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Sri P.M. Ratna Sabhapathi Rao and ors. Vs. the State of Madras Represented by Secretary, Local Administration Department and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 640 of 1952
Reported inAIR1953Mad510; (1953)IMLJ252
ActsMadras District Municipalities Act, 1920 - Sections 7 and 43; Constitution of India, 1950 - Article 226; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC)
AppellantSri P.M. Ratna Sabhapathi Rao and ors.
RespondentThe State of Madras Represented by Secretary, Local Administration Department and ors.
Appellant AdvocateN. Subramaniam and ;G.V. Krishna Sarma, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredSouth v. Peters
.....district municipalities act, 1920 and article 226 of constitution of india - petition relating to municipal council - government called for proposals from municipalities - two proposals submitted - government accepted earlier proposal ignoring subsequent proposal - petitioners contended that government bound to act only on subsequent proposal - open to government to accept proposals made earlier in preference to those subsequently made - held, no grounds for issue of writ of certiorari - petition dismissed. - - it is submitted that the petitionerscannot be said to be aggrieved or affected bythe failure of the government to comply withthe provisions of section 43, district municipalitiesact even assuming that there was such non-compliance. it cannot be said that the rights ofthe..........the government in g. o. no. 1298, local administration dated 1-7-1952. in 1949 the strength of the municipal council, guntur, was fixed at 32 and as the census of 1951 disclosed an increase in the population, the strength of the council had to be increased to 36 in view of the provisions of section 7, district municipalities act. this necessitated redivision of the wards into 32. under section 43, district municipalities act, the government have to consult the municipalities concerned before dividing the municipality into wards and doing other things mentioned in that section. accordingly the government called for proposals from the municipality with regard to the division of it into wards and also the wards in which seats if any should be reserved under subsection 3 of section 7 of the.....

Chandra Reddi, J.

1. This petition relates to the Municipal Council, Guntur and is taken out by twelve persons stated to be the members of that Municipality for calling for the records and for quashing the notification issued by the Government in G. O. No. 1298, Local Administration dated 1-7-1952. In 1949 the strength of the Municipal Council, Guntur, was fixed at 32 and as the census of 1951 disclosed an increase in the population, the strength of the Council had to be increased to 36 in view of the provisions of Section 7, District Municipalities Act. This necessitated redivision of the wards into 32. Under Section 43, District Municipalities Act, the Government have to consult the Municipalities concerned before dividing the municipality into wards and doing other things mentioned in that section. Accordingly the Government called for proposals from the Municipality with regard to the division of it into wards and also the wards in which seats if any should be reserved under Subsection 3 of Section 7 of the Act. On receipt of this communication the Municipal Council passed a resolution on 1-11-1951 appointing a Sub-committee of eight of whom two of the present petitioners were members for formulating proposals to be submitted to the Government regarding division into wards. In order to consider the recommendations, of the Sub-committee, a meeting of the Council was called for on 7-3-1952 and the agenda specifically included the consideration of the proposals of the Sub-committee with regard to division of wards. But as there was no quorum, the meeting had to be adjourned. By a notice dated 13-3-1952 the meeting was fixed for 27-3-1952. On that day a point of order was raised that the meeting was not yalidly summoned as the notice for the meeting and the agenda were not signed by the Vice-Chairman, the basis of the objection being that the Vice-Chairman left the town on the 16th evening and so he could not have signed either the notice or the agenda. But this point of order was ruled out by the Vice-Chairman who was then presiding on the ground that, the notice and the agenda were signed on the 13th and there was absolutely no force in the point of order. Thereafter the proposals of the Sub-committee were considered and were accepted with slight modification and they were communicated to the Government. On 30-5-1952, some members of the Municipal Council sent a requisition for summoning a special meeting for the purpose of reconsidering the resolution of 27-3-1952. Accordingly the special meeting was summoned and at that meeting it was resolved that the resolution of 27-3-1952 should be reconsidered. The meeting was adjourned to 20-6-1952 and on account of some in convenience to some of the members, the meeting could not be held on the 20th and it was postponed to 20 (23?)-6-1952. On 23-6-1952 at about 11 o'clock when the Council was in meeting, a notice was served on the Vice-Chairman by an advocate informing him that a suit was filed by one of the municipal councilors for an injunction restraining the Municipal Council from reconsidering the resolution passed on 27-3-1952. Immediately the Vice-Chairman read out the notice received by him and adjourned the meeting entering in the minute book that the matter of reconsideration of the resolution was 'sub judice' and left the meeting. It is alleged in the affidavit in support of the petition for the issue of writ of 'certiorari' that 17 members of the Council stayed behind, elected one of them as the president of the meeting and passed a resolution making certain proposals to be forwarded to the Government for the division of the wards. This seems to have been communicated to the Government and it is stated that these proposals were before the Government before the notification now sought to be quashed was issued.

