Rama Rao, J.
1. This is a petition for issue of a writ in the nature of Mandamus directing the respondents 1 to 3 not to permit respondents 5 to 15 to take part in any proceedings of the Khammam Panchayat Samithi after declaring that their expression of choice to become members of Khammam Panchayat Samithi is illegal, null and void as also ultravires of Art. 14 of the Constitution apart from its being vitiated by mala fides on the part of the ruling party i.e., Congress (I) headed by the 4th respondent.
2. The allegations in the affidavit in support of the writ petition may be epitomised. The petitioner was elected as the President of the Khammam Panchayat Samithi and belongs to the Communist Party of India (Marxists). In Khammam Dist. The C. P. I. (Marxists) in collaboration with Communist Party of India (C. P. I.) and other allies were elected to 11 out of total number of thirteen Panchayat Samithi Presidents by direct election. The ruling party headed by the 4th respondent with a view to get control over Zilla Parishad, Khammam began making manipulations and as a part of the same concentrated their efforts in Khammam Samithi. In Khammam Samithi out of 75 Gram Panchayats, 41 Sarpanchas belonging to C. P. I (M) and C. P. I. parties and their allies were elected and twenty nine persons belonging to the ruling party were elected as sarpanchas. With a view to boost up their strength, the ruling party headed by the 4th respondent appears to have prevailed upon respondents 5 and 6 (Rajya Sabha members) and respondents 7 to 15 (members of the Legislative Council) to opt for membership of Khammam Samithi and pursuant to the same respondents 5 to 15 exercised their choice for Khammam Samithi under Section 4 (iii) and 4(v) of the A. P. Panchayat Samithis and Zilla Parishads Act 1959 with a view to become eligible for membership of Zilla Parishad and participate in the election of the members to be elected under Section 4(1) (vi) of the Act and the Vice-President of the Samithi.
3. In the counter-affidavit filed by the Assistant Secretary of the Panchayat Raj Department it was stated that respondents 5 to 15 were specified as members of the Khammam Panchayat Samithi by the Government considering their choice under clauses (iii) and (v) of sub-sec. (1) of S. 4 of Panchayat Samithis and Zilla Parishads Act, 1959. There is absolutely no restriction for members of the Rajya Sabha or member of the Legislative Council to exercise their choice to any particular samithi. The mala fides alleged against the respondents 4 to 15 are not within the knowledge of the Government and the Government has not been influenced by any extraneous considerations in taking its decision.
4. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that Ss. 4(1) (iii) & 4(1) (v) of A. P. Panchayat Samithis and Zilla Parishads Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) are violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution as no territorial nexus for qualification to become member of the Samithi is indicated and an unfettered choice has been given. It is further contended that the choice of only one member has to be specified by the Government and the plurality of the members of the Legislative Council or Council of States expressing their choice to become members of the Samithi is not contemplated by the provisions of the Act and as such the action of the Government in endorsing the expression of choice by all the respondents 5 to 15 is in contravention of S. 4(1) (iii) and (v) of the Act. It is further contended that Ordinance 13 of 1981 later substituted by Act conferring power to revise choice is prompted by mala fides and is an arbitrary exercise of power. The learned counsel for the respondents contended that S. 4(1) (iii) and (v) is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and the right to contest or vote is not a fundamental right or common law right and it is only a creature of stature and it is within the competence of the legislature to regulate the conditions relating to exercise of vote and choice. It is further contended that singular expression takes in plural also and the expression of choice by more than one member for the same Samithi is not prohibited and as such choice is unfettered and the Government have no control over the matter as the Government is ordinarily expected to endorse the choice expressed by the members.
5. The heart of the contentions of the learned counsel for the petitioner pertains to the concept of singularity and exclusion of plurality in clauses (iii) and (v) of sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the Act and as such it is appropriate to advert to this contention at the outset. To get into the thick of the contention it is necessary to have a glimpse into the relevant provisions of Section 4 of the Act.
