1. The petitioner and the second respondent were candidates for the Office of Pradhan of Gaon Sabha Bahua, in Tahsil Fatehpur, at an election held on the 37th December 1955, under the provisions of the U. P. Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 (herein referred to as the Act). The petitioner was declared elected. Thereupon the second respondent filed an election petition challenging the validity of the former election. The petition was filed before the Sub-Divisional Officer, Fatehpur.
2. On the 1st March 1956, during the pendency of that petition, the State Government sent a demi-official letter No. A-414/2/A-1956 to all District Magistrates. That letter read as follows:
''I am directed to say that reports received by Government indicate that a considerable number of election petitions arising out of the recent elections to Gaon Panchayats have been filed in the Courts of Sub-Divisional Officers concerned. It is imperative both from the point of view of efficiency and administrative desirability that sooner these petitions are disposed of the better. It is felt that with their other miscellaneous executive duties S. D. Os. do not get sufficient time to devote to these petitions. Since under Rule 24 of the P. R. Rules these petitions are to be received and decided by the S. D. Os. concerned.
One solution is to set up one or more officers in the district exclusively for deciding these petitions and a better solution will be to entrust these petitions to Judicial Officers also by appointing as additional S. D. Os. of the Tehsils to which the petitions relate. This will result in a more expeditious disposal of these petitions. I am accordingly to request that you may appoint as many J. Os, as possible; as additional S. D. Os. for the various sub-divisions concerned and make an equitable distribution of the petitions amongst the Sub-Divisional Officers and the additional S. D. Os. (J. Os.) so that the election petitions are disposed of as early as possible.'
Thereafter on the 6th March Sri R. K. Singh, the District Magistrate, Fatehpur, issued an order of which the first and second paragraphs read as follows:
''In accordance with the instructions containedin D. O. No. A-414/11-A-1956, dated March 1, 1956,from Sri B. L. Chak, Joint Secretary to Government,U, P. Appointment (A) Department, Lucknow, Judicial Officers whose names are given below are appointed Additional S. D. O. of the Tehsil notedagainst each for the disposal of election petitionsfiled under Rule 24 of the Panchayat Raj Rules:--
Name of Judicial Officer: Tehsil for which appointedSri S. N, Misra, J. O. Fatehpur Fatehpur TehsilSri C. B. Misra, J. O. Khaga Khaga TehsilSri S. N. Sharma, J. O. Khajuha Khajuha Tehsil
2. As the cases on the file of the S. D. O., Fatehpur, is very heavy, all the Panchayat election petitions pending in his Court may be transferred to J. O. Fatehpur for disposal according to law. S. D. Os. Khaja and Khajuha are authorised to transfer Panchayat election petitions to Additional S. D. Os. of their respective tehsils for disposal.'
On the 9th March the Sub-Divisional Officer, Fatehpur, endorsed the following order on the record of the election petition filed by the second respondent:
'Transfer to J. O. Sadar (Addl. S. D. O., Sadar)'.
There is no dispute that the term 'J. O. Sadar' in this order means the Judicial Officer, Fatehpur.
3. The petition was then heard by that officer and was allowed by an order dated the 3rd July 1956. The election of the petitioner was set aside and the second respondent was declared duly elected.
4. The petitioner then filed a petition in this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the validity of the order of the Election Tribunal on a number of grounds. That petition was heard by Randhir Singh and Mehrotra, JJ., who differed in their opinion on two questions which have been referred to us for our opinion. These questions are:
''(1) Whether an election petition under Section 12-C of the U. P. Panchayat Raj Act could be transferred by the Collector under Section 228 of the Land Revenue Act to an Assistant Collector not in charge of a subdivision for disposal and has such an- Assistant Collector jurisdiction to entertain and hear the election petition?
(2) Whether this Court will ordinarily not exercise its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in favour of a person who did not raise a question of jurisdiction at the trial and impliedly submitted to the jurisdiction of a Court or- authority which had no jurisdiction to entertain or hear the case?'