2. The main grounds of attack against the notification in question are that it is based on the proposals of the municipality made on 27-3-1952 which are inequitable, and unjust and is therefore 'ultra vires' the powers of the Government, that it contravenes the provisions of Section 43 and that the Government acted in a very highhanded and arbitrary manner and were actuated by mala fides in not issuing a notification in accordance with the proposals, made on 23-6-1952.

3. The chief question therefore for consideration is whether the Government disregarded the provisions of Section 43, District Municipalities Act. Section 43 of that Act runs thus:

'43(1) : For the purpose of election of councillors to a Municipal Council, the Provincial Government after consulting the Municipal Council may, by notification,

(a) divide the Municipality into wards,

(b) determine the wards in which the seats, if any, reserved under Sub-section (3) of Section 7 shall be set apart, and

(c) declare for whom such seats are reserved.

(2) ...............'

We are not concerned with the other provisions of the section. It is seen that under Section 43 all that the Government are required to do before dividing the municipality into wards is to consult the municipality concerned. Before issuing a notification regarding the division, the Government should have the advice of the Municipal Council that is the views of the concerned Municipality with regard to that matter. They are not bound to adopt all the proposals submitted to them in that behalf. All that they have to do before arriving at a decision with regard to division into wards is to take the recommendations of the municipality into consideration they being the final authority and the responsibility being entirely their own. In this case the notification issued on 1-7-1952 is mainly based on the proposals made by the municipality on 27-3-1952.

It is argued by Mr. Subramaniam, vehemently that when fresh proposal were submitted to the Government in suspension or modification of the earlier proposals me Government were bound to act only on the subsequent proposals and could not take into consideration the earlier proposals. I am afraid I cannot give effect to this argument. There is no provision of law in the Act to compel the Government to give effect to the recommendations made by the Municipality. They are not bound to accept all the recommendations of the Municipality in regard to the division. All that they have to do is to consider the proposals before arriving at a decision. Whatever may be the position if the Government were to act in accordance with the wishes or the resolution of the Council and the resolution binding on the Government it is different when the Government have only to consult the municipality before issuing the notification, Under Section 43 the capacity of the Council is only advisory and it cannot insist on the Government accepting the later advice tendered by it in preference to the one that was given earlier. It is for the Government to decide whether they will accept the advice given first or that given subsequently. If the contention put forward on behalf of the petitioners is to be accepted, the position comes to this. If after passing the resolution on 23rd June the municipality again had changed its mind and submitted fresh proposals, the Government would have to give effect to the latest proposals and not to the intermediate proposals. I do not think such a position was ever contemplated by the Legislature when it, enacted Section 43, District Municipalities Act. It is not out of place to note in this case that the Municipality met again on 18-8-1952 and passed a resolution submitting proposals which are said to be completely at variance with those submitted on 23-6-1952. If effect is given to the argument of Mr. Subramaniam, the Government can never act promptly and expeditiously.

4. In support of his contention that there was no consultation by the Government as required under Section 43 of the Act. Mr. Subramaniam relied on a decision of Subba Rao J. in -- 'R. Pushpam v. State of Madras', : AIR1953Mad392 (A). I do not think that the decision has any bearing on the question for consideration. There the State Government made proposals to the Municipal Council, Arupukottai to reserve two seats for women in wards Nos. 5 and 12. The Municipal Council expressed the opinion that the reservation for women might be made in wards Nos. 5 and 7. The Government instead of making reservation as per the original proposal or accepting Municipal Council's recommendation made the reservation for women in wards Nos. 2 and 12. While holding that there was consultation in regard to ward No. 12 having regard to the fact that the original proposal of the Government included ward No 12 the learned Judge took the view that there was no consultation In respect of ward No. 2. In the opinion of the learned Judge It could not be said that there had been any consultation or collaboration between the Municipal Council and the Government as regards ward No. 2.

5. As I have already pointed out, the principle underlying the case has no application to this case. I think that once the Government had called for proposals and the proposals were submitted it is open to the Government to accept those proposals in preference to those subsequently made. When this is done, it cannot be said that there is no sufficient compliance with the provisions of Section 48, District Municipalities Act. In these circumstances there is absolutely no substance in the contention that the Government disregarded relevant provisions of the Act in issuing the notification on 1-7-1952.

