admitted to it and revoked the orders following which petitions were disposed of by the court.

The court took note of these submissions and observed that the fresh order passed prima facie appears to be in total violation of the 2016 rules in this regard. “This may again open flood gate of litigation as it was done in the earlier case. This Court, therefore, takes a very serious view about this and also wishes to ascertain as to whether the officers of State of Punjab are given adequate training with regard to as to how to exercise their powers,” the court observed making the chief secretary a party to the petition and asking him to file an affidavit by the next date of hearing detailing as to whether there is any system of imparting training to the officers to exercise statutory powers apart from the generalised training which is done at the State Institute of Public Administration, Chandigarh. The court has also summoned the district controller, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, Moga, who had passed the order in question.

The court, while taking a serious view of the matter, observed that it is not a case where the power is not vested with the authority but it is a case where the exercise of power is arbitrary. The litigation can be avoided and it is a settled proposition of law for any country that it is in the interest of the state to reduce the litigation, the bench added deferring the hearing for April 21.

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