1. The short but important question that arises for decision in these two writ petitions is whether the Respondent, Election Officer, was right in declining to announce in the Meeting that the two Petitioners had been respectively elected uncontested as Chairman and Vice-Chairman on the ground that there was no quorum for that meeting.
2. It is undisputed that the Respondent called a meeting of the panchayat at 1 P.M. on November 23, 1968 in the office of the Kora Group Panchayat for election to the Offices of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman. The petitioner in Writ Petition No. 4221 filed his nomination paper for the office of the Chairman while the other petitioner filed his nomination paper for the office of the Vice-Chairman of the Panchayat. There were no other contestants for any of these Offices. The meeting commenced at 1 P.M. as scheduled and even though the members of the Panchayat that had assembled for the meeting waited till 3 P.M. there was no quorum. The meeting was accordingly adjourned to 29th November 1968 for conduct of the election without declaring that the two petitioners had been elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman without contest. It is the contention of the Petitioners that the Respondent was under a legal duty to declare them as elected to the Offices of the Chairman and Vice Chairman as there was no contest and the question of quorum did not arise.
3. The Election Officer has filed his counter-affidavits to the two petitions. He has stated that as only six members attended the meeting at 1 P.M. on November 23, 1968 and as there was no quorum as contemplated under Section 37 of the Mysore Village Panchayats and Local Boards Act 1959 (hereinafter called 'the Act') he could not make any declaration of the result. He has further stated that even on the adjourned date of November 28, 1968, there was no quorum and he could not further complete the proceedings.
4. Mr. Rama Jois, appearing for the petitioners, has contended that the Election Officer had erred in holding that quorum as required by Section 37 of the Act was necessary for the meeting even though there was no contest for the election to the Offices of the Chairman and Vice Chairman. According to him, the Mysore Village Panchayats (Election of Chairman and Vice Chairman) Rules 1959 (hereinafter called 'the Rules') had been framed for regulating election of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman to the village Panchayats and none of the Rules prescribed a quorum for declaring the results even in the absence of a contest.
5. In order to assess the merits of this contention it is necessary to refer to the relevant provisions of the Act and the Rules. Section 27 of the Act provides for the election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman. It lays down that every Panchayat shall choose 2 members of the Panchayat to be respectively Chairman and Vice-Chairman thereof as soon as may be after the offices or the office has become vacant. Section 30(1) reads:
'........On the establishment of a panchayat for the first time under this Act, or on its reconstitution or establishment under Section 92 or on its reconstitution on the expiry of the term of the members of a panchayats, a meeting shall be called within four weeks from the date of commencement of the term of office of the members of the Panchayat under Section 25 by the Prescribed Officer who shall himself preside over the meeting, but shall have no right to vote, and the meeting shall then proceed to elect the Chairman. In the case of an equality of votes the result of the election of the Chairman shall be decided by lot to be drawn by the Officer presiding at the meeting in such a manner as he may determine.'
It is unnecessary to refer to sub-section (2) which provides for the decision of any dispute relating to the validity of the election. It is manifest from Section 30(1) that (i) a meeting is to be called for the election of Chairman within four weeks from the date of commencement of the term of office of the members of the panchayat; (ii) the meeting has to be called by the Officer prescribed under the Rules; (iii) such Officer himself shall preside over the meeting ; and (iv) then the meeting shall proceed to elect the Chairman. In effect the Section provides that the process of election shall commence with the meeting called for the purpose and presided over by the Election Officer. Section 37 which provides for 'Quorum and Procedure' enjoins that 'the quorum for a meeting of the Panchayat shall be one-half of the total number of members.........' and that 'if the quorum is not complete at a meeting, the presiding authority shall adjourn the meeting to such time on the following day or some future date as he may fix.' From these sections it can be safely inferred that a meeting of the Village Panchayat called under the provisions of the Act requires quorum of one half of the total number of members and the Presiding Officer has no option but to adjourn the meeting if the quorum is not complete at such meeting.
