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M. Kista Reddy and ors. Vs. Collector, Karimnagar Panchayat Wing and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition Nos. 161, 250, 628 and 1854 of 1965, 366, 1231, 1278 and 1385 of 1966 and 1868 and 326
Judge
Reported inAIR1970AP180
ActsAndhra Pradesh Gram Panchayata Act, 1964 - Sections 2(5), 16 to 25, 25(2), 50, 50(4) and 232; Constitution of India - Articles 14, 21 and 226
AppellantM. Kista Reddy and ors.
RespondentCollector, Karimnagar Panchayat Wing and ors.
Appellant AdvocateP.A. Choudary, ;T.S. Narasinga Rao, ;E. Subrahmanyam, ;A. Reghuvir, ;Y. Satyanarayana, ;D.V. Reddipantulu, ;A. Venkatramana, ;B.P. Jeevan Reddy, ;V. Madhava Reddy and ;P. Shivshanker, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader, ;T. Laxmaiah, ;T. Dhanurbahanudu, ;S. Venkateswara Rao, ;A. Narasimha Rao, ;G. Haridhatha Reddy and ;K. Narasimham, Advs.
Excerpt:
constitution - failure to hold meetings - sections 2 (5), 16 to 25, 25 (2), 50, 50 (4) and 232 of andhra pradesh gram panchayat act, 1964 and articles 14, 21 and 226 of constitution of india - petitioner ceased to be 'sarpanch' as laid down under section 25 (2) as he failed to hold even a single meeting of gram panchayat in consecutive period of three months - writ petition filed calling for records relating to proceedings of collectors under which intimation of cessation of office had been given to them - government by its memorandum expressed view that 'sarpanch' not holding meetings - cessation takes place automatically on failure to hold panchayat meetings - held, writ not maintainable. - - they were intimated bay their respective district collectors, that they had ceased to be.....sambasiva rao, j. 1. common questions arise in all these writ petitions and, therefore, they may be conveniently disposed of together. 2. the petitioners were sarpanchas of gram panchayats. they were intimated bay their respective district collectors, that they had ceased to be sarpanchas, as laid down under section 25 (2) of the andhra pradesh gram panchayats act, (hereinafter called the act), as they had failed to hold even a single meeting of the gram panchayat in a consecutive period of three months. the petitioners, thereupon, filed the writ petitions, seeking writs in the nature of certiorari, calling for the records relating to or connected with the proceedings of the collectors, under which the intimation of cessation of office had been given to them and to quash the same. 3. most.....
Judgment:

Sambasiva Rao, J.

1. Common questions arise in all these writ petitions and, therefore, they may be conveniently disposed of together.

2. The petitioners were Sarpanchas of Gram Panchayats. They were intimated bay their respective District Collectors, that they had ceased to be Sarpanchas, as laid down under Section 25 (2) of the Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayats Act, (hereinafter called the Act), as they had failed to hold even a single meeting of the Gram Panchayat in a consecutive period of three months. The petitioners, thereupon, filed the writ petitions, seeking writs in the nature of certiorari, calling for the records relating to or connected with the proceedings of the Collectors, under which the intimation of cessation of office had been given to them and to quash the same.

3. Most of these pettions came up before Seshachalpati J. The learned Judge referred them to a Division Bench By his order dated 29th September, 1967. There were, however, two earlier decisions of Gopal Rao Ekbote J., in W. P. No. 274 of 1966 and W. p. |No. 331 of 1966. The latter case was reported in G. Venktesam v. The Collector, Medak, 919660 2 Andh Wr 249 , (1969 Lab IC 343). In those two cases also, the Sarpanchas moved this Court for the issuance of a writ under Art. 226 of the Constitution, quashing the notice issued to them by the Collectors informing them that they had ceased to be Sarpanchas under Section 25 (2) of the Act. The learned Judge dismissed the petitions holding that--

'The petitioner cannot come to this Court without approaching the Commissioner under Section 50 and explaining to him as to how and why he has not ceased to be the Sarpanch and there is no reason to feel that the Commissioner will not give him hearing which he is obliged to give and pass a reasoned order as required under sub-sec (30 of Section 50 of the Act.

It is now firmly settled that whenever the Act provides special remedies, the High Court would be slow in encouraging the Petitioners to directly approach this ?Court Under Art. 226 of the Constitution without exhausting the remedies available under the special act.'

4. The order in W. p. No. 274 of 1966 (Andh Pra) was carried in appeal before a Division Bench of this Court in W. A. No. 36 of 1966 (Andh Pra ) and the Division Bench consisting of Manohar pershad, C. J., and sharfudding Ahmed J., dismissed thae appeal and upheld the view of Gopalrao Ekbote J., holding that Section 50 of the Act would apply to the case and that it was always open to the appellant toapproach the authorities concerned, wo are bound togive him a reasonable opportunity for explanatlion and that he could also file an appeal under clause (4) of section 50 of the Act.

5. Thus, both the decisions of the learned single Judge as well as the decision of the Division bench of this Court proceeded on the assumption that Section 50 of the Act would apply to the cessation of the office of the Sarpanch under Section 25 (2) and, therefore, the procedure laid down by Section 50 should be followed in such cases of cessation. When these petitions came up before Seshachalpati J., the counsel for the petitioners argued that the above view required reconsideration. They argued that Section 25 and Section 50 of the Act deal with different situations and Section 50 has no application to cases arising under Sec. 25 (2). They, further, questioned the validity of sec. 25 of the Act also. Finding considerable force in these contentions, Seshachalapati J., referred the cases to a Division Bench.'

6. All these petitions accordingly came up before a Division Bench. The Bench however, felt that, in view of the important questions that are raised in these petitions, they shoud be herd by a Full Bench. The petitions have thus come up before us.

7. The first contention that was put forward Bofore us is, that Section 25 (2) and Section 50 of the Act deal with different situations and that Section 50 has no application in a case of cessation of office which occurs under Section 25 (2). If Section 50 has no application, the remedies provided by that Section are not available to the petitioners. The remedy of appeal to the Government, afforded by sub-section (4) of Section 50, is not also open to the petition wers. Section 25 (2) is a self-wielding provision and the provisions of Section 50 cannot be read into the provisions of Section 25 (2) Therefore, their petitions cannot be rejected, as they were by Gopalrao Ekbote, J., and the Division Bench of this Court, on the ground that they could not approach this Court with a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, without availing themselves of the remedies open to them including an appeal of the Government under S. 50.

8. The learned Government Pleader, appearing for the respondents agreed with the contention of the petitioners to the extent that Section 50 has no application. In fact it was stated in the counter affidavit filed in W. p. No. 366 of 1966 that---

'I submit that reference to Section 50 has no relevancy. section 25 is quite different from Section 50 of the Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayats Act, 1964. there is no interrelation between the above said two sections. Only in case of removal of sarpanchas under Section 50 of the said Act, opportunities like show cause notice, appeal etc., are available. But this is statutory disqualification under Section 25 (2) of the Act under which no procedure for enquiry is laid down.'

9. Thus, the petitioners and the respondents are one, in contending that Section 50 is not attracted t a case under Section 25 (20 and that, therefore, the view taken by the learned single Judge and the Division Bench should be reconsidered.