5. The first question is of considerable importance and has been fully argued before us. The argument for the petitioner is that the U. P. Panchayat Raj Act establishes a special tribunal for the trial of election cases which are to be heard by the prescribed authority as a persona designata. The State Government has therefore no power, it is urged, to direct that such petitions be heard by any other person or authority. For the State it is contended that under the rules made under the Act the prescribed authority is an existing Court which has conferred upon it a special jurisdiction, and that the Collector is empowered under the U. P. Land Revenue Act to transfer a petition to any other Court in accordance with the provisions of that Act.
6. Section 12-C of the Panchayat Raj Act so far as it is material reads as follows:--
''(1) The election of a person as Pradhan of a Gaon Sabha.... ....shall not be called in question except by an application presented to such authority within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed on the ground that-
............. (2) .............
(4) The authority to whom the application under Sub-section (1) is made shall, in the matter of-
(i) hearing of the application and the procedure to be followed at such hearing,
(ii) setting aside the election or declaring the election to be void or declaring the applicant to be duly elected or any other relief that may be granted to the petitioner, have such powers and authority as may be prescribed.
(6) The order passed by the prescribed authority upon an application under Sub-section (1) shaft be final and conclusive, and shall not be questioned in any Civil Court.' By the definition in Section 2 'Prescribed' means prescribed by the Act or rules made thereunder, and 'prescribed' authority means an authority to be notified as such by the State Government.
7. Rules 24 and 25 make provision respectively for the form and presentation of an election petition (described in the earlier rule as an 'application' and for the hearing of the petition. Under the former rule every petition must be presented 'before the Sub-Divisional Officer within whose jurisdiction the Sabha concerned lies.' Rule 25 so far as it is relevant provides that-
''(1) Subject to the provisions of the Act and the rules contained in the Chapter, every election petition shall be tried by the Sub-Divisional Officer, as nearly as may be, in accordance with the procedure applicable under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, to the trial of suits: Provided that-
(vi) the District Magistrate may at any stage on sufficient cause being shown transfer an application made under Sub-section (1) of Section 12-C for hearing to another Sub-Divisional Officer.
(viii) the Sub-Divisional Officer may, on an application o-f either party made within five days after the date of his decision, review his order.
8. It is common ground that there are no other provisions in the Act or rules to which reference can usefully be made. The expression 'Sub-Divisional Officer' is not defined in this or in any other Act. It is however an expression commonly in use to describe an Assistant Collector of the first class in charge of sub-division; and it is again common ground that that is the meaning which should be given to the expression when used in the Act or in the rules made thereunder.
9. A number of cases have been cited to us in which the Courts have considered whether the person appointed under a particular Act to conduct an enquiry is a persona designata. Such authorities are however of little assistance as we think that the answer to the question must depend on the intention of the Legislature which, can be ascertained only from the terms of the enactment itself. The matter to be determined is whether the enactment confers on an existing Court a jurisdiction which it formerly did not possess, as in Goonesinha v. Kretser, AIR 1945 PC 83 (A), or whether it creates for a particular purpose a special tribunal which derives its entire authority from the enactment itself, as for example was held to be so in Gulam Nizamuddin v. Akhtar Husain Khan : AIR1933All764 and in Abdul Rahman v. Abdul Rahman : AIR1925All380 .
10. An examination of the provisions of Section 12-C and of Rules 24 and 25 leaves us in no doubt that a special tribunal has been constituted to hear election petitions under the Act and that the Sub-Divisional Officer is therefore a persona designata. Section 12C (1) provides that the application is to be presented ''to such authority. ..... .and in such manner as may be prescribed.' Sub-section (4) of the same section provides that that authority shall, as regards the hearing of the application, the procedure to be followed at the hearing and the ambit of the jurisdiction to be exercised, have such 'powers and authority'' as may be prescribed; and Sub-section (6) provides that the orders of the prescribed authority shall be final. The Act therefore leaves wholly to the State Government the choice of the authority, the powers which it is to exercise and the determination of the procedure to be followed.
That authority, in other words, has such powers, and such powers only, as are prescribed. There cannot in these circumstances in our opinion be any doubt that the legislature intended to establish special tribunals to hear election petitions under the Act. There is here no question of the conferment of an additional jurisdiction on an existing Court. The fact that the State Government has in exercise of its powers appointed an officer of the Revenue Department as the prescribed authority or that it has by rule provided that the procedure to be followed shall be as far as possible that applicable to the trial of suits in no way alters the position, for the State Government has an unfettered choice in these matters. It is not contended that the 'prescribed authority' is a civil Court, but it is suggested that as the State Government has appointed an Assistant Collector as the prescribed authority the latter is a Revenue Court within the meaning of the United Provinces Land Revenue Act, We think there is no force in this contention.
