1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. The petitioner was elected as Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat Garh on 31-7-1970. In a meeting of the Gram Panchayat held on 15-9-1970 a motion of no-confidence was passed against him. In pursuance of the said resolution he was directed to hand over charge of his office vide annexure 'G'. The contention of the petitioner is that the motion of no-confidence was not passed by the requisite majority and even otherwise it was not in accordance with law. It is, therefore, of no effect and the petitioner is entitled to continue in the office. He has therefore, filed this petition seeking a writ quashing the no-confidence motion passed on 15-9-1970.
2. The Collector Shivpuri who is non-petitioner No. 1 has filed a return denying the claim of the petitioner. According to the facts stated in the return, the motion of no-confidence was duly passed and as a result thereof the petitioner has automatically ceased to hold the office of Sarpanch. The Secretary Gram Panchayat Garh, who has been joined as non-petitioner No. 2 has remained absent though served and has not filed any return.
3. The first contention of the petitioner is that the motion of no-confidence was not passed by the requisite majority. It is stated in ground (a) of the petition that according to Section 24 of the M. P. Panchayats Act, 1962 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) the motion has to be passed by a majority of not less than two-third of the Panchas present and voting, and as the motion was passed only by 10 Phanchas while all the 18 Panchas were present it cannot be said to have been passed by the requisite majority. This contention was apparently based on Section 24 of the Act as it stood before the amendment. The section has, however, since been amended by the Madhya Pradesh Panchayats (Amendment and Validation) Act, 1970 (No. 3 of 1970). According to the amended section all that is required is that the motion should be passed by a majority of more than one-half of the total number of Panchas constituting the Gram Panchayat for the time being. It was not disputed before us that the total number of Panchas constituting the Gram Panchayat at the material time was 18. As the motion was passed by a majority consisting of 10 Panchas it must be deemed to have been duly passed. Learned counsel for the petitioner accepted this position, but he contended that he was even challenging the fact that 10 Panchas had voted in favour of the motion and that this fact must be established by the other side.
4. This however seems to be an afterthought, and we have no hesitation in rejecting this contention for the following reasons. It appears from the petition itself that the petitioner did not dispute the position that 10 Panchas had voted in favour of the motion as would appear from the following words in Clause (h) of the grounds of petition:--
'Only 10 persons voted in favour of the resolution. Apart from this, from the copy of the proceedings vide Annexure R-l filed along with the return it is clear that actually 11 Panchas voted in favour of the motion. We do not, therefore, find any substance in the contention of the petitioner that the motion was not passed by the requisite majority.'
5. The next contention of the petitioner is that the meeting for the purpose of passing the motion of no-confidence was not held in the prescribed manner inasmuch as Rule 3 of the Madhya Pradesh Cram Panchayats (No-confidence Motion against Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch) Rules, 1904 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules) framed under Section 24 of the Act was violated. The said rule provides that any Panch or Panchas who desire to move a motion of no-confidence shall give a notice thereof to the Secretary in the form appended to the rules. According to the petitioner no such notice was given. But this contention of the petitioner does not appear to be correct because a copy of the notice dated 28-8-1970 vide Annexure Rule 8 has been filed by the Collector along with the return. It is stated in Clause (c) of paragraph 7 of the return that Annexure R-8 is the copy of the notice which was in accordance with law and in the prescribed form.
The learned counsel for the petitioner did not challenge this notice, but urged that there was no compliance of Sub-rule (2) of Rule 3 of the said rules inasmuch as the Secretary did not sign thereon a certificate stating the date on which and the hour at which the notice was given to him and he did not also acknowledge its receipt. In support of his contention he referred to the endorsement of Shrikrishna Sharma, Secretary of the Panchayat, on Annexure D dated 16-9-1970.
6. Annexure R-8 however shows that the Secretary Shrikrishna Sharma had made an endorsement on the notice to the following effect:--
'Prapt ek Priti'
This clearly shows that the Secretary had signed a certificate that he had received the notice on 28-8-1970. He ought to have mentioned the hour at which it was received as required by the rule, but this omission is of no consequence.
7. We, therefore, find that the notice of the motion was duly received by the Secretary on 28-8-1970 vide endorsement on the Annexure R-8 and this amounts to substantial compliance of Rule 3 of the said Rules. We fail to see why the Secretary should not have given an acknowledgement of the receipt of the notice as required by the said rule. But even if he failed to do so, it would not affect the proceedings relating to the motion. Rules are framed to carry out the objects of the Act and all that we have to see is if there has been substantial compliance with the Rules. We need not insist on literal compliance, particularly in matters which are or no consequence.
(In para 8 the contention that the meeting was not presided over by a competent Officer was found to be baseless. The order then proceeds:)
9. It was also urged that the minutes relating to the meeting in which the motion of no-confidence was passed were not drawn up by the Secretary and recorded as required by Rule 7 the Rules and this has vitiated the entire proceeding. It is no doubt true that it was the duty of the Secretary to record the minutes of the proceedings as required by the said rule and he apparently failed to do so according to his own statement vide endorsement on Annexure D. But it is for the Secretary to explain why he failed to carry out this important duty. We must observe that the conduct of the Secretary Shrikrishna Sharma appears to be highly suspicious. He has not complied with the rules without any ostensible reason and has conveniently remained absent though served in order to avoid an embarrassing situation by being required to state material facts concerning this case and to explain his conduct. He seems to have given wrong impression to the petitioner that the motion was not duly passed according to the prescribed procedure and thus induced him to file this petition. Such a conduct on the part of an officer of the Gram Panchayat must be strongly deprecated.
10. The minutes of the proceedings were actually drawn up by the Presiding Officer (vide annexure R-l) apparently be-cause the Secretary was not prepared to co-operate. However, the mere fact that the Secretary failed to record the minutes of the proceedings would not affect the validity of the proceedings at the meeting. Since it appears that the meeting was duly convened after a proper notice of the motion was given to the Secretary and the meeting was also presided over by the competent authority the irregularity committed by the Secretary in not recording the minutes of the proceedings would not affect the validity of the motion passed at the meeting.
11. No other point was pressed before us.
12. We, therefore, find that the motion of no-confidence was duly passed by the requisite majority, and the petition is liable to be dismissed.
13. The petition, therefore, fails and is hereby dismissed. We do not however make any order as to costs because it appears that the petitioner was misled by the Secretary of the Gram Panchayat.