10. It would be useful in this context if the relevant provisions of sec. 25 and 50 of the Act are noticed. Section 25 of the Act bears the captions 'Powers and Functions for the Sarpanch'. Sub-Section 91) requires him to make arrangements for the election of the Upa-Sarpanch and to converted the meetings of the Gram Panchayat, and empowers him to have full access to the records of the Gram Panchayat, to exercise administrative control over the executive officer and to exercise all the powers and perform all the functions conferred on him by the Act and the Rules. The Sub-Section (20 lays down that--

'It shall be the duty of the Sarpanch or the person for the time being exercising the powers and performing the functions of the Sarpanch to convene the meetings of the Gram Panchayat so that at east one meeting of the Gram Panchayat is held in every money. If the Sarpanch or such person fails to discharge that duty with the result that no meeting is held in a consecutive period of three months, he shall, with effect from the date of expiration of period of three months aforesaid cease to be the Sarpanch, or as the case may be, cease to exercise the powers and perform the functions of a Sarpanch, unless such cessation has otherwise occurred before that date, and for a period of one year from such date, he shall not be eligible to be elected as Sarpanch or to exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Sarpanch.'

The context in which this section occurs, is also worthy of note. Upto section 15, the Act deals with constitution of Panchayats, for Villages, their total strength, division of the Panchayats into constituencies, reservation of seats for women and members of the schedule castes, election of members, election of Sarpanchas and Upa Sarpanchas and preparation, publication and correction of electoral rolls. From Section 16 onwards, the Act lays down the qualifications and disqualifications of voters, candidates and members. Section 20 provides for restoration of members to office in certain cases and Sec. 22 prescribes the authority to decide questions of disqualifications of members. Section 23 deal with resignation of a member, upa Sarpanch or Sarpanch. Then Section 24 provides for cessatin of office of Sarpanch and Upa Sarpanch. It declares that the Sarpanch shall cease to hold office as Sarpanch or Upa Sarpanch on his ceasing to be a member of the Panchayat Samithi under Provisio A to Sec. 4 (1) (I0 of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Smithies and Zilla Parishads Act, 1959, or on the expiry of his term of office as member of the Gram Panchayat, or o his otherwise ceasing to be such member; or on his elections President of the Panchayat Smith.

Coming next, Section 25 not only prescribes the powers and functions of the Sarpanch, in sub-section (1), but also lays down in sub-section (2) that he would cease to be the Sarpanch, if the fails to hold a meeting of the Gram Panchayat in a consecutive period of three months. under both sections 24 and 15, the Sarpanch ceases of hold office. But, there is no penalty attached to cessation under Section 24. On the other hand, for the cessation which occurs under Section 25 92) there is a penalty attached, Viz., for a period of one year form such cessation, the person , who ceases to be the Sarpanch is not eligible to be elected as Sarpanch or exercise the powers and functions of the Sarpanch. The reason for this distinction between the two cessations is obvious. While the cessation under Section 25 (2) is incurred on account of failure of the Sarpanch to discharge statutory duties, it is not so in the case of cessation under Section 24. That cessation does not occur on account of any failure of discharge a duty. The Constituion has proclaimed, under art. 40, as one of its directive principles, that the State shall take steps to organise Village Panchayat to enable them to function as units of self-Government. It is to carry out this object the Gram Panchayat Act and similar Acts have been enacted. The concern and the anxiety of the legislature to maintain and sustain the principles of local self-Government is writ large throughout the scheme for the Act.

Therefore, the Sarpanch, as the head of the Gram Panchayat, is enjoined to hold at least one meeting of the Gram Panchayat in every month. Otherwise, the very purpose and object o of Panchayat administration would be defeated. it is to preserve this spirit of Panchayat Administration, that the penalty is imposed on Sarpanchas, who fail to maintain its spirit and to hodl at least one meeting in a consecutive period of three months. Thus, the penalty that is imposed on an erring Sarpanch under Section 25 (2), is not only understandable but appears to be fully warranted in the circumstances.

11. Section 50 in its turn provides for removal of Sarpanch, Upa Sarpanch or members and it reads as follows:

(1) 'The Commissioner may, by notification and with effect from a date to be specified therein, remove any Sarpanch or Upa-Sarpanch who, in his opinion, wilfully omits or refuses to carry out or disobeys the provisions of this Act or an rules, bye-laws, regulations or lawful orders issued thereunder, or abuses the powers vested in him.

(2) The Commissioner may, by notification and with effect from a date to be specified therein, remove any member, who in his opinion, is guilty of any misconduct in exercising or purporting to exercise the rights conferred or performing or purporting to perform the functions imposed by or under this Act.

(3) The Commissioner shall, when he proposes to take action under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2), give the Sarpanch, Upa-Sarpanch or member concerned an opportunity for explanation and the notification issued shall contain a statement of the reasons for the action taken.

(4) Any person aggrieved by an order in a notification issued under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) may, within thirty days from the date of publication of such notification prefer an appeal to the Government and the Government may, pending a decision on such appeal, postpone the date specified in such notification; and shall, in case the appeal is allowed, by order, cancel such notification

(5) If any notification issued under sub-section (1) or sub-section 92), is cancelled under sub-section (4), the person, if any, elected as Sarpanch, Upa Sarpacnh or member between the date of such notification and the date of cancellation thereof, shall cease to hold the office to which he is so elected and the person in respect of whom such notification form the date of cancellation of such notification.

(6) Any person in respect of whom a notifications has been issued under sub-section (1) of sub-section (2) removing him fro office or Sarpanch, Upa Sarpanch or ember shall, unless the notification is cancelled under sub-section (4), be ineligible for election as Sarpanch or Upa-Sarpanch or for election as member or form holding any of those offices for a period of three years from the date from which his removal from office has taken effect.'

It thus, provides for removal of Sarpanch or Upa Sarpanch, if they willfully omit or refuse to carry out the provisions of the Act or the rules made thereunder, or abuse the powers vested in them and for the removal of any member who is guilty of any misconduct. It is not mere omission or refusal to carry out the provisions of the Act that could be a ground for removal of a Sarpanch or Upa -Sarpanch. The should be a willful omission or refusal on the part of the delinquent office-bearer. It is to be noted that, for cessation of office occurring under Section 25 (20, the failure to hold the meetings of the Gram Panchayat need not be willful. There is no such requirement in that provision. Fro whatever reason it has happened, it is sufficient to attract the mischief of Section 25 (20, if, even a single meeting is not held in a consecutive period of three months. That is why the person, who ceases to be the Sarpanch, is visited with the prescribed penalty for one year. On the other hand, obviously because his acts of omission and commission are wilful, the Sarpanch removed under Section 50, is made, under sub-section (6), ineligible for election as Sarpacnh or Upa-Sarpanch, or even for an election as member or holding any of those offices, for a period of three years form the date of his removal. Thus Section 50 imposes a heavier penalty than sec. 25 (2), for the reason that the omission or refusal there is wilful.

12. There is another distinction between the tow provisions. Section 25 lays down that the Sarpanch cases to hold office, with effect from the date of expiration of the period of three months, during which no meeting is held. It does not provide for nay order to be made to that effect. Without the need of any authority making any order or notification, a Sarpanch ceases to be so, automatically, with effect form the date of the expiration of the period of three months. What the Collector had informed to these petitioners, under the impugned notices is only that they had ceased to be Sarpanchas. It is only a mere and simple intimation of an event, which had occurred under the provisions of the Statute. The petitioners have not ceased to be Sarpanchas, on account of this notice issued by the Collector, but they automatically incurred the cessation, by failure to hold a meeting in a consecutive period of three months, on the expiration of that period of three months.

