Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu – Petitioner
Union of India – Respondent
Section 80(1) of the Code requires prior notice of two months to be served on the Government as a condition for filling a suit except when there is urgency for an interim order in which case the Court may not insist on the rigid rule of prior notice. The two months period has been provided for so that the Government shall examine the claim put up in the notice and has sufficient time to send a suitable reply. The underlying object is to curtail the litigation.
The object also is to curtail the area of dispute and controversy. Similar provisions also exist in various other legislation as well. Wherever the statutory provision requires service of notice as a condition precedent of filing of suit and prescribed period therefore, it is not only necessary for the governments or departments or other statutory bodies to send a reply to such a notice but it is further necessary to properly deal with all material points and issues raised in the notice. The Governments, Government departments or statutory authorities are defendants in large number of suits pending in various courts in the country.
Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that in large number of cases either the notice is not replied or in few cases where reply is sent, it is generally vague and evasive. The result is that the object underlying Section 80 of the Code and similar provision gets defeated. It not only gives rise to avoidable litigation but also results in heavy expense and cost to the exchequer as well. Proper reply can result in reduction of litigation between State and the citizens. In case proper reply is sent either the claim in the notice may be submitted or area of controversy curtailed or the citizen may be satisfied on knowing the stand of the State. There is no accountability in the Government, Central or State or the statutory authorities in violating the spirit and object of Section 80.
These provisions cast an implied duty on all concerned governments and States and statutory authorities to send appropriate reply to such notices. Having regard to the existing state of affairs, we direct all concerned governments, Central or State or other authorities, whenever any statute requires service of notice as a condition precedent for filing of suit or other proceedings against it, to nominate, within a period of three months, an officer who shall be made responsible to ensure that replies to notices under Section 80 or similar provisions are sent within the period stipulated in a particular legislation. The replies shall be sent after due application of mind.
Despite such nomination, if the Court finds that either the notice has not been replied or reply is evasive and vague and has been sent without proper application of mind, the Court shall ordinarily award heavy cost against the Government and direct it to take appropriate action against the concerned Officer including recovery of costs from him.