6. Composition of Panchayat Samithi:
--(1) Every Panchayat Samithi shall consist of the following members namely:
'(I) the Sarpanch of every Gram Panchayat in the Block-ex-officio:
(a) notwithstanding anything in the Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, if any, Sarpanch of a Gram Panchayat refuses to be a member of the Panchayat Samithi or resigns such membership or otherwise ceases to be such member, he shall, with effect from the date of such refusal, resignation or cessation, cease to be the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat and the person who succeeds him in such office shall be the member of the Panchayat Samithi in his place:
(b) in the case of a superseded or a dissolved Gram Panchayat the District Collector shall nominate a person residing in the area within the jurisdiction of such Gram Panchayat to be the member representing such Gram Panchayat.
(ii) The Member of the Legislative Assembly of the State representing a constituency which comprises the Block:
Provided that a Member of the Legislative Assembly representing a constituency which comprises more than one Block, including a portion of any Block, shall be a member of the Panchayat Samithi of only one such Block which he chooses;
and he shall have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of any meeting of any other Panchayat Samithi constituted for each such Block, but shall not be entitled to vote at any such meeting.
(iii) such Member of the Legislative Council of the State, as the Government may, by order specify, having regard to his choice expressed in the prescribed maner;
(iv) such Member of the House of the People representing a constituency which comprises the Block as the Government may by order, specify having regard to his choice expressed in the prescribed manner:
Provided that the Member of the House of the People so specified shall have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, any meeting of any other Panchayat Samithi constituted for other Blocks comprised within the constituency but shall not be entitled to vote at any such meeting;
(v) such Member of the Council of States as the Government may by order specify, having regard to his choice expressed in the prescribed manner;
(vi) the following to be elected as members in the prescribed manner by the President and the members specified in clauses (I), (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) from among the persons who are registered voters in the Block and who are not less than twenty-one years of age, but who are not already members of the Panchayat Samithi, namely:-
(a) two women;
(b) one person belonging to minorities: whether based on religion or language; and
(c) three persons belonging to Backward Classes;
(vii) the following to be members, ex-officio namely:-
(a) the Chairman of the Primary Co-operative Agricultural Development Bank in the Block:
Provided that where there is more than one such bank in a Block, the Chairman of only one such bank as may be specified by the District Collector shall be the member;
(b) the Director of the District Co-operative Central Bank representing the Block; and
(c) the President of the Primary Co-operative Marketing society, if any, in the Block:
Prvided that the choice exercised by- (i) a Member of the Legislative Assembly referred to in clause (ii) may be revised at any time before the meeting is held for the election of the members specified in clause (vi), and thereafter it shall be final and irrevocable; (ii) a Member of the Legislative Council. House of the People or Council of States referred to in clauses (iii) and (iv) and (v) may be revised at any time one day before the meeting is held for the election of the members specified in clause (vi) subject to the approval of the Government and thereafter it shall be final and irrevocable.
1-A. No person shall be a member in more than one of the categories specified in sub-section (1). A person who is or becomes a member of a Panchayat Samithi in more than one such category shall, by notice in writing signed by him and delivered to the Block Development Officer, within fifteen days from the date on which he so becomes a member intimate in which one of the said categories he wishes to serve, and thereupon he shall cease to be the member in the other category or categories. In default of such intimation within the aforesaid period, his membership in the Panchayat Samithi in the category acquired earlier shall, and his membership acquired later in the other category shall not, cease at the expiration of such period. The intimation given under this sub-section shall be final and irrevocable.
Provided that if a person is or becomes an ex-officio member under clause (I) of sub-section (1) being already a member of the Panchayat Samithi in any of the other categories specified in the said sub-section, he shall not cease to be such ex-officio member, but he shall, with effect from the date on which he becomes such ex-officio member, cease to be a member in such other category.'
(3) No person shall be entitled to be a member of more than one Panchayat Samithi at a time.'
