1. The Petitioner herein is the Group Village Panchayat Committee, Harlapur, Kundgol Taluk. This Panchayat is represented by its Chairman in the present proceedings.
2. A few facts may be briefly stated:
The first respondent was member of the petitioner panchayat, his term having commenced from the month of March 1968. The tax for the year 1968-69 became due from him on 1-4-1968, and he did not pay the same within 15 days from that day.
Therefore, the Secretary of the Panchayat Committee presented two Bills dated 18-7-1968 in respect of taxes due on the properties owned by the first respondent and the same were served on him on 10-10-1968. Those Bills were presented in accordance with Rule 76 (1) of the Mysore Panchayat and Taxes Rules, 1960, read with Section 77 (1) of the Mysore Village Panchayats and Local Boards Act, 1959, hereinafter referred to as the 'Act'. As per the Bills, he was required to pay the taxes specified therein, within a period of 15 days from the date of service of the said Bills- The first respondent, however, actually paid the taxes only on 1-4-1969. This default, in paying the taxes in time on the part of the first respondent was reported to the Assistant Commissioner, Savanur Sub-Division, for further action, under Section 11 (2) (ii) of the Act, and to declare his seat as vacant, in accordance with the said provision. After hearing the first respondent, the Assistant Commissioner, who is the fourth respondent herein, made an order on 29-5-1969/14-6-1969 bearing No. V. P. C. S. R. 1774 declaring that the first respondent was disqualified for being a Member of the petitioner panchayat and declared the seat as vacant. He also directed the Tahsildar, Kundgol, to take action to fill up the said vacancy.
3. The first respondent took the matter up in appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, Belgaum, in No. V. P. C. A. P./237. The Divisional Commissioner, by an order dated 26-2-1970 dismissed the said appeal, thus confirming the Order of the Assistant Commissioner. The matter was taken up before the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal, Bangalore, by the first respondent by means of a revision petition, bearing No. 37/70 (MVP). The said Tribunal accepted the plea of the first respondent and set aside the orders of the authorities below and remanded the case for a fresh disposal. Aggrieved by that order, the petitioner panchayat has approached this Court.
4. In our opinion, this petition has to fail on a short ground that the petitioner panchayat is not represented by its Secretary, who is the authority competent to institute suits and conduct proceedings on its behalf as provided under Rule 16 of the Mysore Panchayats Secretaries' Powers and Duties Rules, 1961. Rule 16 of the said Rules reads thus:--
'The Secretary shall have power to file complaints and suits on behalf of the Panchayat and to conduct the proceedings on its behalf under the orders of the Panchayat.'
5. It is plain from the above Rulethat the Secretary would be competent to file complaints and suits on behalf of the Panchayat and conduct the proceedings in regard to them as per the orders of the Panchayat.
6. It is contended by Sri K.A. Swami, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner panchayat, that the Panchayat by a Resolution had empowered the Chairman to institute the present proceedings. It is further submitted that the present petition being one under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, the said Rules would be inapplicable. In any event, he submitted, that the Chairman himself being a Member of the Panchayat could maintain the petition, as he would be in the position of an aggrieved party. We are unable to accept these contentions of Sri Swami.
7. The affidavit filed in support of the petition does not specifically refer to any resolution of the Panchayat empowering the Chairman to present the Writ Petition. Assuming that there is such a resolution, in our view, even then it would be incompetent for the Chairman to institute the proceedings in the face of the express provision made under Rule 16 of the aforesaid Rules. We shall advert again to this aspect a little later.
8. The other contention that any member could present an application under Section 11 (2) (ii) of the Act cannot also be accepted. The grievance, if any, in regard to the vacancy caused by the disqualification of a Member, in our opinion is primarily that of the Panchayat. There is nothing shown to us either in the Act or the Rules enabling the presentation of a Writ Petition by any of the Members of the Panchayat. Further, in this instant case, the Chairman is not the petitioner suing in his personal capacity.
9. In regard to the scope of Rule 16 of the aforesaid Rules, our attention has been invited to the decision of the Supreme Court in K. Brahma Suriah v. Laxminarayana, : 1970CriLJ845 . It was also a case arising under the present Act. In that case, a private complaint was filed against the appellants herein, who were the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of a Village Panchayat in Mysore, alleging that they had offered bids at an auction held by the Village Panchayat and one of them, had purchased a Radio belonging to the said Panchayat. According to Section 220 of the Act, no member of a Panchayat or of a Taluk Board, among others, shall directly or indirectly bid for or acquire interest in any property put up for auction. In view of the said provision, the appellants therein were found guilty and were sentenced. It was contended that the complaint was incompetent in view of the provisions of Rule 16 of the said Rules, This Court (High Court) was of the view that that Rule did not preclude persons other than the Secretary from filing the complaint but it only barred the complaint made by others on behalf of the Panchayat. On appeal to the Supreme Court, in the case referred toabove, the Court observed thus (in para 4 at p. 818).
'.....What has to be seen whethera private person or an individual could file a complaint. In the presence of Rule 16 and for the reasons given in Criminal Appeal No. 145 of 1965, : 1968CriLJ1510 , we are of the opinion that it was the Secretary of the Panchayat who alone was competent to file the complaint. It must be remembered that it would be the Panchayat that would be largely interested in taking action against any of its members and employees for the contravention of Section 220. The Secretary would, therefore, be entitled to file a complaint on behalf of the Panchayat. The difficulty felt by the High Court that a Secretary who is subordinate to the Chairman may find it embarrassing to file a complaint against him can hardly be accepted as serious hurdle in the way of coming to the conclusion at which we have arrived. The Secretary has to act on behalf of the Panchayat and it is the Panchayat that would be vitally interested in preventing and slopping any contravention of provisions like Section 220 of the Act. The Secretary acts on behalf of the Panchayat and the question of his subordination to any of its office-bearers is of no consequence.'
10. We are of the opinion that the above interpretation of Rule 16 of the aforesaid Rules, would be equally applicable to cases of suits and other civil proceedings of a like nature and the fact that it was rendered by the Supreme Court in the context of a criminal proceeding, would not make any difference as to its applicability to such suits and civil proceedings.
11. We hold, therefore, that the Secretary of a Panchayat alone is competent to institute and conduct suits and civil proceedings on behalf of a Panchayat as enjoined by Rule 16 of the Rules.
12. We are not unmindful of the fact that we are concerned herein with a Writ Petition and that the said Rule 16 makes no specific reference to any such proceedings. But it is well settled that a Writ Proceeding, such as the one with which we are concerned in the instant case, can fairly be characterised as a Civil Proceeding which is on a par with a Civil Suit. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the present Writ Petition would not be maintainable for the simple reasons that it has not been preferred by the Secretary of the Panchayat acting for and on behalf of such Panchayat.
13. We should like also to observe that no provision, in the Act or the Rules,has been brought to our notice whereby institution of suits or similar proceedings by a Chairman of a Panchayat has been prescribed as one of the duties, powers or functions of a Chairman of a Group Panchayat.
For this reason also the present petition cannot be maintained in its present form.
14. For the above reasons, the petition fails, and is dismissed, but without costs.