SC: Oral hearing can be denied

Bench upholds denial of promotion to 66 BSNL staff

“It must be remembered that rules of natural justice are not embodied rules. They can not be put in a strait-jacket. The purpose of rules of natural justice is to ensure that the order causing civil consequences is not passed arbitrarily. It is not that in every case there must be an opportunity of oral hearing,” a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Altmas Kabir said.

The court made the observations while upholding the validity of the procedure adopted by the BSNL in denying promotion to 66 employees for indulging copying in an examination.

“We are of the considered opinion that the procedure adopted by the appellants can not be said to be unfair or arbitrary. It was a reasonable and fair procedure adopted in the peculiar circumstances of the case. It can not be said to be in breach of rules of natural justice,” the Bench also comprising Justices S S Nijjar and Gyan Sudha Mishra remarked. It also trashed the argument of the candidates that the cancellation of the examination without giving them an opportunity of oral hearing was against the principles of natural justice.

The court allowed a plea of the public sector BSNL challenging the order passed by division and single-judge Bench of the Calcutta High Court.

It upheld the decision of telecom major of denying promotion to 66 employees who were found to be involved in mass-copying during the departmental examinations for promotion as junior accounts officer.

The BSNL contended that the candidates were allowed to use books as per syllabus but not guidebooks.

“There is not even a denial that the answers have been taken from the guidebook. Mass copying is accepted on the plea that it was permissible to take books into the examination. This plea was rejected by the Expert Committee, as the candidates were only allowed to use the books prescribed in the syllabus. The guidebook used by the candidates was not permitted to be taken into the examination centre,” the court said.

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