13. That cessation automatically occurs under such circumstances without the aid of any order of any other authority, is well established. In Mariya Pillai v. Muthuvelu, Air 1926 Mad 877, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court construing Sec. 50 (1) (h) and (4) of the Madras Local Boards Act, 1920 held that---

'The question whether the President of the Board has or has not reported the failure of the member to attend the meeting of the Board, cannot affect the question whether the member had or had not ceased to be a member of the Board.'

Irrespective of the fact whether the President reported the dame or not, a member, who failed to attend the meetings of the Board, was held to have automatically ceased to be so.

14. In Thiruppuliswamy v. Manickam, 91954) 2 Mad LJ 680, Rajamannnar, C. J. considering the scope of Section 50 (1) and Section 51 of the Madras District Municipalities Act of 1920, expressed the view that---

'A Councilor ceased automatically to hold office if he becomes disqualified in one or other of the ways mentioned in clauses (a) to (I) of Section 50 (1) of the Madras District Municipalities Act. No doubt, in case of dispute, Section 51 provides for recourse to the District Judge. but it is not as a result of the order of the District Judge that a councilor ceases to hold his office. The councilor ceases to hold office because of the supervening disqualification even if no application is filed or an application is filed late.'

15. A Division Bench of the same Court reiterated a similar view in Kuppuswami v. Corporation of Madras, 91964) 2 Mad LJ 380. It was a case where a Councilor of the Madras City Municipal Corporation sustained loss of his office by reason of his non attendance at the meetings of the Council for three consecutive months. Following the two decisions referred to above, the learned Judges observed--

'It is also clear from the terms of the section extracted above that no formal act of any authority is necessary to put an end to the membership of a Councilor who had absented himself for three consecutive months from the date when he last attended a meeting of the Council. The cessation of membership is automatic on such absence.

16. This Court also took the same view as the Madras High Court in Ramachary v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1964) 2 Andh WR 875. There, the President of a Panchayat Samithi was informed that he had ceased to be the President in view of his failure to hold meetings, as required under sec. 22 (7) of the Panchayat Samithis and Zilla Parishads Act. Gopalrao Ekbote J., held that, once the President failed to hold the meeting as required bylaw, he automatically incurs the disqualification and that it is not necessary for any officer to pass an order declaring that he is disqualified. If he has failed to hold the meeting as directed under Section 22 (7), that provision of law comes immediately into operation and the President gets disqualified automatically.

17. Finally, the Supreme Court itself, considered this point in National Engineering Industries Ltd. v. Hanuman : (1967)IILLJ883SC . The Supreme Court was considering, in an Industrial dispute, the scope of the Standing Order which provided that a workman would lose his lien on his appointment, if he does not join duty within 8 days of the expiry of his leave. Wanchoo C. J/. speaking for the Court held, that the standing order obviously meant that the services of the workman were automatically terminated on the happening of the contingency contemplated by the Standing Order and that he could not be said to continue in service thereafter.

18. It is thus beyond doubt that the cessation of office under Section 25 (2) is automatic. But, such is not the case under Section 50. It provides for removal by the Commissioner. Before doing so, the Commissioner must give the concerned person an opportunity for explanation. After that explanation is considered, and if he is not satisfied with it, then only the order of removal will be passed. It is only after the order is passed, the removal from office takes effect, Against such an order, an aggrieved person can prefer an appeal to the Government under sub-section (4) of Sec. 50 and the Government is empowered to postpone the date of removal during the pendency of the appeal. This manner and procedure of removal is obviously far different, from the automatic cessation of office contemplated by Sec. 25 (2).

19. Under Section 25 (2) cessation takes place, upso facto, on the failure of a Sarpanch to hold at least one meeting in a consecutive period of three months, on the date of expiry of the period of three months. No formal order and no enquiry proceedings that cessation, is contemplated by Section 25 (2). That is obviously because, generally speaking, there is nothing to be enquired into, as to whether the meetings of the Gram Panchayat have been held or not. It is essentially a matter of record. Section 38 requires, that the minutes of the proceedings shall be forwarded by the Sarpanch within three days of the date of the meeting of the Gram Panchayat, to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samithi. If it happens, that no meeting is held in three months, the Sarpanch ceases to hold the office, without anybody passing an order to that effect. On the other hand, the removal under Section 50 is to be made by an authority constituted under the Act, viz., the Commissioner. In the first instance, he must come to an opinion that a particular Sarpanch or Pa-Sarpanch has wilfully omitted or refused to carry out or disobeyed the provisions f the Act or he has abused the powers vested in him. once he comes to such an opinion he has to give a notice and opportunity to the delinquent, for explanation. That explanation must be considered, and if it is not satisfactory and ultimately the Commissioner decides upon the removal of the delinquent, he should issue a notification directing removal, which shall contain a statement of the reasons for the action taken. And, there is a further remedy for the delinquent, by way of an appeal to the Government. All this procedure is provided by sec, 50 obviously because an authority is constituted to remove delinquent office bearers and members. That authority is constituted as a quasi-judicial one. Therefore, the order passed under Section 50 is a quasi-judicial order, as distinct from a purely administrative event, that takes place under section 25 (2).

20. Even in cases of cessation of office under Section 25 (2), it is conceivable that there any be instances, where doubts might arise, whether meetings were really held or not, within a period of three months and whether cessation had actually taken effect. Even in such cases, even though cessation is an administrative event, it does not absolve the concerned authorities from observing ordinary rules of fair play. If an affected Sarpancy seeks an opportunity, to satisfy the Collector that he has a in fact held a meeting within three months it is necessary, according to the ordinary rules of fair play, to give him that opportunity. But such a position is altogether different from the carefully formulated procedure prescribed by Sec. 50, which involves issuance of notice and affording an opportunity for explanation, to the delinquent, and then passing an order stating the reasons. a vital difference leis in the manner and the mode of the two procedures. Against an order of removal, an appeal leis to the Government under Section 50 (4) of the Act. Though there is no specific provision under Section 25 (2) enabling the aggrieved person to carry the matter in appeal, Section 232 of the Act provides for a revision to the Government. As we have already said, there is no formal order needed to effect the cessation of an erring Sarpanch. But, the Collector as the appointed authority issues an intimation, as it has been done in all the cases before us, informing the Sarpenach the he has ceased hold that office. If the Sarpanch feels that there is no cessation, he can seek an opportunity before the Collector, to explain his position, as required by the Rules of fair play. If he still feels aggrieve by the refusal of the Collector to give him an opportunity or by his subsequent decision, he can prefer a revision before the Government under Section 232.

21. It is obvious that such a revision lies to the Government, because Section 232 provides that--

'(1) The Government may, in their discretion at any time, either suo motu or on application, call for and examine the record of any order passed or proceedings recorded under the provisions of this Act by-

(a) the Commissioner or the District Collector or any officer or person authorised by the Commissioner or the District Collector under sub-section (2) of Section 231; or

(b) any authority, officer or person authorised by the Government under sub-sec. (1) of that section or any person empowered by them under sub-section (3) of that section; or

(c) any other authority officer or person, for the purpose of satisfying themselves as to the legality or propriety of such order, or as to the regularity of such order in reference thereto as they think fit:

Provided that the Government shall not pass any order prejudicial to any party unless such party has had an opportunity of making a representation.

(2) The powers of the nature referred to in sub-section (1) may also be exercised by such authority, officer or person as may be empowered in this behalf by the Government.

(3) Nothing in this section shall apply to judicial proceedings of a nyaya panchayat or of a conciliation board under Chapter VII'.