7. Section 4 of the Act is a sprawling one studded with diverse facets for the constitution and election of Panchayat Samithi. The structure of the Samithi comprises the elected Sarpanchas from Panchayats, representation by members of the House of the People. Council of States, Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council and members from different categories with accent on representation from weaker sections. The Sarpanch of every Gram Panchayat in the block is ex officio member of the Samithi as provided by clause (1) of sub-section (1). Clauses (ii) and (iv) of sub-section (1) provide that a member of the Legislative Assembly and member of the Lok Sabha can choose the Panchayat Samithi of only one block if the constituency comprises more than one block. The member of the Legislative Council and member of the Council of States can exercise a choice to become member of any Samithi in the State subject to the specification by the Government as indicated in clauses (iii) and (v). The members chosen in accordance with clauses (I) to (v) are entitled to elect the members enumerated in clause (vi). The members eligible for election in accordance with clause (vi) consist of representation from several categories namely women, minorities, backward classes and co-operative institutions.
8. The focal point in the writ petition is on clauses (iii) and (v) of sub-sec. (1) of S.4 of the Act. It is amplified by the learned counsel for the petitioner that these two clauses contemplate that only one member of the Legislative Council and one member of the Council of State alone can be inducted into a Samithi having regard to the choice expressed by such member. Both the provisions confine to the single member only and as such expression of choice by several members of the Legislative Council and Council of States to the same Samithi and specification thereof by the Government is in clear contravention of sub-clauses (iii) and (v). The learned Government Pleader stresses that though the singularity is embodied in both the clauses the singular must be read as plural as laid down in S. 13 of the General Clauses Act. It is necessary to have Section 13 of the General Clauses Act in quotes:
'13. Gender and number: In all Central Acts and Regulations, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or contact,--
(1) words importing the masculine gender shall be taken to include females, and
(2) words in the singular shall include the plural, and vice versa.'
S. 2 (35) of the A. P. General Clauses Act is in pari materia with Section 13 of the General Clauses Act. S. 13 is prefaced by the expression, 'Unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context' and, therefore, it has to be discerned whether attributing plurality to the apparent singular expression is warranted and tolerated by the context and set up of the provisions of the Panchayat Samithis Act. A close scrutiny of the entirety of the provisions of Section 4 reveals that numerical specification permeates throughout the section and there is a focus on numerical aspect in every clause in the section. In the event of the clause visualising more than one member to be elected or chosen the specific number has been clearly indicated. Meticulous care is taken to avoid dual membership and exercise of choice and also specification thereof. In so far as the member of the Legislative Assembly is concerned, the member is given a choice to choose one of the blocks in the constituency without any reference to the Government and this choice does not preclude the member to participate in the delibrations of the Samithi in the other block and the voting right is confined only to the Samithi chosen. Regarding the members of the House of the People the choice is given to the member to choose one of the blocks in the constituency subject to the order that may be specified by the Government, having regard to the choice. The territorial link is the base for the choice by the member of the legislative assembly and house of people. But however a different pattern is evolved for the choice by the members of the legislative council and Council of States and the choice can be made by them for any Samithi in the State. The members of the Legislative Council represent the local authorities constituencies, graduates constituencies and teachers constituencies which spread over number of blocks and Samithis and the members of the Legislative Council elected from out of the members of the Legislative Assembly and nominated members cannot have similar territorial link like other members. Similarly the members of the Council of States who are elected from the members of the Legislative Assembly have no territorial string or soil attachment as the electoral constituency is not territorywise. It is apparent that S. 4 visualises varied and comprehensive representation from the elected representatives pursuant to the objective of broad based representation to all sectors and segments and in consonance with the democratic decentralisation of power. To avoid multiple choices in respect of the same Samithi a device has been adopted whereby the Government should specify the particular member for each Samithi having regard to the choice expressed by such member. To give effect to the provisions of clauses (iii), (iv) and (v) of sub-sec. (4) of the Act, the A. P. Panchayat Samithis (Expression of Choice) Rules, 1951 have been framed. The pertinent Rule 4 is as follows:--
'Government to be final authority: The Government shall take into consideration the choice expressed by a member under these rules and specify such member as member of a Panchayat Samithi and nothing in these Rules shall be construed to mean that the choice or the revised choice expressed by a member is binding on the Government.' Rule 4 provides that the choice expressed by a member does not attain finality unless such choice is specified by the Government. The Government is virtually given a power of veto and the specification of choice by the Government appears to have been designed with a view to have representation of members in maximum number of Samithis in the State. The assignment of role of specification on the Government is intended to regulate the canalise the multiplicity of choices and avoid jamming in the Samithi. The scheme of Section 4 is clear that whenever a singular member is contemplated or chosen, it is said as member or one person, but in the event of more than one member, the number has been clearly indicated to avoid any ambiguity or doubt. Further it is evident that only one member of the Legislative Assembly and one member of the House of the People has been indicated and there is absolutely no discernible object or purpose in giving representation to several members of the Legislative Council or Council of States in one Panchayat Samithi.
