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V.P. Singh Vs. Chairman, Metropolitan Council of Delhi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ No. 974 of 1968
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Delhi295
ActsDelhi Administration Act, 1966 - Sections 11, 18(3), 24(1) and 26; Constitution of India - Article 226; Delhi Administration Rules - Rules 132 and 133; General Clauses Act; Companies Act
AppellantV.P. Singh
RespondentChairman, Metropolitan Council of Delhi and ors.
Appellant Advocate D.D. Chawla and; R.L. Tandon, Advs
Respondent Advocate C.K. Daphtary, Sr. Adv. and ; Hardev Singh, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....under article 226 of the constitution of india, challenging the cessation of the membership from metropolitan council - it was ruled that interference by the high court would only be permissible where allegation of violation of mandatory provision of a statute was made - section 13: [altamas kabir & cyriac joseph,jj] custody of child - welfare of child vis--vis comity of courts - the minor girl child of 3 1/2 years was brought to india by her mother. the minor girl was a citizen of u.k. being born in u.k. her parents had set up their matrimonial home in u.k. and had acquired status of permanent residents of u.k. the child with her mother was supposed to return to u.k. but the mother cancelled her tickets and remained behind in india. the husband thereupon started procededings before..........and conduct of business in the metropolitan council, i beg to move that shri v. p. singh, member, metropolitan council, having remained absent, without permission, for more than six successive months, from all meetings of the council, viz., during the period 9th april,' 196s to 29th december, 1968 his seat be declared vacant.''. the petitioner moved this petition impugning the validity of the proposed resolution. it is alleged that in the facts and circumstances of the case, section 18 (3) does nto disqualify the petitioner from continuing as a member or entitle the respondents to declare vacant the petitioner's seat in the council in exercise of the power under the said provision of the act on the ground that he did nto attend the meetings of the council held between 16th.....
Judgment:

S.K. Kapur, J.

1. Membership of the petitioner of the Metropolitan Council of Delhi constituted under the Delhi Administration Act, 1966 (Act No. 19 of 1966), is at stake. The petition is being disposed of on admitted facts. On 2nd January, 1969, when the motion for issue of rule nisi was heard, the learned counsel agreed that the matter may be decided on the interpretation of Section 18 of the said Act, In the order dated 2nd January, 1969, while admitting the writ petition, this Court recorded:

'The learned counsel agree that the entire matter turns on the interpretation of Section 18 (3). Mr. Daphtary says that in the circumstances no counter-affidavit is necessary, . . .'

The said undisputed facts are that the petitioner is a member of the Metropolitan Council; that the petitioner contested the election as a Congress nominee and has all along been the Secretary of the Congress Party in the Council; that at present the party position in the Council is: Jan Sangh Party--35 seats; Congress Party--21 seats; and Independents--5 seats; that a session of the Council was held from 20th March, 1968, to 8th April, 1968, and the petitioner attended all those sittings of the Council; that after 8th April, 1968, the Council was prorogued sine die by the Administrator, Delhi; that on 17th August, 1868, the petitioner left for United States of America on the invitation of Farmers and World Affairs, Incorporated in U.S.A. and returned to Delhi from abroad on 7th October, 1968; that on 1st September, 1968, the Administrator summoned the Metropolitan Council to meet and the Council did meet from 16th September, 1968, to 20th September 1968; that the petitioner being absent during these days, id nto attend any of the sittings; that the Metropolitan Council was again summoned to meet and did meet on 30th December 1968; that this meeting was attended by the petitioner; and that on 29th December, 1968, the petitioner received a copy of list of business of the Council for Monday, the 30th December, 1968, the 7th item of which list was a resolution proposed to be moved by the Chief Executive Councillor, Shri Vijay Kumar Malhotra reading as under:--

'7. Motion: Shri Vijay Kumar Malhotra to move the following:-- 'Under Section 18(3) of the Delhi Administration Act, 1966, read with R. 133 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Metropolitan Council, I beg to move that Shri V. P. Singh, Member, Metropolitan Council, having remained absent, without permission, for more than six successive months, from all meetings of the Council, viz., during the period 9th April,' 196S to 29th December, 1968 his seat be declared vacant.''.

The petitioner moved this petition impugning the validity of the proposed resolution. It is alleged that in the facts and circumstances of the case, Section 18 (3) does nto disqualify the petitioner from continuing as a member or entitle the respondents to declare vacant the petitioner's seat in the Council in exercise of the power under the said provision of the Act on the ground that he did nto attend the meetings of the Council held between 16th September, 1968 and 20th September, 1968. The entire case turns on the interpretation of Section 18 (3) of the said Act. Some of the relevant provisions of the Act and the Rules may now be read.

2. Section 11 provides-

'(1) The Administrator shall from time to time, summon the Metropolitan Council to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall nto intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.