There is no doubt, that revision lies to the Government not only against the orders, but also the proceedings recorded under the provisions of the Act by the Commissioner or the District Collector. An intimation or notice of cessation issued by the Collector, is certainly a proceeding under the Act. It is contended by the learned counsel for the petitioners that since there is no provision in the Act for issuing a notice of cessation under Section 25 (2), such notice cannot be a proceeding recorded under the provisions of the Act. We cannot accede to this contention. Cessation takes place under Section 25 (2). By notification III issued in G. O. Ms. No. 64, Panchayat Raj (PTS. VIII) Department dated 30th January, 1964, the Governor of Andhra Pradesh authorised the District Collectors, to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the Commissioner under the provisions of the said Act specified in the Schedule in regard to all Gram Panchayats situated in their respective jurisdictions. This notification is issued under the provisions of Section 2 (5) of the Act, which defines 'Commissioner' as meaning 'any officer who is authorised by the Government to exercise any of the powers or discharge any of the duties of the Commissioner under this Act'. Though Section 25 (2) is not one of the provisions included in the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued another order in Memorandum No. 3490/ Panchayats-1/64-2 dated 16-1-1965 to the following effect:-

'As per sub-section (2) of section 25 of the Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, if a Sarpanch of a Gram Panchayat fails to conduct at least one meeting within a consecutive period of three months he ceases to be the Sarpanch from the date of expiration of three months. By virtue of the above provision, the Sarpanch automatically ceases to be such and he will, therefore, be precluded to conduct any further business of the Panchayat after that date. According to sub-section (1) of Section 26 of the said Act, when the office of the Sarpanch is vacant, the Upa Sarpanch shall exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Sarpanch until a new Sarpanch is elected and assumes office. Some difficulty may arise for the simultaneous operation of these two may be desirous of continuing in the office even after incurring disqualification may not hand over charge to the Upa Sarpanch or they may even conceal the fact of their cessation.

We have already referred to Section 38, under which proceedings of the meetings of the Gram Panchayat shall be forwarded by the Sarpanch to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samithi within three days of the meeting. The Government in the aforesaid memorandum dated 16-1-1965, therefore, directed the Extension Officers and others to report to the Collector about the disqualification and cessation of office incurred by the defaulting Sarpanch and that thereupon the Collector of the cessation of his office. It is by virtue of this notification, as has already been sending intimations to the defaulting Sarpanchas, of the cessation of their office. The notification, as has already been stated, was issued by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh under Section 2 (5) of the Act. There is, therefore, no doubt, that this intimation issued by the Collector to the Sarpanch is a proceeding under the provisions of the Act, within the meaning of Section 232. There is, therefore, the remedy by was of a revision to a Sarpanch, who feels aggrieved in regard to the cessation of his office under Section 25 (2).

22. It was then contended by the learned counsel for the petitioners, that a revision under Section 232 of the Act is not available to the aggrieved person as a matter of right. Reliance was placed upon the decision of this Court in Thukivakam Gram Panchayat v. District Collector, Chitoor, (1968) 1 Andh WR 278. That decision says that Section 232 of the Gram Panchayat Act confers a discretion upon the State Government to interfere or not to do so, and the Government has discretionary power, either suo motu to call for records and examine the orders passed by the authorities specified in clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Section 232 (1) or can be moved to so call for and examine the records, on application by a person. The fact, that a person is given a right to move the Government under this section to call for records and examine them does not necessarily confer any right on him to have the orders reviewed. It is a method of drawing the attention of the revising authority to call for the records and examine them,. The revising authority may or may not call for the record. The learned counsel relied upon these observations and contended that there is no right in the aggrieved person to file a revision and the revising authority may or may not interfere with the impugned notice. But that is the same case with all revisions, including revisions under Section 115, Civil P. C. Even in regard to regular appeals, Order 41, Rule 11, Civil P. C. provides that---

'The appellate Court, after sending for the record if it thinks fit so to do, and after fixing a day for hearing the appellant or his pleader and hearing him accordingly if he appears on that day, may dismiss the appeal without sending notice to the Court from whose decree the appeal is preferred and without serving notice on the respondent or his pleader.

(2) If on the day fixed or any other day to which the hearing may be adjourned the appellant does not appear when the appeal is called on for hearing, the Court may make an order that the appeal be dismissed.'

By virtue of this provision, the appellate Court is given the discretion for sending for the records of the case. It may or may not call for the record and may or may not entertain the appeal. That depends upon its satisfaction as to the merits of the case. From that, it cannot be said that there is no appeal provided to the appellate Court and revision to the revising Court under the Civil P. C. We do not understand the decision in 1968-1 Andh WR 278 as laying down any different propositions. In fact, it laid down that---

'The fact that a person is given a right to move the Government under this section to call for records and examine them does not necessarily confer nay right on him to have the orders reviewed. It is a method of drawing the attention of the revising authority to call for the records and examine them. The revising authority may or may not call for the records. If it does not call for them it need not give reasons for not calling for the same or even for saying that it is satisfied that the order under revision requires no interference. But, where it finds that it is a fit case in which it should interfere with the order, it must give notice to the party concerned before passing any order.'

The principle behind the discretionary power conferred o the revising authority, is its satisfaction about the merits of the case. If is satisfaction about the merits of the case. If it is of the opinion that the revision petition before it has no merits, it rejects it in limn. If, on the other hand, it feels that it is a fit case in which it should interfere, it vies a notice to the party concerned before passing any order. That is the position in all revisions and in a large variety of appeals also. What al the Division Bench sought to lay down in that decision is, that no aggrieved person can claim, as a matter of right, that the impugned order or proceeding should be reviewed. It is, therefore, clear that there is a remedy available to the aggrieved Sarpanch, to prefer a revision under Sec. 232 of the Act, if he feels aggrieved by the cessation of his office.

23. Even so, it was argued that the Government exercising its revision powers under Section 232 cannot grant stay of the cessation f office pending the revision petition before it and, therefore, the remedy by way of revision is not adequate. This argument is unsustainabale in view of the clear provision made in clause (c) of Sec. 232 (1) that the revising authority can 'pass such order in reference thereto (the revision petition) as they think fit'. We have no doubt that this would include the power to pass interim orders pending revision petitions.

24. The above discussion shows that there is a clear distinction in the matter of procedure between Sec. 25 (2) and sec. 50.

25. The two provisions are also distinct form one another in the matter of penalty provided. Section 25 (2) provides that the person who ceases to be the Sarpanch will be ineligible to be elected as Sarpanch or to exercise the powers and functions of the Sarpanch, for a period of one year from the date of cessation. Section 50 levies heavier penalty, by bearing the removed Sarpanch to hold the office for a period of three years. If both the sections are intended by the Legislature to deal with the same situation, the different penalties provided by the two provisions cannot be reconciled and explained. It is, therefore, obvious that the two provisions are intended to deal with two different situations.

26. We have already noticed the context in which Section 25 occurs. Section 50 is, on the other hand, included in the context of the powers of inspection and supervision conferred on the officers of the Government over the administration of the Gram Panchayats. This sows that Section 50 is enacted to confer some special powers on the supervising authorities, so that they could effectively control and regulate the administration of the Gram Panchayat, in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the Rules made thereunder. That apart, there is another material circumstance which should be noted in this connection. The Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayats Act was enacted in the year 1964 and it is successor Act to the Madras Village Panchayats Act, 1950 (Act 10 of 1950), which was in force in the Andhra area of the State of Andhra pradesh, till the 1964 Act came into force. The power to remove a President or Vice-President of a panchayat was conferred on the Inspector under Section 47 of the 1950 Act. Sec. 47 provided for a similar procedure in removing the President as in the Person Act under Section 50. Thus, a similar provision existed in the previous Act also. But there was no provision in the Act of 1950 similar to Sect. 25 (2) of the present Act. If Section 25 (2) is intended to govern the same situation as Section 50, it is not necessary to introduce this now provision.

