Candidate contesting elections for Sarpanch post making “self-declaration” that he/she has “toilet” at their residence, is sufficient compliance under Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act? Bom HC examines

Bombay High Court: G.S. Kulkarni, J., considered the question,

Whether a “self-declaration” made by a candidate contesting elections to the post of Sarpanch, that he/she has a “toilet” in a house where he/she resides was sufficient compliance, to be not disqualified under Section 14(1)(j-5) of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1959?

Background

Petitioner challenged an order passed by the Additional Commissioner, Nashik Division whereby an appeal filed by her under Section 16 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1959 had been dismissed thereby confirming the order passed by the Additional Collector, Malegaon.

By the above-stated impugned order, the petitioner had been held to be disqualified as a Sarpanch of Gram panchayat under the provisions of Section 14(1)(j-5) of the Act.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court opined that both the authorities ex-facie erred in passing the impugned order inasmuch as the provisions of Section 14(1)(j-5) had been incorrectly read and/or misinterpreted by the said authorities in disqualifying the petitioner as a Sarpanch.

Bench elaborated stating that the above-said provision prior to its amendment necessitated the candidate to submit a certificate of the panchayat concerned along with the resolution of the Gram Sabha. However, the categorical departure of the said requirement had been made by virtue of the amendment inserted by Maharashtra Act No. 28 of 2017, which would be applicable to the facts of the case.

The Court said that it was clear that there was a departure from the original requirement as postulated by the provision prior to its amendment by the 2017 Amendment Act, by categorically providing for a “self-certificate”, under which the candidate would self-certify that he/she complies with the requirement of clauses (i) and (ii) of sub-section (j-5).

Once a candidate issues a self-certificate setting out the consequence in the self-certificate, namely, the truth thereof, a candidate certainly exposes himself/herself to an enquiry either on a complaint or otherwise that the certificate is a false certificate that the facilities of a toilet are not in existence and therefore on a enquiry being undertaken in the manner known to law, the candidate would expose himself/herself to a disqualification.

Findings of Authorities below: Illegal & Perverse?

It was held that the findings of the authorities below were required to be held perverse and illegal, being contrary to the provisions of Section 14(1)(j-5). The authorities below had erroneously applied the said provision to unseat the petitioner who was elected in a democratic manner as a Sarpanch of the Village Panchayat.

“…the amendment has changed the complete complexion of the provision by making the provision more workable in regard to self-certificate.”

Therefore, the instant petition succeeded in view of the above discussion. [Sangeeta Shivaji Vadkte v. Suryabhan Damu Yamgar, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 6586, decided on 14-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Rameshwar N. Gite for the petitioner.

Mr. S.H. Kankal, AGP for the State.

Mr. J.D. Khairnar for respondents 1 to 3.

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