6. I must also observe that there is absolutely no foundation for the allegations of mala fides and high-handedness made against the Government. The Government acted on the advice tendered by the Municipality and it cannot be said that the action 'of the Government was mala fide, high-handed or arbitrary. In this connection it cannot be overlooked that the Sub-Committee whose recommendations formed mainly the basis of the notification included two of the petitioners. Further in the counter filed by the Secretary to the Government, Local Administration Department it is stated that the Government considered that the wards as proposed by the Council on 23rd June were equitable and approved those proposals. I do not see any reason why I should not accept this statement. Merely because the voters' lists of different wards are not exactly equal, it cannot be premised that there is want of bona fides on the part of the Government. It is regrettable that mala fides should be attributed to the Government without the slightest foundation.

7. It was argued by the GovernmentPleader that even assuming that there wasnon-observance of the provisions of Section 43,District Municipalities Act, the petitionershave no 'locus standi' to maintain this application. It is submitted that the petitionerscannot be said to be aggrieved or affected bythe failure of the Government to comply withthe provisions of Section 43, District MunicipalitiesAct even assuming that there was such non-compliance. There seems to be considerableforce in this contention of the GovernmentPleader. It cannot be said that the rights ofthe petitioners are involved in the failure ofthe Government to comply sufficiently withthe requirements of Section 43 of the Act. Theyhave no direct interest in the matter. It isonly the Municipality that can complain of it.The petitioners do not have any personal interest in the matter.

8. In this connection, I may refer to a decision of a Bench of this Court consisting of the 'Chief Justice and Venkatarama Aiyar J. in -- 'P. Ramamoorthi, In re', : AIR1953Mad94 (B). The principle laid down there is that the right which is the foundation of a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of a corresponding provision is a personal and individual one and it is the person whose right has been affected by any particular order that can invoke the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. The learned Judges in that case referred to a decision of the Supreme Court in -- 'Chiranjitlal v. Union of India', : [1950]1SCR869 (C).

9. In the last mentioned case the validity of the Sholapur Spinning and Weaving Co. (Emergency Provisions) Act passed by Parliament was impugned by a holder of a share in the company by moving for a writ of 'mandamus' and certain other reliefs under Article 32 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court took the view that an individual share-holder was not entitled to challenge the validity of the enactment which affects the fundamental rights of the company, except to the extent that it constitutes an infraction of his rights. The observations of Fazl Ali J. at p. 44 of the report are pertinent:

'It has been held in a number of cases In the United States of America that no one except those whose rights are directly affected by a law can raise the question of the Constitutionality of that law.'

I may also extract the observations of Das J. in -- 'In re Banwarilal Roy', 48 Cal WN 767 (D) in this connection :

'It is a very well-known form of process and an effective weapoh in the judicial armoury for the protection of the rights and franchise alike of the Crown and the subjects.'

In this connection the remarks of Wright J. in -- 'The Queen v. Lewisham Union', (1897) 1 QB 498 (E) are apposite:

'This Court would be far exceeding its proper functions if it were to assume jurisdiction to enforce the performance by public bodies of all their statutory duties without requiring clear evidence that the person who sought its interference had a legal right to insist upon such performance.'

I therefore think that the petitioners unless they can allege that their personal rights are involved in the notification impugned they cannot maintain this application. It is not alleged how the alleged unequal division has affected the petitioners personally. They do not state that this has in any way resulted in the diminution of the chances of the three petitioners who are said to be seeking election to be returned to the Municipal Council. All that is alleged in the affidavit in support of the petition is that the redistribution of wards is not in the interest of the public.

10. Mr. Subramaniam cited some cases which have laid down that although a subject not having a personal right involved in the matter may not be entitled 'ex debito justitiae' to the issue of a writ, still it is within the discretion of the Court to issue a writ if it is established that the orders impugned are contrary to the provisions of an enactment or principles of natural justice. I do not think these decisions carry the petitioners very far assuming the dictum laid down in those rulings is correct and also that it has a bearing on the writs to be issued under Article 226 of the Constitution.

11. What is alleged in the present petition is that the wards are not so divided as to ensure the return of members of minority communities to the Municipal Council and that the number of voters in some wards is larger than those of other wards. It is nowhere laid down that the wards in a Municipality are to be so divided as to make it easy for the members of a particular community to be returned to the Municipal Council. Nor can it be premised that there is a violation of the principles of natural justice if the wards are not so manipulated as to ensure the success of the representatives of a particular community in the Municipal election. It is not out of place to mention here that it is complained in the affidavit that one of the wards was so redistributed as to make it easy for a Brahmin candidate to be returned to the Council. There is not much force in the other complaint also. Neither under the provisions of the District Municipalities Act nor under the Rules framed for the holding of elections is it incumbent on the authorities concerned to divide the wards in such a manner as would ensure the equality of voting strength of the wards.

