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M/s Prithvi Singh vs. Asst. Commissioner (South), Govt of NCT of Delhi - (High Court of Delhi) (20 May 2020)

Findings of fact cannot be re-opened and questioned under writ jurisdiction of the Court, the Court can only interfere in cases of no evidence



The present set of petitions challenges the orders passed by the learned Appellate Authority, Department of Food Supplies and Consumer Affairs, dismissing the appeals filed by the Petitioner(s) and upholding the decision of the Respondent cancelling the authorization of the Fair Price Shop(s) (“FPS”) of the Petitioner(s).

The learned counsel for the Petitioner submits that, the Appellate Authority has wrongly placed reliance on the Notification dated 2nd January, 2009. He submits that, from the reply received to a query under the Right to Information Act, 2005, it was evident that the said Notification was never put in operation. In any case, the verification of the Ration Card Holders was to be confined only to those persons who were attached to the particular FPS. In the present case, the allegation is with respect to 90 Ration Card Holders, who were admittedly not attached with the Petitioner’s FPS and therefore, it was not for the Petitioner to have verified them. He further submits that in any case, with the operation of the ePOS System having been followed, the 2009 Notification had become redundant and inapplicable.

The learned counsel for the petitioner further submits that in terms of the Instructions/Circular dated 28th December, 2017, portability was permitted in all FPS connected to ePoS. The petitioner could not have denied the supply of food grains to the Ration Card Holders only because the Ration Card Holders were not attached to the Petitioner. Therefore, merely because the Ration Card Holders were not attached to the petitioner, an adverse inference could not have been drawn against the petitioner.

Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court does not act as a Court of Appeal over the decision of the Authorities. The scope of inquiry before the High Court is restricted to considering whether the Authorities have followed the prescribed procedure and Principles of Natural Justice. As far as the evidence is concerned, the Court can only interfere in cases of “no evidence”. Where there is some evidence which the Authority entrusted with the duty to hold inquiry has accepted and where such evidence may reasonably support the conclusion arrived at by such Authority, the Court cannot re-evaluate such evidence to arrive at an independent finding on the same. The Authorities are the sole judge of facts. The High Court in exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India only exercises Supervisory Jurisdiction and not Appellate Jurisdiction over such Authorities.

The findings of fact cannot be re-opened and questioned under Writ jurisdiction of the Court. A finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal cannot be challenged on grounds of evidence being insufficient or inadequate to sustain a finding. The issue of adequacy or sufficiency of evidence led on a particular point and the inference of what fact is to be drawn on the said finding are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

The Respondent has been able to establish that 90 Card Holders did not belong to the area allocated to the Petitioner. Though it may be accepted that portability was allowed where FPS were connected to ePOS, the fact that these Card Holders were not attached to the Petitioner and had not taken the food grains from the petitioner in the month of January and February, 2018, should have raised suspicion in the mind of the petitioner regarding their authenticity. These 90 Card Holders were in fact, not even residing at the given address. Though it may be true that the Petitioner was not directly responsible for carrying out the verification for all such Card Holders, this fact would be an important link in the totality of the circumstances alleged against the Petitioner.

88 out of these 90 Card Holders were given ration by the petitioner only through the OTP method. Though, the Petitioner alleges that there was a flaw in the BEL device application, the fact that this happened to such a large extent only in cases where the Card Holders were not attached to the Petitioner, again becomes an important consideration. Admittedly, the Petitioner had given ration in 460 transactions through Bio-Metric method and another 35 through IRIS method; OTP method was used only in 114 transactions out of which 90 were for persons who were not attached to the petitioner and were not found residing at the given address. The fact that 44 out of these 90 Card Holders were given ration by the petitioner at odd hours is also an important circumstance.

It is not for this Court to re-appreciate the evidence considered by the Appellate Authority in reaching its conclusion that, these transactions were not genuine. This Court is only confined to scrutinize, if this is a case of “no evidence”. The Petitioner has not been able to make out such a case. Further, as held by the Supreme Court, in a case such as present, the Respondent is not to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt but only on preponderance of probabilities of evidence. In case of circumstantial evidence, even though the Petitioner is able to explain individually one or the other circumstance alleged against him, circumstances taken collectively, does not make it to be a case of “no evidence”. There is no merit in the present petition and same is accordingly dismissed.


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