From this, it can be safely inferred that Section 25 is not supposed to meet the same situation as Section 50, Under the provisions for the Act or the rules and the bye-laws made there under, a large variety of duties are cast on the Sarpanch and powers conferred on him. If he wilfully commits acts of commission and omission in respect thereof, he becomes labile to be proceeded against under Section 50. For instance, his wilful refusal to forward the proceedings of the Gram Panchayat meetings to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samiti, as required under Section 38, is one of such situations. His failure to make arrangements for the election of the Upa-Sarpanch is another instance. His failure to exercise administrative control over the officers of the Panchayat for the purpose of implementation of the resolutions of the Gram Panchayat or any committee thereof is yet another instance. Also it may be, that a cessation arising under Section 25 (2) itself any, in some cases, lead to passing of an order, under section 50. Supposing a person who has ceased to be a Sarpanch under Section 25 (2) does not vacate his office despite the cessation and the notice issued to him by the Collector in this behalf, and is obdurate and persists in clinging on to the office of Sarpanch, then the Commissioner may start proceedings under Sec 50 against him for removal.

In the event a removal is ordered under Section 50, the removed person will incur the heavier penalty of being ineligible to the office for a period of three years. This will happen, not because he has ceased to be the Sarpanch under section 25 (2), but because a separate order o removal is passed under Sec. 50. In this connection, it must also be noticed that while the Collector is authorised by Memorandum No. 3490 dated 16-1-1965 to give intimation of cessation to the Sarpanch occurring under sec. 25 (2), it is the Secretary to the government, Panchayat Raj Department, who can take proceedings under Section 50 as per notification (1) contained in G. O. Ms. No. 64 dated 30 the January, 1964. Fro these reasons, we are unable to agree with the view expressed by Gopalrao Ekbote J., in W. P. no. 274 of 1966 (Andh. Pra) and (1966) 2 Andh WR 249 , =(1969) Lab IC 343) and by the Division Bench in W.A. No. 36 of 1966 (Andh. Pra.). We are firmly of the opinion that section 25 (2) and Section 50 deal with different situations and Section 50 and the procedure laid down thereunder, have no application to a case of cessation that occurs under Section 25 (2).

27. It was then urged by the learned counsel for the petitioners, that cessation under Section 25(2) could in any event occur only with continuing or future acts of failure to hold meetings. It has no application to past acts. This argument suffers from an obvious fallacy. It overlooks the obvious effect of Section 25 (2), that the cessation automatically occurs, on the failure of the Sarpanch to hold even a single meeting within a consecutive period of three months, with effect from the date of expiration of that three months' period. Whenever the failure to hold such a meeting takes place, cessation also automatically occurs. Whether it has happened in the past or whether it occurs in the present or whether it may occur in the future is immaterial. Since cessation is an automatic occurrence with the failure to hold meetings.

28. The decision of the Privy Council in Board of Trustees of the Maradana Mosque v. Mahmud, (1966) 2 WLR 921, relied on by the learned counsel in this behalf, renders no assistance to their argument. There, the Privy Council was construing the words 'is being so administered in contravention of any of the provisons of the Act'. In view of the clear wording of the section, the Privy Council held that the present tense it clear from the section and, therefore, it does not take in past events. Even in that case, the Privy Council took care to add that--

'This does not mean, of course, that a school may habitually misconduct itself and yet repeatedly save itself from any Order of the Minister by correcting its faults as soon as they are called to its attention. Such behavior might well bring it within the words 'is being administered'.

But, the language of Section 25 (2), as we have pointed out, is altogether different and lays down that cessation takes place, whenever the failure to hold meetings occurs. Therefore, this argument has no merits.

29. It was next argued that S. 25 (2) is unconstitutional, in as much as it is highly arbitrary and discriminatory and is, therefore, violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution. The learned counsel pointed out that, as there are no rules of guidance for enquiry, Section 25 (2) confers arbitrary and unbridled powers on the authority, to terminate the office of a Sarpanch. This argument is once again vitiated by the fallacy, based on the assumption, that the Collector, by his notice, terminators the office of the Sarpanch under Section 25 (2) . As we have pointed out more than once, no order of cessation is necessary under or contemplated to be passed by Section 25 (2). The cessation is automatic. The Collector only gives an intimation of such cessation. It is thus a statutory cessation. No powers in this behalf are conferred under this section on any authority. Therefore there is no question of any authority exercising arbitrary and unbridled power in this respect.

30. Absence of any provision for enquiry before cessation was pointed out as an indication of arbitrary nature of Section 25 (2). We see no substance in this contention. Whether any meeting has been held or not is a matter of fact, borne out by the record. Section 38 of the Act requires the Sarpanch to forward the proceedings of all the meetings of the Gram Panchayat, to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samiti, within three days from the date of the meeting. These proceedings will show, whether any meeting has been held or not. Generally speaking, there cannot be any conrovery about this matter. Therefore, there is no need for any enquiry. As we have stated earlier, if, in any individual case, a Sarpanch feels that the circumstances have been misunderstood and that, in fact, a meeting has been held under rules of fair play, he can seek an enquiry and bring it to the notice of the Collector. If he fails to satisfy the Collector, he can go, in revision, to the Government under Section 232. thus, there is no need for any separate enquiry, in cases contemplated by Section 25 (2), unless one is sought by the concerned person.

If an enquiry is sought, the District Collector cannot refuse it. As the Supreme Court held in Rahdhesya v. State of Madhya Pradesh, : [1959]1SCR1440 , 'Even in an administrative action, the State Government is not absolved from observing the ordinary rules of fair play. Even where administrative action is taken, it may be necessary to give an opportunity to a party to have his say before an order is passed. But that is quite different from the well-ordered procedure involving notice and opportunity of hearing necessarily to be followed before a quasi-judicial action open to a writ of certiorari can be taken. The difference lies in the manner and the mode of the two procedures'. If in any individual case, such ordinary rules of fair play are not observed, the affected person any go to the government in revision and if he fails there, he can come to this Court in an application under Art. 226 of the Constitution. But, this does not affect the validity of section 25 (2), o the ground that it does not provide for an elaborate enquiry.

31. It was next urged that the provisions of Section 25 (2) are, in any event, highly discriminatory. The argument is, that, according to Section 25 (2), a Sarpanch not only ceases to be the Sarpanch but also becomes ineligible to be elected as Sarpanch, for a period of one year, while in similar cases, provided by sec. 17 to 20, disqualified members merely cease to hold their offices. Thus, the augment runs that the Sarpanch is made to incur special disadvantages like the penalty under Section 25 (2), while members merely cease to hold their office, under the other provisions. Before we examine the actual merits of this contention, we will first state the law on the question of discrimination as being violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has, time and again, considered this question, and the law on this aspect of the matter is firmly settled and established. In Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, : [1959]1SCR279 , S. R. Das, C. J., speaking for the Court held that--

'It is now well established that while Art. 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification tow conditions must be fulfilled. Namely, (I) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguished persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and (ii) that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. The classification may be founded on different bases, namely, geographical or according to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration.'

The learned Chief Justice proceeded further and observed that---

'that it must be presumed that the Legislature understands and correctly appreciates the need of it sown people, that its laws are directed to problems made manifest by experience and that its discriminations are based on adequate grounds: 'that the Legislature is free to recognise degrees of harm and may confine its restrictions to those cases where the need is deemed to be the clearest:

32. In Jyoti Pershad v. Union Terrriorty of Delhi, : [1962]2SCR125 , the Supreme Court pointed out that--

'If the statute itself or the rule made under it applies unequally to persons or things similarly situated, it would be an instance of a direct violation of the constitutional guarantee and the provisions of the statute or the rule in question would have to be struck down.

The enactment or the rule might not in terms enact a discriminatory rule of law but might enable an unequal or discriminatory treatment to be accorded to the persons or things similarly situated. This would happen when the Legislature vests a discretion in an authority, be it the Government or an administrative official acting either as an executive officer or even in a quasi-judicial capacity by a legislation which does not lay down any policy or disclose any tangible or intelligible purpose, thus clothing the authority with unguided and arbitrary powers enabling it to discriminate.

In such circumstances the very provision of the law which enables or permits the authority to discriminate, offends the guarantee of equal protection afforded by Article 14.'

33. In State of Orissa v. Dhirendranath Das, AIR 1961 SC 1715, the Supreme Court again pointed out that the question of discrimination would arise only in cases where people or classes affected, are similarly circumstance.

34. We will now examine, in the light of these principles laid down by the Supreme Court, whether any discrimination has been made under Section 25 (2) as argued by the learned counsel. Section 17 lays down that no village officer or officer of State or local authority shall be qualified forbearing chosen as a member of the Gram Panchayat. Section 18 provides for a disqualification of persons convicted of election offences, to hold any office in a Gram Panchayat for a period of five years from the date of conviction. Section 19 (1) deals with disqualification of candidate, who have been sentenced by criminal Court to imprisonment for certain offences. Section 19 (2) refers to disqualification of persons of unsound mind, deaf and mute persons, and lepers, insolvent, and those who are interested in a contract with the Gram Panchayat, for being chosen as members. Section 20 declares that a member shall cease to hold office, if he suffers from any of the disqualifctions therein. Clause (k) of Section 20 refers to members, who absent themselves for a meeting of the Gram Panchayat, for a period of three consecutive months. It was pointed out that under these provisions, a person who incurs those disqualifications ceases to be a member or cease to be qualified for being elected as a member, while the Sarpanch under Section 25 (2), in addition to his ceasing to be the Sarpanch, incurs the penalty for one year. But, from a reading of these provisions of the Act, it is obvious that the members are placed in one class and the Sarpanch in another. The object behind the classification is obvious. Members of Gram Panchayats play a less active role then the Sarpanch. They meet and transact business, only when a meeting is called by the Sarpanch. Without any meeting being convened, the members cannot meet

That is why a positive duty is case upon the Sarpanch, under Section 25 (1) (b), to convene the meetings of the Gram Panchayat and the Gram Sabha. he is also enjoined to convene at least one meeting of the Gram Panchayat every month. If the Gram Panchayat does not meet, the administration of the village affairs by the Gram Panchayat the betterment of which is the very object of the Act, will be defeated. The very principle behind Panchayat Raj is thrown overboard, if the meetings of the Gram Panchayat are not convened. The function and power of calling the Gram Panchayat is conferred on the Sarpanch and if he fail to discharge the function, it would result in serious dislocation of the administration of the Gram Panchayat. This, there is a high principle involved in the distinction made between the powers and functions of the Sarpanch and those of the members, especially in regard to the holding of the meetings of the Gram Panchayat. Moreover, most of the disqualification's referred to in Section 16 to 20, are incurred by the members or candidates, on account of other reasons like becoming of unsold mind or being deaf, mute or a leper. On the other hand, the non-holding of a meeting of the Gram Panchayat is on account of derelictin of the statutory duty on the part of the Sarpanch.

It should be remembered that, under Sec, 20, Clause (k), a member who absents form the meeting of the Gram Panchayat for three consecutive months, also ceases to be a member, just like a Sarpanch who fails to hod a meeting in a consecutive period of three months ceases to hod his office. If a member fails to attend to meeting, that does not obstruct, generally, the Gram Panchayat to meet and hold its deliberations. The meetings of the Gram panchayat will go on, despite the absence of a member. Thus, the administration of the Gram Panchayat is not seriously affected by the absence of a member form the meeting. On the other hand, if the meetings of the Gram Panchayat themselves are not held, the very administration of the affairs of the Gram Panchayat will be brought to a stand naturally attached to the holding of the meetings of the gram Panchayat. For that reason, a penalty also is imposed on the Sarpanch who fails to hold such meetings. Thus, we have to doubt whatever that there is no similarity between the members and the Sarpanch, in relation to the affairs of the Gram Panchayat; that the Sarpanch play a more vital role than the members in the administration of the Gram Panchayat, and that, therefore, the distinction therein between the members on the one hand and the Sarpanch on the other, under Section 16 to 25 of the Act, is based upon valid classification, which has a crucial bearing on the object of sound Panchayat administration, which the Act seeks to achieve.

35. It was next pointed out that under Section 22, an authority is constituted to adjudicate upon questions of disqualification's of members. While there is no such authority to adjudicate upon cessation and penalty incurred under Section 25 (2). Apart from the availability of the remedy by way of revision under Section 232 to a person who has ceased to hold office under Section 25 (2), several of the matters which lead to disqualification under Sections 16 to 20 require investigation and must be adjudicated upon, on the basis of evidence and material relating to it. That is why Section 22 provides that, where an allegation is made that a particular person has become disqualified under any one of the provisions, and the concerned member disputes that allegation, then the question is referred to the authority for decision. There is thus, an allegation and denial, which must necessarily, be investigated into and adjudicated upon, by a competent authority. It is for that reason sub-section (2) provides for the continuation of the member in office pending such decision. It is also important to note that the benefit of this enquiry under Section 22 is given to a Sarpanch or a Upa Sarpanch also and if he is restored by the final order as a member, he is deemed to have been restored also to the office of the Sarpanch or the Upa Sarpanch, as the case may be. In this class of affected persons, there is no distinction made between members and Sarpanchas and Upa-Sarpanchas. It is only in regard to the failure to hold meetings, no enquiry is provided for, for the reason we have already stated viz., that there is nothing to be enquired into, because the non-holding of the meeting is borne out by the proceedings of the Gram Panchayat.

Thus, we see no basis for the argument that the provisions of Section 25 (20 are discriminatory and, therefore, violative of Art. 14. There is nothing in the following decisions, relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioners, which would in any was detract from the view we have expressed. State of West Bengal v. A. A. Sarkar, : 1952CriLJ510 ; AIR 1961 SC 1715; Suraj Mall Mohta and Co. v. Visvanatha Sastri, 1954 SCJ 611 , : [1954]26ITR1(SC) ; William Truax v. Michael Corrigan, (1921) 66 Law Ed 254 (U.S. Supreme Court Reports); Ram Dial v. State of Punjab, : [1965]2SCR858 ; and : [1959]1SCR1440 . In all these decisions, what was emphasised is, that the problem of equal protection clause is one of classification and drawing the line and that such classification must be based on reasonable and substantial basis. In : [1965]2SCR858 , one section of the Punjab Municipalities Act was struck down, as violative of Art. 14, because it discriminated between members similarly situated. These decision, therefore, do not render any assistance to the contention of the petitioners that there is undue discrimination made by the Act between members and Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat, We, therefore, reject this argument.

36. The next point that was argued was that Section 25 (2) is violative of the petitioners rights under Art. 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 is I the following terms:

'No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.'

One would understand by the words 'deprived of his life' occurring in this Article in conjunction with 'Personal liberty', as referring to danger to life, like sentence of death, etc.,. But, Shri P. A. Choudary contended that 'life' does not mean merely 'animal life' but includes status in life. The office of Sarpanch, according to them comes within the scope of the word 'life' as occurring in Art, 21. In support of this contention reliance was placed upon the decision in In re Sant Ram, : [1960]3SCR499 , wherein the Supreme Court held that the word 'life' does not include 'livelihood'. This decision, instead of helping the learned advocate's construction of the word 'life', is opposed to it. It certainly excludes a very important aspect of human existence, viz., 'livelihood' from the meaning of the word 'life' in Art. 21.

37. Reliance was next placed upon another decision of the Supreme Court in Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar pradesh, : 1963CriLJ329 , wherein the following observation of Field J., explaining the scope of the words 'life' and 'liberty', which occur in the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the U. S. Constitution was extracted. By the term 'life' it is meant:

'Something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation an arm or leg, of the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer word. . . . . '

38. The Supreme Court itself, in that decision, had no occasion to deal with the scope of the word 'life' and it was only construing the scope of the words 'personal liberty'. Therefore, that decision does not render any assistance to the learned counsel's argument. The observations of Field J., extracted therein, clearly refer to a life in a human body and only says that the life can be affected by mutilation of the body, by the amputation of an arm, or leg, or the destruction of any other organ of the body, because it is through these limbs that a human being maintains contacts with his surroundings and the outer world.

39. The decisions relied on by the learned counsel in Robert t. Meyer v. State of Nebraska, (1923) 67 Law Ed 1042 (U. S. Supreme Court Reports) and Spttswood Thomas Bolling v: Melvin Sharpe, (1954) 98 Law Ed 884 (U. S. Supreme Court Reports) deal only with the word 'liberty' and do not throw any light on the meaning of the word 'life'. There is thus no support to the extraordinary construction that the learned counsel for the petitioner seeks to place on the world 'life' occurring in Art. 21. We cannot accept that the word 'life' in Art. 21 takes in its scope, matters, like individual status enjoyed by a person. This argument must be rejected.

40. It was also urged that the Collectors, who gave notices to the petitioners, are not duly authorised to issue them. This stand is wholly incorrect. We have already referred to Notification III in G. O. Ms. No. 64 dated 30th January, 1964 and Memo. No. 3490 dated 16-1-1965, By the said notification III, the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, exercising his powers under clause 5 of Section 2 of the Act, authoirsed the District Collectors to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the Commissioner, in regard to all Gram Panchayats, situated in their respective jurisdictions under the provisions of the Act specified in Schedule thereof. Then, under the Memorandum dated 16-1-1965, the Collectors were authorisd to intimate those Sarpanchas about their disqualification and cessation of office, who failed to hold a meeting in a consecutive period of three months and to take action to fill up the casual vacancy. There is, therefore, no doubt that the Collectors are duly authorised in this behalf.

41. Thus, we find no force in any of the contentions of the learned counsel for the petitioners, questioning the validity of Section 25 (2) of the Act, the cessation of office that is incurred under Section 25 (2), and the intimation given by the Collectors of the petitioners, of such cessation.

42. This apart, the learned Government Pleader also contended that the cessation of office under Section 25 (2) is a purely administrative even and the intimation given by the Collector is an administrative proceeding wholly unconcerned with any judicial procedure. It was, therefore, his contention that neither the cessation of office nor the intimation given by the Collector is amenable to a writ of certiorari. This contention appears to be well funded. The Supreme Court laid down in : [1959]1SCR1440 that---

Even where administrative action is taken it any be necessary to give an opportunity to a party to have his say before an order is passed. But that is quite different from the well-ordered procedure involving notice and opportunity of hearing necessarily to be followed before a quasi-judicial action open to a writ of certiorari can be taken. The difference lies I the manner and the mode of the two procedure. For the breach of the rules of fair play in taking administrative actin a writ of certiorari will not lie.'

43. In Province of Bombay v. Kushaldas, AIR 1950 SC 22, the Supreme Court laid down that---

'When the executive authority has to form an opinion about an objective matter as a preliminary step to the exercise of a certain power conferred on it, the determination of the objective fact and the exercise of the power based thereon are alike matters of an administrative character and are not amenable to the writ of certiorari.'

In the present cases, as we have already state, there is not even a need of a formal order of any authority, before cessation of office happens under Section 25 (2). Even supposing that the Collector has to form an opinion, as to whether at least one meeting has been held in a consecutive period of three months, it is only a mater of administrative character and is not amenable to a writ of certiorari.

44. The learned Government Pleader next urged that even a writ of mandamus cannot be issued as there is no legal right in the petitioners and any corresponding duty cast on the appropriate authority which have been violated in this case. What all Section 25 (2) provides for is, that a Sarpanch ceases to hold office on his failure to discharge the statutory duty of holding at least one meeting, in a consecutive period of three months. Cessation takes place automatically on the failure occurring and there is no right conferred on the delinquent Sarpanch and any corresponding duty cast on any authority in respect thereof. We, therefore, see considerable force in this contention of the learned counsel for the respondents. Nevertheless, it would be a different matter if the ordinary rules of fair play have not been observed. As the Supreme Court observed in : [1959]1SCR1440 , Even in taking an administrative action, the State Government is not absolved from observing the ordinary rules of fair play. If a Sarpanch feels aggrieved, that he has had no opportunity of explaining that default has not occurred in holding meetings, he can seek an opportunity to explain the matter before the District Collector. If that opportunity is denied to him, it is open to him to carry the matter in revision of the government under Section 232. In individual cases, this Court can review, under Art. 226 of the Constitution, whether ordinary rules of fair play have been observed or not in the first instance or in the revision before the Government. We are of the opinion that a Sarpanch who feels aggrieved of the cessation, cannot otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of this Court under Art. 226.

45. We will now proceed to consider, in the light of the above observations, the different writ petitions that are now before us.

W.P. No. 161 of 1965.

46. In this writ petition, the petitioner failed to hold meetings of the Gram Panchayat from 1-7-1964 to 17-11-1964. As the counter affidavit discloses, the petitioner requested the District Panchayat Officer to hold an enquiry. That officer, after issuing a notice to the petitioner on 6-12-1964, held an enquiry on 16-12-1964, in the Gram Panchayat office itself. The enquiry was conducted in the presence of the petitioner and the statements of the members who were present were also recorded. The signature of the petitioner on these statements was also taken. On this enquiry, it was found that no meeting was held for a considerable period of three months. It does not appear from the petitioner's affidavit that he has sought any further enquiry from the Collector nor has he preferred any revision to the Government. It is clear that the rules of fair play have been observed in this case and that there is no ground made out for our interference under this writ petition. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed.

W.P. No. 250 of 1965.

47. The petitioner in this case did not convene any meeting in the three succeeding months after 13-8-1964. The District Panchayat Officer, during his inspection of the Gram Panchayat on 16-1-1965, detected this non-compliance with the mandatory duty cast on the Sarpanch. The officer also noted that fact in the minutes book. Further, it was stated in the counter-affidavit that-

'It would have been open to the petitioner to approach the first respondent and put forth his case soon after the District Panchayat Officer has noted down in the minutes book'.