9. The expressions 'such' and 'his' in clauses (iii) and (v) reflect overt features of singularity. In Stroud's Judicial Dictionary the meaning of 'such' is given as generally referring to its last antecedent. In clauses (iii) and (v) the expression 'such' refers to a member (i.e.) singular member who expressed the choice. The expression 'his' undoubtedly refers to single member. Clause (iii) and (v) in the context envisage that the member of the Legislative Council who expressed the choice and whose choice is specified by the Government shall be a member of the Samithi. Therefore the clauses are clearly concerned with singular member and sole member only and the singularity is unequivocally embedded in the clauses and such singularity cannot be enlarged into plurality. In the election of the representatives under clause (vi) the number of members to be elected is amply indicated when election of more than one member is provided. With respect to representation for women it is stated that two women should be elected and regarding representation to minorities one person and three persons relating to backward classes. The reference to Chairman of the Primary Co-operative Agricultural Development Bank indicates are only. Regarding representation by the Director of the District Co-operative Central Bank the obvious reference is only to one Director but not to all Directors. The Government is given power to regulate the choices made by the several members to avoid stampede and over representation. The extension of singular to plural will result in representation of several members in the same Samithi as there will be no prohibition against all the members opting out for one samithi and such a situation is incongruous and inconsistent with the scheme of the secretion and defeats the avowed object of broad based representation and widespread voice in every Samithi. The Supreme Court in the decision reported in Dhan Dhania Kedia & Co. v. C.I.T., : 35ITR400(SC) considered the width and impact of Section 13(2) of the General Clauses Act. In this case the plurality sought to be attributed to the expression 'previous year' occurring in Section 2 (11) of the Income-tax Act, 1922 was repelled and in the context of considering the issue the Supreme Court held that Section 13 enacts the applicability of rule of construction in the absence of repugnancy in the subject or context and it should not lead to absurd or anomalous results and the interpretation should not nullify the effect of the provision. The object of framing the rules for choice and regulation by the Government thereof will be redundant if the concept of plurality is given full effect. In the event of infiltration into one Samithi or other the certainty and exactitude pertaining to the constitution of the Samithi and the conduct of elections also will be absent and such nebulous or fluid state of affairs is not contemplated by the provisions of the Act. The object of spreadout of the members of the Legislative Council and Council of States in all the Samithis throughout the State will be defeated. The anatomy and get-up of S. 4 displays the meticulous care taken to indicate precisely the number of representatives to be elected or chosen and dispels concept of plurality and on dissection every sub-section also considered in isolation highlights the numerical precision. The fluctuation or swelling the membership of the Samithi depending on the whim and volition of the members and tuned to political considerations or otherwise is not contemplated by Sec. 4 of the Act. S. 36 of the Act concerning the composition of Zilla Parishads is of the same pattern and reinforces the view regarding precise specification of number of members. If the concept of plurality is conceded it will result in anomalous situation of uncertainty of membership of Samithi and the flooding of one Samithi by all the Council members and a glaring discrepancy in the membership of Samithis in the State, and redundancy of Expression of Choice Rules.
