|On removal of local body chief by Collector|
Two panchayat presidents had filed the petitions
“Election to a local body is only a statutory right”
MADURAI: The Madras High Court on Saturday upheld the constitutional validity of Section 205 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act that empowers Collectors to oust panchayat presidents from office for misconduct.
Dismissing a couple of writ petitions filed in the Madurai Bench, Justice K. Chandru said the Section does not suffer from any illegality, as there are sufficient legislative safeguards to prevent arbitrariness. He refused to accept the petitioners’ argument that there could not be any other method for removal of panchayat presidents, when the enactment specifically provides for disqualification before election.
Pointing out that Section 212 of the Act provides for removal of the presidents through a no-confidence motion, the judge said: “At least in the case of Section 205, a hearing is given to the president of the panchayat.”
Further, the Collectors were obligated to seek explanation from a president, peruse the connected materials, form an opinion, convene a meeting of panchayat members to ascertain their views and then take a decision.
The Collectors’ decisions could be reviewed by the government. Article 226 (writ jurisdiction) of the Constitution also provides for a judicial review, if an arbitrary decision is unjustly supported by the government.
Two panchayat presidents from Sivaganga and Tuticorin districts had filed the petitions, claiming that the unbridled discretion given to the Collectors to remove the presidents of local bodies was in violation of the election procedure. To this, Mr. Justice Chandru said election to a panchayat was only a statutory right, and not a constitutional right. Hence, Section 205 could not be challenged on the grounds of excessive constitutional delegation.
He pointed out that the Section was in consonance with the Supreme Court ruling in Vineet Narain vs. Union of India (1998), wherein it was held that all public authorities must be held accountable for activities, both in their official and public capacity.
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