Lokayukta Adding Persons As Parties To A Proceeding Exercising Suo Moto Power, Without Giving Prior Notice Does Not Violate Principles Of Natural Justice: Bombay HC

Authorities Should have a Secular Mind in Religious Matters: Bombay HC

Justice Naidu dismissed a writ petition filed before the High Court of Bombay at Goa ruling that principles of natural justice are not violated if the Institution of Lokayukta decides to implead certain persons as parties to a proceeding in exercise of its suo moto power. The Court held that giving notice to every proposed party inevitably results in delay and docket deluge clogging the judicial avenues, is an unaffordable luxury.

The present writ petition was filed questioning the ‘procedural improprity’ in Lokayukta adding and stating that it “deemed just and proper to add the panchayat members” as respondents by invoking his power under Rule 9 of the Goa Lokayukta Rules 2012. He also later issued notice to them under Section 13(1) of the Goa Lokayukta Act 2011.

Adv. A Kakodkar who appeared on behalf of the petitioners and submitted that Lokayukta’s order, dated March 9th 2020, offends the principles of natural justice. He added that Section 12 provides an opportunity of hearing to the respondents during the preliminary inquiry and the petitioners have step for lack of notice.

After hearing submissions of both the parties, the Court observed that, under Section 12 of the Act the Lokayukta may “make such preliminary inquiry as he deems fit” can be read as optional, but if it takes place a finding on the nature of the complaint is mandatory. Therefore, the notice before the preliminary inquiry cannot be mandatory, and “may” cannot be read as “shall”.

In addition to this, Justice Naidu said that indisputably, Rule 10 of Order 1 of CPC empowers the court to implead a party suo moto if it reckons that a party’s presence is necessary or proper. It may be against the wish of the plaintiff or the defendants already on record, who may technically speak, feel embarrassed with the proposed party’s presence. If put to notice, even the proposed party may object. But none of these eventualities deters the court from exercising suo moto power, the Court concluded.

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