The fact that the State Government has appointed an Assistant Collector as the authority no more means that election petitions are to be tried by a Revenue Court than that the appointment of a Magistrate would mean that they are to be tried by a criminal Court. Were this not to be so it would mean that when, as is at present the case, the prescribed authority is an Assistant Collector a power of revision could be exercised by the Board of Revenue under Section 219 of the Land Revenue Act. It is, in our view, impossible to think that such was the intention of the legislature. We hold therefore that the Act establishes special tribunals for the disposal of election petitions and that the prescribed authority is a persona designata.
11. This conclusion really disposes of the first question referred to us, for it follows that a power of transfer must be found, if at all, in the Panchayat Raj Act itself or in the Rules made thereunder. Now the only provision to be found is in proviso (vi) to Rule 25 (1) which empowers the District Magistrate on sufficient cause shown to transfer an election petition for hearing to another Sub-divisional Officer. That provision clearly has no application in the case before us as the actual order of transfer was passed by a Sub-divisional Officer and the transfer was to an officer who was not a Sub-divisional Officer. An argument was addressed to us founded on Section 228 of the Land Revenue Act which provides that
'228. An Assistant Collector of the first class not in charge of a sub-division of a district shall exercise all or any of the powers conferred on an Assistant Collector of the first class in charge of a sub-division in such cases or classes of cases as the Collector may, from time to time, refer to him for disposal.'
The argument is that as the Judicial Officer, Fatehpur, was an Assistant Collector of the first class not in charge of the sub-division (which is not disputed and as the Collector had directed the transfer to him of the petitioner's case for disposal, he was invested under this section with all the powers of a Sub-divisional Officer and had in consequence jurisdiction to hear the petition. This contention appears, to us to be wholly without force. We think for reasons we have already stated that recourse cannot be had to the provisions of the Land Revenue Act for any purpose connected with the powers and procedure of the tribunal constituted under the Panchayat Raj Act. Assuming however that this is not so, and that recourse can in appropriate circumstances be had to the Land Revenue Act then it seems clear to us that Section 228 has no application to the facts of the case before us. In the first place Section 228 deals with the powers of an Assistant Collector not in charge of a sub-division; it does not confer a power of transfer on the Collector. The Collector's power to refer a case to such officer for disposal is to be found in the second paragraph of Section 192. That section, so far as is material, provides that
'192. The Collector........may make over anycase or class of cases, arising under the provisions of this Act or otherwise, for enquiry or decision, from his own file to any of his subordinates competent to deal with such case or class of cases;
or may withdraw, any case or class of cases from any Revenue Officer subordinate to him, and may deal with such case or class of cases himself or refer the same for disposal to any other such Revenue Officer competent to deal therewith. In the case before us no order was made by the Collector withdrawing the petition from the Sub-divisional Officer, Fatehpur, and referring it for disposal to the Judicial Officer, Fatehpur; and order of transfer was made by the Sub-divisional Officer acting in exercise of the authority conferred on him by the District Magistrate. Secondly, it appears that the only cases which can be referred to an Assistant Collector not in charge of a sub-division are cases of an administrative character.
The second paragraph of Section 192 deals only with the withdrawal and transfer of cases which a revenue officer is competent to deal with and a 'revenue officer' is defined in Section 4 of the Land Revenue Act as meaning 'any officer employed under this Act in maintaining revenue records, or in the business of the land revenue'. It is significant that whereas under the first paragraph of Section 192 the Collector is empowered to make over cases on his own file to his subordinates for 'enquiry or decision'' the power conferred by the second paragraph is to refer cases 'for disposal' and that these are the words used in Section 228. The argument advanced breaks down, we think, at every point, and we answer the first of the two questions referred to us in the negative.
12. The second question we do not propose to answer as there is no finding that the petitioner did not in fact raise (as he claims in his rejoinder affidavit to have done) the question of jurisdiction at the trial. We accordingly, express no opinion on the point.