Sarpanch Cannot Be Disqualified For Not Performing Duties: Bombay HC

Bombay HC

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently held that a village sarpanch cannot be removed from his post simply because he has not performed his statutory duties well.

A single bench of Justice Arun Pednekar was hearing a petition filed by Manohar Dnyaneshwar Pote, who was disqualified by the Collector, on the ground that he failed to conduct four meetings in a financial year as mandated under the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958.

“Mere non-performance of the statutory duty would not disqualify the elected member unless he is not able to give a good reason for non-performing of the statutory duty. Thus, non-performance of statutory duty does not lead to automatic disqualification,” Justice Pednekar stated.

The single bench further said that an elected member is to be removed in exceptional circumstances and that he has to be explained the specific charge against him and also the elected member should be given an opportunity to explain the sufficient cause for his failure to perform statutory duty. 

According to Pote, he was unable to convene four meetings in the first half of 2021 due to prohibitory orders obtained under the Disaster Management Act and section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.

He emphasised that shortly after the prohibitory orders were released, he hosted meetings on September 3, 2021, November 16, 2021, and 30, 2021, as well as one online on January 26, 2022.

As a result, he argued that he had complied with Section 7 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, which requires four meetings in a fiscal year and a four-month gap between two such meetings.

The Collector, on the other hand, disqualified Pote because he held meetings consecutively and did not adhere to the provision’s four-month gap.

The Collector’s reasoning, however, was dismissed by the Court.

“The Act does not contemplate holding of meetings in a particular way. The requirement of law is that in the financial year there has to be at least four meetings of the Gram Sabha and that gap in between meetings should not be more than 4 months. Even otherwise excluding period of covid-19 whereby the State had directed not to hold the meetings of Gram Sabha and that the various prohibitory orders are passed under Section 144 of CrPC, placing restrictions on holding meetings up to June 15, 2021, the petitioner has complied with the provision of holding of Gram Sabha meetings as contemplated in the Act,” the bench opined. 

As a result, the bench quashed the Collector’s orders and reinstated Pote’s position in the Gram Sabha.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte