V.S. Malimath, Ag. C.J.
1. This Appeal is by the Vice-Chairman of the village Panchayat, Maranbeed village, challenging the order made by the learned single Judge in Writ petn. No. 515/82, which decision has since been reported in : AIR1984Kant24 (Channabasappa v. Divisional Commr.). The fact necessary for the disposal of this appeal may briefly be stated as follows : -
2. Channabasappa Gaddi was the elected Chairman of the Village Panchayat of Maranbeed village. It is the case of the appellant that Channabasappa sent his letter of resignation resigning from the office of the Chairman, to the Assistant Commissioner, Savanur Sub-Division, on 3-8-1981. The Assistant Commissioner by his order dt. 3-8-1981, accepted the said resignation. On coming to know of the acceptance of the resignation, Channabasappa preferred a revision petition before the Divisional Commissioner, Belgaum challenging the order of the Assistant Commissioner dt. 4--9-1981. His case before the Divisional Commissioner was that he had not in fact tendered his resignation and the letter received by the Assistant Commissioner appears to be the result of fraud committed by his opponents, that he had left several blank papers duly signed by him at the office and one such paper appears to have been made use of by his opponents to type out his resignation and to send the same to the Assistant Commissioner. He, therefore, contended that he not having sent any letter of resignation written by him in his own hand the Assistant Commissioner was not right in accepting the same and declaring that the Office of the Chairman of the village Panchayat of Maranbeed has become vacant requiring the same to be filled up in accordance with law. The Divisional Commissioner made an order on 22-12-1981 dismissing the revision petition. It is in this background that Channabasappa challenged the order of the Assistant Commissioner and the Divisional Commissioner in Writ Petition No. 515 of 1982. The learned single Judge has allowed the writ petition and quashed the orders of the Assistant Commissioner and the Divisional Commissioner and also directed that the election to the Office of the Chairman which was scheduled to be held on 19-2-1983 shall automatically stand cancelled there being no vacancy in the Office of the Chairman consequent upon the decision rendered by the learned single Judge. It is the said decision of the learned single Judge that is challenged in this appeal by the Vice-Chairman of the village Panchayat.
3. Sri Ujjannavar, learned counsel for the appellant, formulated the following two contentions : -
(i) that the learned single judge has committed an error in assuming that the Supreme Court has in Union of India v. Gopalchandra Misra, : (1978)ILLJ492SC interpreted the expression 'writing under his hand' occuring in S. 31(2) of the Karnataka Village Panchayats and Local Boards Act (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') as conveying the meaning that it should be in the handwriting of the person, and that therefore the typed matter is not contemplated, and
(ii) that on a proper construction of the provisions of S. 31(2) of the Act the expression 'under his hand' conveys the meaning that it should be under his signature and that the word 'writing' conveys the meaning as defined in S. 3(42) of the Karnataka General Clauses Act, 1899, as including reference to printing, lithography, photography and other modes of representing or reproducing words in a visible form.
4. We shall take up the first contention of Sri Ujjannavar for consideration. Sec. 31 of the Act provides for resignation of Chairman or Vice-Chairman, and reads as follows: -
'31. Resignation of Chairman or Vice Chairman
(1) The Vice-Chairman may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Chairman and in the absence of the Chairman to the Assistant Commissioner.
(2) The Chairman may resign his Office by writing under his hand addressed to the Assistant Commissioner.
(3) Resignations under sub-sec. (1) or (2) shall take effect from the date Of their acceptance.'
We are concerned in this case with sub-see. (2) of S. 31 which provides for the resignation of the Chairman. It clearly provides that the Chairman may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Assistant Commissioner. The express in 'writing under his hand' is the one on which different interpretations are sought to be placed by the learned counsel appearing for the contesting parties in this case. In Art. 217 of the Constitution there is a provision enabling a Judge of a High Court to resign from Office, and it reads as follows : -
'A Judge may by writing under his hand addressed to the President resign his Office.'