However, the petitioner did not seek any such opportunity. Nor has he carried the matter in revision to the Government. If he thinks that he has got any representation to make in this behalf, he could have approached the Collector. But, he did not do so. It is open to him to prefer a revision if he is so advised to the Government. We do not see any scope in this case to observed. There is, therefore, no ground made out for our interference. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed.

W. P. No. 628 of 1965.

48. In W. P. No. 628 of 1965, as the counter-affidavit discloses, the petitioner himself had admitted in his statement during the enquiry made by the Divisional Panchayat Officer on 29-3-1965, that he had not conducted nay meeting during the periods from 12-10-1964. In that statement he had not mentioned anything about his absence from the village and about handling over of records to the Upa-Sarpanch and reporting the same to the Panchayat Samiti, Jangaon.

It is obvious that there was an enquiry held, whereat the petitioner was personally present and made a statement, admitting the fact of non-convening a meeting for three months. He also produced the Minutes Book before the Divisional Panchayat Officer. The petitioner has not preferred any revision to the Government. There is thus absolutely no ground for our interference in this case. The writ petition is, therefore,

W. P. No. 1854 of 1965.

49. In this writ petition, the petitioner himself admitted before the Additional Extension Officer for Panchayats, Cheepurupalli, on 20th September, 1965, that he had not convened any meeting of the Gram Panchayat during the months from June to the end of September, 1965. He also admitted that he had handed over the Minutes Book and the agenda book of the Gram Panchayat to the officer on that day. In the light of this admission, it is clear that the petitioner had ample opportunity to present his case before the Inspecting Officer. It now transpires that he has subsequently brought into existence some new minutes books, apart from those which he had handed over to the Inspecting Officer on 20th September, 1965. The latter books cannot be obviously accepted in view of the statement made by the petitioner. He did not seek any further opportunity to represent his case before the Collector nor has he preferred any revision. We do not, therefore, think it a proper case where we can interfere. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed.

W. P. No. 366 of 1966.

50. The petitioner had failed to conduct the meetings of the Gram Panchayat from 14-8-1964. The Divisional Panchayat Officer, Narayanpet, examined the minutes book and reported the failure to the Collector. In fact, the petitioner did not any time dispute this fact. He also availed himself of the opportunity of filing a petition before the Government, obviously under Section 232 of the Act. Even in that petition he did not dispute the fact that he had not held the meetings. Therefore, there are absolutely no merits in this writ petition and we dismiss it.

W. P. No. 1231 of 1966.

51. The petitioner in this case did not convene any meetings of the Gram Panchayat from February, 1966 to July, 1966. The Extension Officer of Panchayats inspected the Panchayat, its office, and the minutes book. The counter-affidavit discloses that the petitioner manipulated, in order to cover up his failure to hold the meetings, a fresh minutes book after the receipt of the proceedings of the Collector. It is manifest from the minutes book maintained by him, that no business was transacted by the Panchayat and that the petitioner had obtained signatures of the members leaving space without transacting any business of the Panchayat to cover up default. His case that the Extension Officer had taken away the earlier minutes book is patently false. If he had really convened any meeting, as shown in the new minutes book, he could have forwarded its proceedings to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samithi, as required by Section 38 of the Act. But he did not do so. This fact clearly establishes that no meeting was actually convened. This writ petition has been filed on the issuance of the proceedings of the District Collector. No revision has been filed before the Government. Under the circumstances, we hold that there are no merits in this writ petition and dismiss it.

W. P. No. 1278 of 1966.

52. The petitioner failed to convene the meetings of the Panchayat from 20th of March, 1966 to 5th July, 1966. The second respondent, viz., the Divisional Panchayat Officer, Warangal inspected the Panchayat and made enquiry. The petitioner made a statement before him admitting his failure to hold the meetings. The Minutes Book also was produced before the second respondent and it clearly shows that no meeting was held. The petitioner did not seek any further opportunity either before the Collector or by preferring a revision to the Government. He has filed this writ petition on receiving the proceedings of the Collector without availing himself of the remedies open to him. It was open to him to file a revision petition before the Government, of which opportunity he did not avail himself. The writ petition has, therefore, no merits and is dismissed.

W. P. No. 1385 of 1966.

53. In this case the District Panchayat Officer inspected the office and the records of the Gram Panchayat on 8-7-11965 and found out that no meetings of the Gram Panchayat had been held from 29-3-1965 till the date of inspection. The present contention of the petitioner that he had held some meetings during that period, cannot be accepted, because he did not forward the proceedings of any such meeting, as he was required to do under Section 38 of the Act. He availed himself of the remedy by way of revision to the Government. The Government dismissed the revision petition. Obviously the entire records including the Minutes book were thoroughly examined by the District Panchayat Officer. It is alleged by the respondents that the petitioner has concocted a new Minutes book. That allegation seems to be correct, in view of the absence of any intimation of these proceedings to the District Panchayat Officer and to the Panchayat Samithi. We, therefore, dismiss this Writ Petition.

W. P. No. 1868 of 1967.

54. The petitioner seeks to explain the failure to hold meetings of the Gram Panchayat in a consecutive period of three months, by stating that he had been absent form his village form 15-6-67 to 14-7-1967, fro taking medical aid and that, therefore, he had delegated his powers and functions to the Upa-Sarpanch on 15-6-1967. There was no meeting of the Gram Panchayat on 14-6-1967 and there was no such resolution passed to that effect. The District Panchayat Officer visited the village on 6th August, 1967 and inspected the office. He recorded the statement of the Petitioner and the Panchayat Clerk. The petitioner made a statement before the District Panchayat Officer, admitting that he did not conduct the meetings after the Budget meeting held in March, 1967, owing to his pre-occupations and personal affairs. It was on the basis of this enquiry and admitted failure on the part of the petitioner, the District Panchayat Officer reported the matter to the Collector. Thereupon, the Collector issued the impugned intimation to the petitioner, that he had ceased to be the Sarpanch. His ill-health could not be true because, it appears from the counter affidavit, that he had attended the General Body meeting of the Panchayat Samithi, of which he was a member, on 22nd June, 1967. In view of the facts stated above, the contention of the petitioner, that he had no proper opportunity cannot be accepted. Besides, he has not chosen to prefer any revision to the government. The writ petition has, therefore, no merits and it is, therefore, dismissed.

W. P. N. 3268 of 1967:

55. The allegation against the petitioner is that he did not hold any meeting of the Gram Panchayat after 26-3-1967. But in his statement Before the inspecting Officer made on 25-8-1967, he stated that he had called for a meeting on 24-6-1967, which was neither attended nor presided over by him and that the proceedings were not recorded in the minutes book. It is contended for the respondent, that such a proceeding did not tantamount to holding a meeting as required by Section 25 (2). The matter was sent to the Government for clarification. The Government expressed the view, by its memorandum dated 30th October, 1967, that is was not holding a meeting within the meaning of Section 25 (2). It was only after receiving the Government's memorandum, the Collector issued the intimation which is now impugned in this writ petition. In these circumstances, the petitioner can not complain of lack of opportunity to explain his case. he had his full say in the matter. We do not, therefore, see any merits in this writ petition, which we dismiss.

56. The respondents will have their costs in all these writ petitions, Advocates fee Rs. 50 in each case.

57. Order accordingly.


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