(2) The Administrator may, from time to time,--

(a) prorogue the Metropolitan Council;

(b) with the approval of the President, dissolve the Metropolitan Council.' Section 18 (3) reads- 'If during a period of six successive months, a member is, without permission of the Metropolitan Council, absent from all meetings thereof, the Metropolitan Council may declare his seal vacant.'

Section 26 shuts out the inquiry by Courts into the validity of any proceedings in the Metropolitan Council 'on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure'. Rule 132 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Metropolitan Council of Delhi, framed in exercise of power under sub-section (1) of Section 24 of the said Act, provides the procedure for obtaining leave for absence from meetings of the Council. It requires that a member wanting such permission must make an application in writing to' the Chairman stating the period for which he may be permitted to be absent from the meetings of the Council. The application is then to be read out by the Chairman to the Council to ascertain the views of the Council thereon. Rule 133 provides that the seat of a member may be declared vacant under sub-section (3) of Section 18 on a motion made by the Chief Executive Councillor or by such other member to whom he may delegate his functions in this behalf. Under the said rule if the motion is carried, the Secretary shall cause the information to be published in the Gazette and forward a copy of the notification, in this case of an elected member, to the Election Commission for taking steps to fill the vacancy thus caused. The contention of Mr. Chawla, the learned counsel for the petitioner, was that under sub-section (3) of Section 18 of the Act the period of six successive months, absence during which disqualifies a member starts from the date of the meeting from which a member absents himself and the terminus a quo in this case must be 16th September, 1968, and nto 9th April, 1968, as contended by the respondents. Mr. Dapthary, the learned counsel for the respondents, on the other hand, argued that on the plain reading of subsection (3) of Section 18 all that has to be seen is whether or nto in any six successive months the member concerned absented himself from all meetings of the Metropolitan Council and the petitioner nto having attended any meeting from 9th April, 1968, to 8th October, 1968, in spite of meetings having been held in between in September 1968 incurred the disqualification as soon as six months expired from 9th April, 1968. In other words, according to Mr. Daphtary, the period following the meeting which the member attended is also to be counted for the purpose of calculating six successive months under Section 18 (3). I am nto in agreement with the contention of Mr. Daphtary. In my opinion, the period of six successive months commences from the date a meeting is held and the member absents himself from that meeting. The words 'absent from all meetings thereof in Section 18 (3) provide the real clue to the meaning of the section and there can be no absence until there is a meeting. In the case at hand, thereforee, the petitioner cannto be said to have absented himself from the meetings until 16th September, 1968, and that would, in my opinion, be the terminus a quo. He having attended the meeting on 30th December, 1968, cannto be said to have incurred the disqualification within Section 18 (3), In re London and Northern Bank; McConnell's Claim (1901) 1 Ch D 728, Article 97 of the Articles of Association of the London and Northern Bank Limited, which was more or less in terms similar to Section 18 (3) of the said Act,, fell for consideration. The said Article 97: read-

'The office of a director shall ipso facto be vacated...,

(e) if he absents himself from the meetings of the directors during a period of three calendar months without special leave of absence from the directors.'

A meeting of the board of directors of the Bank was held on August 3, 1898 and Sir Robert John McConnell was appointed one of the directors of the Bank. He attended board meetings down to and including a meeting held on February 3, 1899. The next meeting of the directors was held on March 3, 1899, but Sir Robert John McConnel did nto attend that meeting. He was absent, without special leave, until after May 7, 1899. On May 8, 1899, shortly after a board meeting had been held, he received a letter from the General Manager of the Bank saying that pursuant' to Article 97, sub-clause (e) of the Articles of Association he had ceased to be a director having nto attended any of the directors' meetings during the last three months. Wright J., observed--.

'Still, in my Judgment, even though Sir Robert McConnell absented himself, I agree with Mr. McCall that the directors were wrong in acting upon that absence as having vacated his office so soon as May 7. I think the true meaning is what Mr. McCall suggested on that point namely, that he could nto be taken to have absented himself within the meaning of that article until there was a meeting which he ought to have attended, and the first meeting after February 3, which he ought to have attended was that which was held on March 3; I do nto think that the period of absence began to run until then. Nevertheless, when the three months had elapsed--that is to say, when June 3 had passed--there was a meeting on that day--it seems to me that the applicant had then absented himself from the meetings of the directors during a period of three calendar months without special leave of absence from the directors. .......'

To the same effect is a statement in Halsbury's Laws of England, Third Edition, Volume 6, at page 320, foot-note (b), which reads--.

'(b) As to the meaning of absenting himself, see McConnell's Claim (1901) 1 Ch D 728; Re London and Northern Bank, Mack's Claim (1900) Wn 114; these cases show that the absence must be voluntary and nto accidental. The absence dates from the first meeting which the director fails to attend (McConnell's Claim (1901) 1 Ch D 72S supra; Re London and Northern Bank, Mack's Claim (1900) Wn 114 (Supra);' and in Buckley on the Companies Acts, Thirteenth Edition, while dealing with Schedule I, Article 88, which provides that 'the office of director shall be vacated if the director........ (f) shall for more than six months have been absent without permission of the directors from meetings of the directors held during that period'. At page 882 it is said- 'Para, (f) of this article is new in Table A. Where articles provided that a director's office should be vacated in case he absented himself from directors' meetings for a certain period, 'absenting himself was held to mean being absent voluntarily or deliberately. (Mack's Claim 1900) Wn 114. The period of absence does nto begin to run until a meeting has been held which he ought to attend, (McConnell's Claim 1901) 1 Ch D 728.'