It is therefore clear that the expression 'Writing under his hand' used in Art. 217 of the Constitution in identical with the expression in sub-sec. (2) of S. 31 of the Act pertaining to the resignation of the Chairman of a village Panchayat. It is therefore that the learned single Judge has relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court reported in : (1978)ILLJ492SC . The learned single Judge has in para 6 of his order observed that the Supreme Court has clearly laid down that the expression 'under his hand' used in Art. 217 of the Constitution conveys the meaning that it should be in the handwriting of the person who has tendered the resignation. This inference has been drawn by relying upon the following observations of the Supreme Court in the, said judgment: -
'The three clauses of the proviso to Art. 217(l) indicate that this tenure can be terminated before the Judge attains the age of 62 years, in four contingencies namely, where he -
(i) resigns his Office in the manner laid down in its cl. (a);
(ii) is removed from his Office in the manner provided in Art. 124(4) (vide its cl. (b));
(iii) is appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court (vide its cl. (c));
(iv) is transferred to any other High Court in India.
20. Here in this case, we have to focus attention on cl. (a) of the proviso. In order to terminate his tenure under this clause, the Judge must do three volitional things: Firstly, he should execute a writing under his hand'. Secondly, the writing should be 'addressed to the President'. Thirdly by that writing he should 'resign his Office'. If any of these things is not done, or the performance of any of them is not complete, cl. (a) will not operate to cut short or terminate the tenure of his Office.'
It is from these observations of the Supreme Court that the learned single Judge has come to the conclusion that the Supreme Court has laid down that the expression 'under his hand' is used to convey the meaning that it should be in the handwriting of the person who tenders his resignation. It is therefore that the learned single Judge has held that the letter of resignation in the present case cannot have the effect of terminating the Office of the Chairman held by Channabasappa as the said letter has not been written in his own hand as admittedly the substance of the letter has been typewritten. We may mention at this stage that the substance of the letter of resignation is typed and below it is to be found the signature of Channabasappa. At no stage of the proceedings the signature of Channabasappa has been denied. We fail to see from the observations of the Supreme Court extracted above any finding by their Lordships to the effect that the expression 'under his hand' means in the handwriting of the person concerned. Their Lordships were analysing proviso (a) of Art. 217(l) of the Constitution and ascertaining the ingredients contemplated by the said proviso. The three ingredients contemplated by proviso (a) to Art. 217(l) of the Constitution have been analysed and it has been held that they are: (i) he should execute a writing under his hand, (ii) the writing should be addressed to the President and (iii) by that writing he should resign his office. Their Lordships have nowhere interpreted the first ingredient viz., 'writing under his hand'. In the entire Judgment of the Supreme Court we do not find any observation of the Supreme Court giving the meaning of the expression 'Writing under his hand'. In our opinion, therefore, Sri Ujjannavar is right in contending that the Supreme Court had no occasion in that case to examine the meaning of the expression 'writing under his hand' used in proviso (a) to Art. 217(l) of the Constitution. Hence the learned single Judge with respect, was not right in holding that the expression 'writing under his hand' has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as conveying the meaning that is should be in the handwriting of the person tendering the resignation. It is no doubt true that the provisions of S. 31(2) of the Act are in pari materia with proviso (a) to Art. 217(l) of the Constitution and therefore if the Supreme Court had interpreted the expression 'writing under his hand' to mean that it should be in the handwriting of the person tendering resignation it would have clinched the issue in favour of Channabasappa. But as the Supreme Court has not dealt with that question it is obvious that the question is res integra.
5. We shall now proceed to deal with the second contention of Sri Ujjannavar which bears on the true interpretation of the expression 'writing under his hand'. Our attention was invited to the definition of the word 'writing' occurring in S. 3(42) of the Karnataka General Clauses Act, 1899. It provides that the expression referring to 'writing' shall be construed as including references to printing, lithography, photography and other modes of representing or reproducing words in a visible form. The definition is wide enough as rightly pointed out by Sri Ujjannavar to include typewritten material as it is one of the modes of representing or reproducing words in a visible form. If we carefully look into the definition of the word 'writing' occurring in S. 3(42) of the said Act it becomes clear that it excludes from its ambit modes of reproducing words in a form other than visible form. In other words, it excludes oral expression of words. Our attention was also drawn to the meaning of the word 'hand'. The word 'hand' has not been defined in the Act or in the Karnataka General Clauses Act. Hence it was submitted that we I should understand the said word in the manner it is understood in the ordinary parlance. In Websters New 20th Century Dictionary, Unabridged, II Edn, at least 20 meanings have been given for the word 'hand'. It inter alia means handwriting or a signature. Hence it was contended by Sri Ujjannavar that the word 'hand' used in S. 31(2) of the Act should be understood as conveying the meaning signature. It is on that basis it was contended that the expression 'writing under his hand' would convey that the resignation should not be oral but should be in a visible form as defined in S. 3(42) of the Karnataka General Clauses Act and that it should be under the signature of the person tendering resignation. Sri Ujjannavar therefore contended that if the letter of resignation is typed conveying that the person is resigning from the Office of the Chairman if it bears the signature of the person tendering resignation the same has to be regarded as falling under the expression 'writing under his hand'. Our attention was rightly and fairly drawn by Sri Joshi, learned counsel for the contesting respondent, to the meaning of the phrase 'under his hand' given in words and pharases, permanent Edition, Vol. 43, page 173, the relevant portion of which may be extracted as follows : -
'The Word 'hand' in legal parlance, is often used to denote handwriting or written signature, as 'Witness my hand and seal', or Witness my hand'. If the Instrument be not under seal. also, as used in Gen. St. 978, 985 and Milss' Ann-St. 1484, 1491, authorising a Judge or Justice of the peace to issue a Warrant in certain cases, 'Under his hand' means a writ or process in writing, signed by the Judge or Justice.'
It is therefore clear that the phrase 'under his hand' ordinarily means that it is the writing signed by the person concerned. The question for consideration is as to whether there is any good reason why we should not interpret the expression 'writing under his hand' as including within its ambit a typewritten letter of resignation duly signed by the person tendering resignation. The learned Single Judge, as already pointed had held that the expression 'writing under his hand requires that the person should write the letter of resignation in his own hand and that therefore it is not enough if he signs a typewritten letter of resignation. If the interpretation which commended itself to the learned single Judge is accepted as right, it was pointed out by Sri Ujjannavar learned counsel for the appellant that it will result in great inconvenience and lead to absurd results. He submitted that there may be a person who becomes a Chairman of the Panchayat, who is not a literate person at all. If an illiterate person becomes a Chairman of the Panchayat it'is impossible to expect him to write the letter of resignation in his own hand. There may also be a case of a person without any hand becoming a Chairman of the Panchayat. Our attention was drawn to the relevant provisions of the Act and the Rules to which we would presently advert, in support of the submission that the Act contemplates even ' an illiterate person or a person without a hand becoming a Chairman of the Panchayat.
6. S. 27 of the Act provides that, any member of the Panchayat can be chosen by the Panchayat as its Chairman or Vice-Chairman. No educational qualifications for the said offices have been prescribed. The only qualification is that the person should be a member of the Panchayat. Section 9 provides that the electroal roll of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly for the time being in force for such part of the constituency of the Assembly as is included in any panchayat constituency shall, for the purposes of the Act, be deemed to be the list of voters for such panchayat constituency. Section 10 provides that every person whose name is in the list of voters of any Panchayat constituency shall, unless disqualified under this Act or under any other law for the time being in force, be qualified to be elected as a member of the Panchayat. Section 11 enumerate$' the disqualifications for being chosen as a member of the panchayat. Lack of educational qualification or lack of ability to write or absence of hands, is not prescribed as one of the disqualifications. The list of voters is prepared under the relevant provisions of the Representations of People Act, 1950. Section 16 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 provides that a person shall be disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if he is not a citizen of India, or is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent Court or is for the time being disqualified from voting under the provisions of any law relating to corrupt practices and other offences in connection with elections. Section - 19 prescribes a condition for registration and provides that subject to the provisions of Part III, every person who is not less than twenty one years of age on the qualifying date and its ordinarily resident in a constituency, shall be entitled to be registered in the electoral roll for that constituency. It