A Calcutta High Court Bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya has held that a valid show cause notice must disclose the charges imposed upon the person to whom the notice is being addressed, and it must afford a reasonable opportunity to the person to reply to the charges.

Counsel Abharatosh Mazumdar, Counsel Subhabrata Datta, and Counsel Aranya Saha appeared for the petitioners. Senior Advocate Kishore Dutta, Counsel Swarajit Dey, Counsel Subhadeep Basak, and Counsel Riddhi Jain appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the petitioners challenged a communication issued by the respondents (DVC), by which petitioner No. 1 was informed that his name would not be recommended for the issue of future tender enquiries of DVC for two years. The impugned communication referred to a notice of termination that the DVC had issued under a clause of the General Conditions of Contract (GCC), which formed part of the agreement between the parties.

The High Court held that the DVC's letter did not satisfy the requirements of a show cause notice and therefore, contrary to the position taken by he DVC, could not be treated as a show cause notice. In that context, it was observed that "The fundamental criterion of a show cause notice is an opportunity to the intended person to show cause as to why the threatened punitive action should not be followed. The petitioners admittedly were not given an opportunity to rebut the imputations made in the said letter. The petitioners were served with the impugned letter of debarment soon thereafter on 21st June, 2022 without being heard in the matter."

The Court also placed reliance on the case of Gorkha Security Services vs Government (NCT of Delhi) to hold that "The necessity of a show cause notice and the consequent opportunity to the person of a hearing assumes importance in the context of the punishment to be suffered by the person for who the show cause notice is intended."

In light of the same, it was held that the Court was inclined to allow the petition and grant relief to the petitioner side. Consequently, the impugned letter issued by DVC was quashed and it was ordered that the DVC shall not restrain petitioner No. 1 from participating in future tenders issued by DVC.

Cause Title: Cognition Projects Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. vs Damodar Valley Corporation & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Judgment