McConnell's Claim case (1901) 1 Ch D 728, has been relied upon for this proposition.

3. The interpretation sought to be placed by the petitioner has, apart from the authority, the support of inherent reasonableness. The section deals with vacation of seats by members and it appears highly unreasonable to tag on the period following the dale of the meeting attended by the member for calculating the period of six successive months, absence during which' disqualifies a member. Various anomalies would result if the interpretation sought to be placed by the respondents is accepted. Whether the word month in Sections 11 and 18 is taken to mean calendar month as defined in the General Clauses Act or to mean 180 days suggested by Mr. Daphtary as a possible meaning, the anomalies cannto be resolved. For instance, if a session of the Council is held in the month of March and extends to one day in April the next meeting can be summoned for and held at any time on or before October 1, A member may have attended the meetings up to 29th March and nto on 30th March to 1st April, If the next meeting is held even on 30th September the member would have incurred disability by then, in spite of the fact that after 29th March he may have all along been willing to attend the meeting. Similarly if a meeting is held up to 28th March and then for one day on 15th April, he may have, rendered himself liable to be disquali fied even before the nest meeting. Mr. Daphtary said that position would be equally anomalous if the interpretation of the petitioner is accepted inasmuch as a member may attend a meeting in March, absent himself in the next meeting held in September and attend the next meeting held in March of the following year without entailing disqualification. That, in my opinion, is no anomaly at all, for summoning a meeting does nto depend on a member and it is the absence from meetings which entails disqualification. If the meetings are so infrequent as suggested by Mr. Daphtary, no blame can be laid on the member. The result of accepting the respondents' contention would be that one day's absence from a meeting, due to some unavoidable cause, can entail disqualification if no meeting is held thereafter for quite some time as appears from the illustrations given by me hereinbefore. I am thereforee, clearly of the opinion that period of disqualification starts from the date of the meeting from which a member is absent, in this case 16th September, 1968.

4. That takes me to the next contention of Mr. Daphtary that the Court should nto interfere at this stage and should allow the Council to deliberate on the resolution for the Council may either pass or reject the resolution. His argument was that though the Court may have jurisdiction but it should nto exercise it so as to interfere with the deliberations regarding indoor management of the Council. True that Court will nto interfere with the internal management of such like bodies acting within their powers yet that rule cannto be extended too far. Generally speaking, Courts must leave such bodies to manage their own affairs and nto intervene or remedy the dissatisfaction by a member but that principle will extend only to such matters which can strictly be termed as matters relating to indoor management and conduct of its business. The Courts will not, thereforee, intervene in the matters relating to the conduct of business by such bodies when such matters fall within their authority or power but I do nto think that this principle should stand in the way of the Court compelling due observance of the mandatory provisions of an Act. It is a fundamental principle of legal jurisprudence that Courts will nto allow an act to be done against the mandatory provisions of a statute and wait till the mischief is done. If my view of Section 18 (3) be correct, it will only mean that the Court 'will have to stay its hands temporarily, wait till the wrong is done and then quash the proceedings resulting in no advantage but in all disadvantages inherent in the multiplicity of judicial proceedings. I cannto subscribe to that view, I, thereforee, need nto pronounce on the question raised by Mr. Chawla, the learned counsel for the petitioner, that result of the resolution is a fore-gone conclusion in view of the majority enjoyed by the Jan Sangh Party in the Council and in view of the position taken by the respondents in these proceedings that their interpretation is the only obvious interpretation of Section 18 (3).

5. One other difficulty that may arise if we do nto interfere at this stage is the sanctity of the decisions taken in certain meetings of the Council by wrongly excluding the petitioner. The elected representatives participate in the proceedings of elected bodies under the mandate of the electors. Should the rights of electors be made dependent on the views that a majority may hold or on the mandate of the laws is the question. If laws are technique for deciding cases, they are also something more. They are also mirrors reflecting the social processes and the processes of maintenance of dignity and rights of men. All legal problems confronting the Courts have realities reflected in those mirrors. The Courts must intervene in such like matters before a perverted image of the laws' administration becomes visible for otherwise the erroneous, even though bona fide opinion of the majority, may, in effect, prevail over the laws.

6. In the result, I allow this petition and issue a writ, order or direction directing the respondents nto to move and/or pass the resolution removing the petitioner from the membership of the Metropolitan Council on the ground that he absented himself from the meetings held between 16th September, 1968 and 20th September, 1968. There will, however, be no order as to costs.

Mardayal Hardy, J.

7. I agree.

8. Petition allowed.


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