is, therefore, clear from these provisions that it is not necessary that a person should be literate or possess hands in order to become eligible or qualified to become a voter and to get his name entered in the electoral roll of the Legislative Assembly, Our attention was also drawn to R. 10 (ee) of the Karnataka Village Panchayat Election of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman Rules, 1959 which provides that at the request of a Member, who through blindness or any other cause is unable to read the names of the candidates on the ballot paper or make a mark thereon, the Election Officer shall record a vote in the ballot paper in accordance with the wishes of the member and fold it up so as to conceal the vote. The member than shall by himself or with the assistance of the Election Officer, insert the ballot paper into the ballot box. This provision further clarifies that the law contemplates a person who is not a literate and who may have physical disability may also participate at the election to the office of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman. The provisions of the Act and the Rules which we have examined, make it abundantly clear that a person who is not a literate and also a person who does not have hands or suffers from other bodily infirmities, who cannot use his hands, can also become a member of the Panchayat and can also become a Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Panchayat. If, therefore, a person who is not literate and who does not have hands, can get elected as Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Panchayat, the question for consideration is as to how such a person can exercise his statutory right, under Subsec. (2) of S. 31, of resigning from that Office. As already stated, the Chairman may resign his Office by writing under his hand addressed to the Assistant Commissioner. If the Chairman does not have hands or if he is not literate, he would not at all be in a position to write the letter of resignation in his own handwriting. If, as held by the learned single Judge, a Chairman cannot tender his resignation unless the same is written in his own handwriting, it follows that a Chairman who is not literate or a Chairman who does not have hands, cannot at all resign from the Office of the Chairman. It is therefore clear that the interpretation put by the learned single Judge leads to great inconvenience and makes the provision unworkable, thereby leading to absurd results. The Supreme Court, in : 2SCR457 between Tirath Singh v. Bachittar Singh has laid down that -
'Where the language of a statute, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to some inconvenience or absurdity, hardship or injustice presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words and even the structure of the sentence.'
We have already observed that the expression writing under his hand, if properly interpreted, conveys that it is enough if the letter of resignation, written or typed, bears the signature of the person tendering the resignation. It is not at all necessary that the contents of the resignation letter should be written in the hand-writing of the person tendering his resignation. It appears to us that the discussion will not be complete unless we express ourselves on what the word 'signature' used by us, conveys in the context. The word 'sign' is defined in S. 3(37) of the Karnataka General Clauses Act, 1899 to mean with its grammatical variations and cognate expression, (that it) shall with reference to a person who is unable to write his name, include 'mark' with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions. If the Chairman is not in a position to write his signature, any mark of his denoting his signature could be affixed. The interpretation pressed for our acceptance by Sri S. S. Ujjannavar is reasonable and advances the object of the Act and renders it workable. As the interpretation placed by the learned single Judge leads to great hardship and inconvenience and renders the provision unworkable and defeats the very object of the Act. the same cannot be accepted.
7. In the result, we hold that the letter of resignation tendered by Sri Channabasappa, the substance of which is typed and which bears his signature, satisfied the requirements of sub-sec. (2 ) of S. 31 of the Act. Hence, in our opinion, the Assistant Commissioner was justified in accepting his resignation.
8. It is no doubt true that the principal contention of Sri Channabasappa before the Divisional Commissioner was that he had not tendered his resignation, and that a blank paper on which he had affixed his. signature and left in the Office, must have been fraudulently made use of by his opponents to type a resignation letter. No material was placed by him before the Divisional Commissioner justifying acceptance of the case put forward by him. It was contended by Sri W. K. Joshi that the Divisional Commissioner was not right in proceeding to dispose of the case without calling for the records. But the order of the Divisional Commissioner makes it clear that the records which were called, not having been received, the learned counsel appearing for both the parties agreed to argue the case without the records being received. Hence, it is not possible to entertain the complaint now at this stage that the Divisional Commissioner was not justified in disposing of the matter without calling for the records. In the absence of any material-placed by respondent 1 before the Divisional Commissioner, there was no other alternative for the Divisional Commissioner but to hold that there are no reasons to take the view that the acceptance of the resignation by the Assistant Commissioner was illegal or improper. Besides, we consider it unnecessary to go into this aspect any further as Sri Chandappa Gowdar learned Government Advocate, brought to our notice that all the Panchayats in the State including Maranbeedu Village Panchayat Office, have been superseded and it is only the Administrators that are now functioning.
9. For the reasons stated above, this appeal is allowed. The order of the learned single Judge is set aside and the writ petition of the first respondent is dismissed. No Costs.
10. Appeal allowed.