1. These three petitions arise out of elections to the Village Panchayat of Neral in Kolaba District. Nominations were invited for elections to the Panchayat and the last date for such nominations was November 13, 1957. Scrutiny was fixed for November 15, 1957, and polling was on December 26, 1957. The final results of elections Were declared on December 28, 1957. An application was made by one of the unsuccessful candidates in Ward No. IV for setting aside the election of the petitioner elected from that ward, but whose name appeared in the list of voters for a different ward. The Prant Officer, who had to deal with Election Petitions under the provisions of the Village Panchayats Act of 1933, held that the petitioner, being a voter in a different ward, could not be a candidate of the ward from which he was elected. He, therefore, declared the election of the petitioner null and void. It is from this decision that the present application has been brought to this Court under Article 227.
2. The main contention of the counsel appearing for the petitioner is that under the provisions of the Village Panchayats Act there is no limitation on the right of a voter to offer himself as a candidate for election from other ward. It is contended that even if his name appears as a voter in a particular ward, he could be a candidate for any other ward.
3. Examining the question without reference to authorities, the question does not seem to be a complicated one. Section 4(1) provides:
The State Government may...declare any local area comprising a revenue village or a group of revenue villages...to be a village.
The next relevant section is Section 7-B(2), which provides that:
The electoral roll of the Bombay Legislative Assembly prepared under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and for the time being in force...for such part of the constituency of the Assembly as is included in a ward or a village shall be the list of voters for such ward or village.
and under Sub-section (2),
The officers designated by the Collector in this behalf shall maintain a list of voters for each such ward or village.
This provision shows that normally a ward is a unit, and in some cases, where a group of villages is declared to be a village under Section 4, it may be that a village may be a unit; and this position seems to be made further clear by a reference to the provisions of Section 7-C of the Act. It provides:
(1) Every person whose name is in the list of voters shall, unless disqualified under this Act or any other law for the time being in force, be qualified to vote at the election of a member for the ward to which such list pertains.
This sub-section, therefore, makes a provision that a person, whose name is in the list, must vote for that particular ward, and not for any other ward. Sub-section (2)(so far as is relevant) provides
that every person whose name is in the list of voters shall, unless disqualified under this Act or under any other law for the time being in force, be qualified to be elected for any ward to which such list pertains.
There can be no doubt that under ordinary rules of grammar, the phrase 'to which such list pertains' must qualify the words 'for any ward', and if this is so, there can again not be the least doubt that when a person offers himself as a candidate, he must offer himself to be the candidate for the ward, in which his name appears in the list for that ward. Grammatically, therefore, there cannot be any doubt about the meaning of the section.
4. The contention, however, is that in Sub-section (2) of Section 7-C we have the words 'for any ward', and emphasis has been laid on the word 'any', and it is sought to be shown by reference to the words in Section 7-C (1), where the words are 'for the ward', that the intention was to enable a candidate to offer his candidature for a ward different from the one with regard to which, in the list, his name appears. Though the word used is 'any', it cannot however make any difference in the meaning. The immediately qualifying words are 'to which such list pertains', and if effect is to be given to the contention now advanced, we must disregard the words 'to which such list pertains'. It is not permissible to disregard the words of a statute, and the word 'any' is not such a word that we must disregard the word of the statute and give it a meaning which it does not necessarily possess. It appears to us that though the words are 'any ward', it must still be confined to the ward to which that particular list pertains.
5. There is nothing in the scheme of the Act also to justify this contention. Section 4 of the Village Panchayats Act enables the State Government after inquiry to declare any local area comprising a group of revenue villages to be a village as also a revenue village a village for the purposes of the Act. If a group of villages is declared a village, then in that case it is no wonder that the unit will be each of such villages of the group, and when in Section 7-B(-f) and (2) 'village' is referred to, it is in reference to such a village.
6. We have been referred to a decision decided by a Division Bench of this Court in the case of Ardeshir Sorabji v. V.M. Bhatt : (1958)60BOMLR803 . It appears that the same contention that was advanced here was made in that case. Their Lordships said at page 805:.On the basis that there is one list of voters for the whole of the village of Udwada, there is no difficulty in accepting the construction contended for by Mr. Banaji.
With respect, it seems to be very doubtful to us if it is open to construe a legislative provision by reference to the understanding of the officers on whom falls the duty to carry out the provisions of the Act. It may be, that contrary to the provisions of the Act, instead of maintaining separate lists, one list is maintained; but that would not enable a Court to negative the words of the section, which in terms say that a candidate would be qualified to be elected for any ward to which such list pertains. If the list is not maintained as per the requirement of law, the whole election may become invalid. It also appears that construction was further supported by reference to Rule 9 framed under Section 7 of the Act, which provided;
When an election is held at or about the same time for two or more wards in the village, one and the same person may stand for election in all or any number of such wards.
It is again, with respect, doubtful if it is possible to cut down or modify the meaning of a section by reference to a rule prepared by another authority under the rule making powers. If the rule is not within the terms of the section, the rule itself will be ultra vires. It appears that their Lordships referred to Section 7-C, Clause (3), and said that since it refers only to the list of voters and not to the lists of voters, the construction of the section vouched for was justified. It must, however, be remembered that Section 7-C(1) starts with a list for a ward. Sub-section (2) refers to a list of a particular ward, and it appears to us that when the list of voters is referred to, it must mean 'list of voters for a ward'. It has no reference whatever to the list of voters in the whole village. It is somewhat surprising that though in s: 7-B there is a reference to the ward or village, in Section 7-C (3) there is no reference to the village at all, and if it is not there, we are not entitled again to put in a word and read the section in a different manner from its natural meaning. In any case, since one of the factors which contributed to the construction now contended for was Rule 9 framed under Section 7 of the Act, and that rule has now been repealed, it appears to us that the case is clearly distinguishable from the present case.
7. If this is so, we must hold that the decision given by the Prant Officer is correct. The petition must fail and must, therefore, be dismissed with costs.
8. The same points are involved in the petition No. 2384 of 1958, and it is admitted that if the interpretation contended for cannot be accepted, then this petition must also fail. In addition, this petition refers to the by-election wherein it is said that the last date for the nomination was on July 27, 1958, and that the petitioner had not sufficient opportunity of offering his candidature for the purposes of the election, as the notice, according to him, was very short. It, however, appears that no ground is made in the petition itself, and that ground cannot now be entertained. This petition, therefore, also must fail and is dismissed with costs.
9. The third petition is also not pressed and is dismissed. The petitioner will pay the costs of the Government.