12. Even assuming that there is any force in the contention based on the disparity of votes in the matter of redistribution of wards that matter cannot be brought up for writ of 'certiorari'. There are some decisions of the United States Supreme Court which throw some light on this issue. In -- 'Colegrove v. Green', (1946) 328 US 549: The United States Supreme Court Reports, 90 Law Ed. 1432 (F) there was a suit in the District Court of Illinois to have a division of Illinois State into congressional districts declared invalid by reason of inequalities in the population of the respective districts. The suit was dismissed by the District Court. While dismissing the appeal preferred against the dismissal of the suit, Frankfurter J. who delivered the judgment of the Court remarked thus:

'We are of opinion that the petitioners ask of this Court what is beyond its competence to grant. This is one of those demands on judicial power which cannot be met by verbal fencing about 'jurisdiction'. It must be resolved by the considerations on the basis of which this Court, from time to time, has refused to intervene in controversies. It has refused to do so because due regard for the effective working of our Government revealed this issue to be of a peculiarly political nature and therefore not meet for judicial determination.'

It is also stated in the judgment that in effectit was an appeal to the Federal Courts to reconstruct the electoral process of Illinois inorder that it may adequately be represented inthe councils of the nation. Another passagefrom the same judgment may also be quoted asIt is relevant in this context:

'Nothing is clearer than that this controversyconcerns matters that bring Courts into immediate and active relations with party contests. From the determination of such issuesthis Court has traditionally held aloof. It ishostile to a democratic system to invoke thejudiciary in the politics of the people. Andit is not less pernicious if such judicial intervention in an essentially political contestbe dressed up in the abstract phrases of thelaw.'

I adopt the reasoning of the learned Judges inthis case.

13. The same view is embodied in -- 'South v. Peters', (1950) 339 uS 276, see United States Supreme Court Reports, 94 Law Ed. 834 (G). The residents of the Northern Districts of Georgia filed a suit- in the United States District Court for the Northern District attacking statute of Georgia which provided that county unit votes should determine the outcome of primary election, as offending against Fourteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. Under 1953 Mad./65 & 66 the impugned statute each county was given a number of unit votes ranging from six for the most populous counties to two for most of the other counties and the candidates who received the highest popular vote in the county was to be awarded the appropriate number of unit votes. The ground of attack against the statute was that the votes of the residents of the most populous counties had on the average but one-tenth the weight of those in other counties and this amounted to an unconstitutional discrimination against the residents. The suit was dismissed by the Court below. On appeal this was affirmed by the Supreme Court by a Majority of Judges holding that Federal Courts consistently refused to exercise their equity powers in cases posing political issues arising from a State's geographical distribution of electoral strength amongst its political Sub-divisions.

14. In my view, these rulings embody the sound principles and I express my respectful accord with them. These decisions indicate that questions relating to delimitation of Constituencies are not justiciable, they being matters purely within the ambit of the executive power. It is for the Government to arrange the distribution of wards, taking into consideration various factors, such as compactness of area, the population and the electoral strength etc. There is bound to be disparity between one ward and another in the matter of voting strength as due regard has to be had to various other factors, The voting strength is not the sole criterion in these matters. As pointed out by Subba Rao J. in W. P. No. 568 of 1952 (Mad) (H) in dividing the wards the Government have to take into consideration the administrative convenience, the factor of population, the housing accommodation, the size of the divisions, the geographical position of the streets and other similar factors. It follows on this discussion that the redistribution of wards is not a matter that can be brought up for a writ of 'certiorari' before this Court. Any interference by Courts with electoral process is not warranted under Article 226 of the Constitution.

15. I have to state here that just at the time of the close of his reply Mr. Subramaniam wanted to file a petition purported to be one on behalf of the Municipality to come on record. I declined to grant him his request for the reason that it was too late. Further the Chairman cannot come on record without the sanction of the Municipality. So the request of Mr. Subramaniam for permitting him to file an application on behalf of the Municipality to come on record as a party cannot be granted.

16. For the foregoing reasons I hold thatthere are absolutely no grounds for the issueof writ of 'certiprari' and for quashing the notification contained in G. O. No. 1298 Local Administration dated 1-7-1952. The petition isaccordingly dismissed with costs which I fixat Rs./200.

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