10. Regarding breach of Article 14 of the Constitution, the learned counsel for the petitioner emphasized that the conferral of wide choice on the members of the Legislative Council and Council of States as distinguished from limited choice based upon territorial link to members of the Legislative Assembly lacks rational sanction. The learned Government Pleader contended that the members of the Legislative council and Council of States constitute a distinct category and such differentiation does not offend Article 14. The learned Government Pleader relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court reported in Sakhawant Ali v. State of Orissa, : 1SCR1004 . This decision was rendered in the context of considering whether Section 16 (1) (ix) of Orissa Municipal Act violates Article 14 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court at page 169 held as follows:--
'Article 14 forbids class legislation but does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation. The classification however cannot be arbitrary but must rest upon some real and substantial distinction bearing a reasonable and just the classification is made. In other words the classification must have a reasonable sought to be achieved by the impugned legislation.'
It is also further held at page 170 as follows :-
'The simple answer to this contention is that legislation enacted for the achievement of a particular object or purpose need not be all embracing. It is for the Legislature to determine what categories it would embrace within the scope of legislation and merely because certain categories which would stand on the same footing as those which are covered by the legislation are left out would not render legislation which has been enacted in any manner discriminatory and violative of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution.' The learned Government Pleader also relied upon the decision of the Madras High Court reported in C.Dorairajan v. State of Madras, : AIR1951Mad120 (FB). While considering the constitutional validity of Communal G. O. No. 1254 Education dated 17-5-1948 it was held that when the power is exercised bona fide and in a reasonable manner for the end designed and subject to the express provisions of the Constitution, the exercise of that power is not hit by Article 14, though to some extent it might trench upon the freedom of the individual citizen. We are not inclined to uphold the contention of the petitioner in this regard. The manner of representation and mode of election of the members of the Legislative Council and State Council is not identical with that of the members of the Legislative Assembly and the Hose of the People. The election of the members of the Assembly and House of the People is a direct election by the voters from a particular segment of the State and the representative is from the constituency directly. But however the mode of election of the members of the Legislative Council and State Council is different as their election is from out of elected representatives except in the case of teachers and graduates constituencies and in the case of members elected from the members of the Legislative Assembly the question of territorial link does not arise. This board distinction and classification is reasonable as it has a close affinity to the legitimate purpose of the statue of having a full-fledged representation from all the elected representatives. The classification cannot be labelled as 'suspect classification' and cannot be considered as arbitrary particularly in view of the safeguard provided for regulation of the choices by way of specification by the Government Section 4 projects full-fledged representation for all possible sections and segments and thereby fosters democratic culture. The emphasis is laid by the learned counsel for the petitioner upon the successful attempt made to infiltrate several members into this particular Samithi to give a fillip to the strength of the party and as such the arbitrary exercise of power is patent. The provision as such regarding the specification by the Government for regulating the choices is neither arbitrary nor obnoxious to Article 14. The distorted interpretation or undue exploitation of the circumstances cannot pollute the provision or demolish or destroy the legitimate purpose. The safeguard is provided for proper distribution of choices by conferring power on the Government to specify.
11. It is also further contended that the Ordinate No. 13/1981 giving power to the member of the Legislative Council and Council of States to revoke choice at belated stage is prompted by mala fides and it is tantamount to arbitrary exercise of power. The revision of choice appears to have been given with a view appears to have been given with a view to have a matured consideration with regard to the choice and revocation is allowed till the last moment so as to have effective representation and also ensure proper canalisation by the Government under the powers conferred on it for specification. The political overtones voiced in the petition are totally alien and oblique for the purpose of this petition. Therefore, the contention founded upon mala fides and arbitrary exercise of power lacks substance.
12. The learned counsel for the petitioners stated that respondents 7 to 9 and 13 are given up and hence this writ petition is not pressed as against them.
13. In the light of foregoing discussion we hold that the respondents 5, 6, 10, to 12, 14 and 15 are not entitled to take part in any proceedings of Khammam Panchayat Samithi and the Writ will issue accordingly. Writ Petition partly allowed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs.250.
14. Petition partly allowed.