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Magh Raj Vs. State of Rajasthan - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1112 of 1966
Judge
Reported in1969WLN184
AppellantMagh Raj
RespondentState of Rajasthan
Cases ReferredShivraj Singh v. State of Rajasthan. That
Excerpt:
.....if the legislature had really intended such a course, then it should not have been wanting in words to provide clearly that a finding recorded under sub-section (4) would result in the removal of the panch, sarpanch, or up-sarpanch. the use of the expression 'only' in sub-section (4) clearly delineates the object of such a finding......him in respect of certain acts of misconduct alleged to have been committed by him when he was a sarpanch of the panchayat during its previous tenure in the year 1961. he also questions the validity of a consequential order passed by the government on 28.10.1966, restraining him from functioning as a sarpanch.2. the relevant facts on which the writ petition is founded are briefly these. the petitioner was elected as sarpanch of the gram panchayat first in the year 1961, and after the term of the panchayat came to an end, he was again elected in the year 1965 as a sarpanch. while he was working as a sarpanch second time, he was faced with an enquiry under section 17(4) of the act. he was served with a charge-sheet on 10.11.1965. in pursuance thereof, the petitioner submitted his reply.....
Judgment:

Kan Singh, J.

1. This is a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution by one Maghraj, who was a Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat Meetari. By it he challenges the validity of the Government order dated 28.7.66, whereby under the provisions of Section 17(4-A) of the Rajasthan Panchayat Act, 1953 (hereinafter to be referred to as 'the Act'), certain findings were recorded against him in respect of certain acts of misconduct alleged to have been committed by him when he was a Sarpanch of the Panchayat during its previous tenure in the year 1961. He also questions the validity of a consequential order passed by the Government on 28.10.1966, restraining him from functioning as a Sarpanch.

2. The relevant facts on which the writ petition is founded are briefly these. The petitioner was elected as Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat first in the year 1961, and after the term of the Panchayat came to an end, he was again elected in the year 1965 as a Sarpanch. While he was working as a Sarpanch second time, he was faced with an enquiry under Section 17(4) of the Act. He was served with a charge-sheet on 10.11.1965. In pursuance thereof, the petitioner submitted his reply denying the charges and then an enquiry was held against him and on 28-7-66, an order was passed, under the proviso to Sub-section 4 of Section 17 of the Act, that the petitioner would be disqualified to hold any office under the Act for the next three years. Subsequently, on the basis of that finding an order was passed against him whereby he was forbidden to function as a Sarpanch and the Government declared his seat vacant.

3. It was contended by the petitioner in the first instance that the finding recorded against him on 28-7-66 was illegal. In the second place, it was contended that the finding could not result in debarring or disqualifying him from holding the present office as Sarpanch, though it might disqualify the petitioner from seeking election at a future election for the period of three years for which the finding would operate against him. The writ petition was opposed by the State of Rajasthan. During the pendency of this writ petition, one Chhunilal and Rameshwarlal, on whose complaints, the enquiry was instituted against the petitioner, applied for hearing impleaded as respondents. It was felt by the Court that these persons were not necessary parties to the case. However, for assisting the Court for a proper determination of the controversy raised, their learned Counsel Shri J.S. Rastogi was also heard.

Learned Counsel for the petitioner did not press the first point, and he agrued the second point on the basis that the finding recorded against the petitioner may be assumed to be correct. On that assumption it was urged by learned Counsel that the finding does not entitle the State Govt. to remove the Sarpanch from his present office. He invited my attention to a judgment of mine in S.B. Civil writ No. 1847 of 1966 Poornaram v. State of Rajasthan decided on 29 9-1967, and submitted that the present case was wholly covered by the view taken in Poornaram's case. Learned Deputy Govt. Advocate did not contest that the present case was covered by what was held in Poornaram's case, but he submitted that the question decided in Poornaram's case is the subject matter of a Full Bench Reference in some earlier case therefore, the hearing of the present case should be postponed. I would have readily postponed the hearing of this case in expectation of the decision in the Full Bench case, but it could not be ascertained precisely as to when the Full Bench would be constituted for the purpose. At any rate, there is no expectation of Full Bench being constituted in the near future. In these circumstances, I do not consider just and proper to delay the disposal of the present writ petition as it would necessarily deprive the petitioner of an elective office. The normal tenure of the Panchayat has already expired, and I am told, that its term has been extended only by one year so that various steps for fresh elections could be taken in the meantime. In Poornaram's case, it was observed by me that a bare persual of Sub-section (4) and (4B) shows that where action has been taken against a Panch, Surpanch or Up - Sarpanch on the basis of what he had done during the tenure of the previous Panchayat then the matter has to be raised with the recording of a finding against him as contemplated under Sub-section (4) of Section 17. I added that on account of the finding the Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch concerned shall not be eligible for re-election under this Act for a period of three years from the date of such finding, but that finding cannot disqualify the petitioner from continuing as a Sarpanch of the present Panchayat, nor it is open to the State Govt. to take any step to remove the Panch Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch on the basis of the finding.

4. Shri Rastogi has submitted that this view requires reconsideration. He submits that the provisions of Section 11(j) imposes a disqualification on such a person against whom a finding has been given for holding the office of a Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch, and as such, a disqualification is incurred after election of such a person, action can be taken against him under Sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the Act, For appreciating the argument of Mr. Rastogi it may be convenient to read the relevant provisions embodying the portions which are material. Section 11 is like this:

Qualification of Panchas : Every person, who is entitled to vote at an election in any Panchayat Circle or award thereof for the purposes of this Act, shall be qualified for election or appointment as a panch, unless such person-

(j) - is for the time being ineligible for decision under Sub-section (4B) of Section 17 of this Act or under Sub-section (3) of Section 40 of the Rajasthan Panchchayat Samitis & Zila Parishads Act,1959. He having been elected or appointed as aforesaid, becomes disqualified during the term of his office for such election or appointment.

His seat shall be declared by the State Govt., after giving him an opportunity of being heard, to have become vacant.

(4) - The State Govt. may by order in writing and after giving him an opportunity of being heard and making such inquiry as may be deemed necessary, remove any Panch, Sarpanch, or Up-Sarpanch who-

(a) refuses to act or becomes incapable of acting as such, or

(b) in the opinion of the State Govt. has been guilty of misconduct or neglect in the discharge of his duties or of any disgraceful conduct;

Provided that any such inquiry as is referred to this Sub-section may be initiated even after the expiry of the term of a Panchayat or, if already initiated before such expiry, may be continued thereafter and in any such case State Govt., shall, by order in writing, only record its findings on the charges levelled against a Panch Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch of the Panchayat during its terms of office.

(4A) The State Government may, during the course of any enquiry under Sub-section (4), suspend a Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch against whom the inquiry has been started and debar him from taking part in any act or proceeding of the Panchayat while under such suspension.

(4B) A Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch who has been removed under Sub-section(4) or against whom findings have been recorded under the proviso to that Sub-section shall not be eligible for re-election under this Act for a period of three years from the date of his removal or, as the case may be, from the date on which such findings are recorded.

5. The argument of Shri Rastogi at the first blush appeared to be plausible, but on a closer scrutiny, it did not hold water. Section 12 describes the qualification of Panchas and in doing so, provided that-

Every person, who is entitled to vote at an election in any Panchayat Circle or a Ward thereof for the purposes of this Act shall be qualified for election or appointment as a Panch.

The various Sub-clauses of the Section define the disqualifications, and Clause (j) has therefore to be treated as a disqualification. A perusal of Clause (j) shows that the ineligibility contemplated therein has a reference to Sub-section (4B) of Section 17, and therefore, this Clause has to be read in conjunction with the relevant Clause viz. (413) and other allied Clauses of Section 17. Sub-Section (4B) provides that a Panch, Sarpanch pr Up-Sarpanch against whom findings have been recorded, shall not be ligible for re-election under this Act for a period of three years from the date of such findings. Therefore, in construing Clause (j) of Section 11, we have to take the ineligibility which refers to the period contemplated under Sub-clause (4B) of Section 17 of the Act for the purposes of re-election and that cannot be construed to mean disqualification for holding the present office of the Panch, Sarpanch, or Up-Sarpanch concerned, More this is so then the use of the word 'only' occurring in the expression the State Govt. shall, by order in writing only record its findings' in Sub-section (4)of Section 17 will be rendered of on use. The use of this word 'only' provides the real clave for getting at the legislative intent and in my view the Legislature only intended that where a finding is recorded against a Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch is respect of what he might have done as a member of the previous Panchayat, that should not result in debarring him from his present office but would only dis-entitle him from standing at a future election. Shri Rastogi wanted to argue like this. First there will be the finding under Sub-section (4) of Section 17, then that finding results in disqualification under Clause (j) of Section 11 of the Act, and then as such disqualification was incurred after the person concerned had been elected, Sub-section (1) of Section 17 will empower the State Govt. to remove such person. Sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the Act does not give any discretion whatsoever to the State Govt. and once the formality of giving a notice is completed, the State Govt. is bound to remove him. In other words, the position, if Shri Rastogi's contention is accepted comes to this. Instead of passing an order of removal in the order giving the finding itself.the State Govt. will be just having one formality more of giving a notice to the person concerned and then removing him. In that context, if the Legislature had really intended such a course, then it should not have been wanting in words to provide clearly that a finding recorded under Sub-section (4) would result in the removal of the Panch, Sarpanch, or Up-Sarpanch. The use of the expression 'only' in Sub-section (4) clearly delineates the object of such a finding. The object of such a finding has, in my view to be gathered from what is contained in Sub-section (4B). Therefore, reading all these provisions harmoniously. I am convinced that the recording of a finding under Sub-section (4) of Section 17 of the Act cannot result in the removal of the Panch, Sarpanch, or Up-Serpanch from the office that he may be holding for the time being. In these circumstancas, I see no reason to depart from the view that I have taken in Poornaram's case. Shri Rastogi also invietd my attention to Debia's Election cases, 1962, Page 7 Mool Chand Sharma v. The State of Uttar Pradesh. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court, who were dealing with the provisions of Section 18D of the U.P. Municipalities Act, 1946, while interpreting that Section pointed out that-

If a member of the Board incurs the disqualification during the period of his membership, he will be disqualified for being a member of the Board. This provision is applicable to the stage previous to the election as also to a stage after that.

I have carefully gone through this judgment and I am unable to hold that the provisions that I am called upon to construe are analogous to these which fell for consideration at the hands of their Lordships. In the present case, the provisions of Sub-section (4) of Section 17 of the Raj. Act, 1953 in my view, provide the clue for gathering the legislative intent as already observed. Apart from this, the background of Section 17, (4A) and (4B) cannot be lost might of. These sub-sections were introduced by Rajasthan Act No. 37 of 1959 which was published in the Rajasthan Gazette, Extraordinary, Part IV-A, dated 9-9-1959. I may also mention that the proviso to Sub-section (4) was also inserted by the same Amendment Act. The position prior to these legislative changes was, and it was held more than once by this Court, that it was not open to the State Govt. to make an enquiry under Sub-section (4) of Section 17 of the Act against a Panch, Sarpanch or a Up-Sarpanch in respect of anything he,may have done as a member of the pre vious Panchayat.

6. Even if the enquiry were pending by the time.the term of the previous Panchayat came to an end, that could riot be continued once the Panch Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch concerned was no longer Such Panch, Sarpanch or Up-Sarpanch on account of the expiry of the term of the Panchayat. It was with a view to remedy this that the amendments were made By virtue of the amendments, such an enquiry could be continued even after the expiry of the term of the previous Panchayat. It may not always be that a person who was a member of the previous Panchayat is once again a member of that Panchayat as a result of any fresh election and therefore, the provision for recording a finding was made, and in such a case where are not re-elected there would be no point in making provision for removal of the Panch. Sarpanch or Up-Sarparich. Then that finding would install the disqualification for the person concerned for re-election in future for the Stated period' I may also make a reference to a Division Bench case of this Court-Shivraj Singh v. State of Rajasthan. That case was decided after these amendments had come into force. The petitioner in that case became Sarpanch of a certain Panchayat in December 1939, and the tenure of his office came to an end in December 1950. He came to be elected as a member of the Panchayat second time at the fresh elections, In respect of certain charges against the petitioner for what he was alleged to have done as a member of the previous Panchayat, an enquiry under Section 17 of the Act was instituted against him and during the course of the enquiry, he was suspended. There the learned Judges had to examine the validity of the suspension order, and in doing so, they considered the question whether the power of removal would be there even if the changes were held proved against the petitioner in the enquiry concerned. They pointed out that the enquiry would not result in the removal of the petitioner, and therefore, suspension Could not have been ordered, as according to the learned Judges, suspension amounted to temporary removal which was not warranted by Section 17 of the Act. Though this case related to the power of suspension, it in my opinion, lends support to the view that I have taken in Poornaram's case. In these circumstances the Govt. cannot be said to have the power of removing the petitioner or restraining him from discharging the duties of his office or to declare the seat vacant. This action cannot be taken by the Govt. on the basis of the findings recorded against the petitioner and as a result of the enquiry relating to the charges for the period he held the Office in the previous Panchayat. As I have already observed, learned Counsel for the petitioner has not challenged the correctness or the legality of the findings themselves. In these circumstances, I allow the writ petition in part while the findings recorded by the Govt. against the petitioner on 28-7-1966 shall stand, the Govt. order dated 28-10-1966, restraining the petitioner from functioning as a Sarpanch & declaring his seat vacant is hereby set aside. The State Govt, is restrained from interfering with the discharge of the duties of the Sarpanch of the Panchayat by the petitioner except according to law. There would be no order as to costs.


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