6. The contention of the learned Advocate for the petitioners is that the Rules form an exhaustive code as regards the election of the Chairman or the Vice Chairman. The relevant rules which have bearing on the point at issue are Rules, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. Rule 4 requires the Election Officer to fix date and hour of the meeting to be called for the purpose of electing Chairman or the Vice Chairman or both, within the period fixed in sub-s. (1) of Section 30. The meeting has to be fixed either in the office of the Panchayat or in any other place within the jurisdiction of the Panchayat as may be decided upon by the Election Officer for the purpose. There has to be a notice of 7 clear days previous to the date of the meeting. Rule 5 enables a member of the Panchayat to nominate any other member as a candidate for election as Chairman or Vice Chairman and deliver the nomination paper in that behalf signed by himself as proposer and by another member as seconder to the Election Officer at least 2 hours 'before the hour fixed for the meeting'. Rule 7 is significant on the point at issue and may therefore be quoted. It reads thus:
'7. At the meeting called for under Rule 4, the Election Officer shall scrutinise the nomination papers delivered to him under Rule 5. He shall, thereafter, read out the names of the members, who, in his opinion, have been duly nominated to the office of the Chairman or the Vice Chairman as the case may be, together with the names of their proposers and seconders. And if he rejects any nomination paper, he shall record the reason thereof, in writing.'
Rule 8 provides that any candidate may withdraw his candidature by giving notice in writing to the Election Officer within one hour after the names of the members duly nominated are read out under Rule 7. Rule 9 and 10 which refer to the crucial stage of the election read thus:
'9. The Election Officer shall then notify at the Panchayat Office or at any place in which the meeting for election is held, names of all candidates validly nominated as candidates for the office of the Chairman or the Vice Chairman as the case may be, and then proceed to conduct the election:--'
'10. The following procedure shall be adopted in conducting the election:
(a) If only one candidate has been validly nominated as candidate for the office of the Chairman or the Vice Chairman, he shall be declared to have been elected as Chairman or Vice-Chairman as the case may be.
(b) If more than one candidate have been validly nominated as candidates for the office of the Chairman or the Vice-Chairman, votes of members present shall be taken by ballot.'
It follows from the provisions contained in these Rules that the process of election has to be commenced at the meeting called for the purpose under Rule 4 and all the stages that are contemplated by the Rules have to be gone through only at the meeting. Sub-Rules (a) and (b) of Rule 10 also indicate that where only one candidate has been validly nominated for the office of the Chairman or the Vice-Chairman, a declaration has to be made at the meeting itself. If there are more candidates than one, validly nominated for the office of the Chairman or Vice Chairman, the votes of the members present shall be taken by ballot by the Presiding Officer. The meeting contemplated for the various stages provided for under these Rules and Sub-Rules to be gone through is the meeting called for the purpose under Rule 4. The meeting that is called for the scrutiny of the nomination paper is the same meeting in which the declaration has to be made under sub-rule (a) of Rule 10 or voting by the members present under Sub-Rule (b) of Rule 10.
7. There is no doubt that these Rules do not speak of quorum at any stage of the meeting called for the election. It is well-established canon of construction that the Rules have to be read subject to the provisions contained in the Act under which they are framed and in regard to matters on which the Rules are silent, provisions of the Act have to be looked into. As already mentioned Section 30 of the Act provides for the election of the Chairman or Vice Chairman while Section 37 provides for quorum and procedure at every meeting called under the Act. If the Rules and the relative provisions of the Act are read together, we are of the opinion that there cannot be a valid meeting of the Panchayat unless there is quorum as provided by Section 37 of the Act. Section 37 of the Act applies to all meetings, and there are no words in it to exclude a meeting called for the election of the Chairman or Vice Chairman from its operation. It applies to every meeting of the Panchayat, irrespective of the nature of the business for transaction of which it is called. To hold that no quorum is necessary at the stage of the scrutiny of the nomination papers or at the time of declaration of the result of an election to the office of the Chairman or of Vice Chairman when there is no contest, would result in abridgement of Section 37 and the Rules quoted above. As already indicated Rules 7 to 10 provide for only one meeting to go through the entire process of the election commencing from the scrutiny of the nomination papers till the declaration of the result of the election even if there is contest. Obviously the meeting contemplated by the Rules is the same meeting as is contemplated by Section 30 of the Act for the election of Chairman or Vice Chairman. In that event, the meeting must be governed by Section 37 of the Act. Any other view would contravene the provisions of the Act.
8. It is well settled that at common law, a majority of the duly elected members of a local council or body constitute a quorum, for any meeting, unless there is a provision to the contrary in the Act or statute creating such body or council. Acts done or business transacted at a meeting without the prescribed quorum would be invalid.
9. For these reasons, we hold that the action of the Election Officer in adjourning the meeting for want of quorum without declaring the result is valid. The petitions are accordingly dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/- in one set.
10. Petitions dismissed.