1. Elections to Gram Panchayat Ujhiana were held in June, 1971. The nomination papers were to be filed between 12 noon and 2 p. m. On the 28th of June, 1971, and any objections to them were to be presented within the next hour. Ram Gopal respondent No. 3 was one of the candidates and so was Megh Raj petitioner. Respondent No. 3 raised an objection that the petitioner owed money to the Gram Panchayat and was, therefore, disqualified from standing for the election. The petitioner paid the arrears on the same day and the objection was rejected as untenable. On the next day the poll was held and the petitioner was one of the persons elected while respondent No. 3 was defeated.
Respondent No. 3 filed a petition under Section 13-C of the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952, challenging the election of the petitioner to the Gram Panchayat on the ground, inter alia, that the petitioner was disqualified from standing for the election in view of the fact that at the time when he filed his nomination papers he owed money to the Gram Panchayat. The election of other candidates to the Gram Panchayat was also challenged. By an order dated the 4th of January, 1973, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Narwana who heard the petition, accepted it and set aside the election of the petitioner on that ground and it is that order which is challenged through the present petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.
2. Respondent No. 3 has not contested the petition in spite of service and he has been proceeded against ex parte. The other two respondents to the petition are the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Narwana, and the Deputy Commissioner, Jind, on whose behalf the petition has been opposed by Mr. H. N. Mehtani, Assistant Advocate-General Haryana. Learned Counsel for the parties are agreed that if the petitioner was disqualified under the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952(hereinafter referred to as the Act), the Sub-Divisional Magistrate was duty-bound to set aside the election of the petitioner. On behalf of the petitioner, however, it is contended that the mere fact that the petitioner owed money to the Panchayat at the time when he filed his nomination papers did not constitute any disqualification under the Act, and after hearing learned Counsel for the parties I fully agree with him. The relevant provisions are contained in clauses (j) and (1) of sub-section (5) of Section 5 of the Act and they may be reproduced with advantage:
'5. * * * * (5) No person who is not a member of the Sabha and who--
* * * * (j) has not paid the arrears of the tax imposed by the Gram Panchayat or the Panchayat Samiti; or
* * * * (1) is a tenant or lessee holding a tenancy or lease under the Gram Panchayat or is in arrears of rent of any lease or tenancy held under the Gram Panchayat, or is a contractor of the Gram Panchayat;
shall be entitled to stand for election as, or continue to be, a Panch.'
Mr. Mehtani concedes that there is no other provision in the Act under which any disqualification could be said to attach to the petitioner by reason of the fact that he owed money to the Panchayat at the time when he filed his nomination papers.
3. An analysis of the provisions of clauses (j) and (1) above extracted makes it clear that only two kinds of arrears bring into play the disqualification in question. Those two kinds of arrears are:--
(i) Arrears of any tax imposed by the Gram Panchayat or the Panchayat Samiti.
(ii) Arrears of rent of any lease or tenancy held by the person concerned under the Gram Panchayat.
Thus before a person can be said to suffer from a disqualification to stand for an election on the ground that he owes money to the Gram Panchayat, it must be shown that such money is due either on account of the arrears of a tax imposed by the Gram Panchayat or the Panchayat Samiti or on account of arrears of rent of any lease or tenancy held by him under the Gram Panchayat. If the amount due does not form part of arrears of the kind specified in clauses (j) and (1) the person concerned would not suffer from the disqualification contemplated by those clauses.
4. All that the Sub-Divisional Magistrate found in the impugned order was that money was due from the petitioner to the Gram Panchayat when he filed his nomination papers. He did not arrive at any finding nor was there any evidence before him to the effect that the petitioner owed arrears of tax or rent of the kind specified in cls. (j) and (1). The petitioner was not, therefore, shown to suffer from any disqualification and his election was consequently not liable to be set aside. Accordingly I hold that the impugned order is void as being without jurisdiction and is quashed in so far as it sets aside the election of the petitioner. The parties are, however, left to bear their own costs.
5. Petition allowed.