State Government Cannot Direct Municipalities To Expend Its Own Funds For Conducting 'Nava Kerala Sadas': Kerala High Court
The Kerala High Court on Friday categorically laid down that the State Government cannot direct Municipalities to expend its own funds for the conduct of 'Nava Kerala Sadas'.'Nava Kerala Sadas' is a program involving direct interaction of top officials with the people and redressal of their grievances. It seeks to address the issues faced by the community in four main sectors, namely,...
The Kerala High Court on Friday categorically laid down that the State Government cannot direct Municipalities to expend its own funds for the conduct of 'Nava Kerala Sadas'.
'Nava Kerala Sadas' is a program involving direct interaction of top officials with the people and redressal of their grievances. It seeks to address the issues faced by the community in four main sectors, namely, health, education, agriculture and housing, with the aid of local self-governments.
The Chairperson of Paravur Municipality had approached the Court with the present plea, challenging the Order issued by State Government stating that the Local Self Government Department shall issue permissive sanction to the local authorities to incur expenditure for Nava Kerala Sadas programme. Municipal Secretaries were also granted permission to expend amounts for the organization and promotion of the programme, as per the specified limits, vide an order issued by the Additional Chief Secretary on behalf of the Governor.
Perusing the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994, the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, and the Constitution (74th) Amendment Act, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas discerned that no provision in the said statutes conferred power on the State Government to direct the local authority to expend its own funds for the Government.
"A reading of Section 283(6) of the Municipalities Act cannot, prima facie be understood as conferring any power upon the Government to direct the funds of the Municipality to be used for a particular purpose. The said provision only confers a power upon the Government to fix an annual limit for the expenses, financial assistance or grant for a purpose that are not directly concerned with the function of the Municipality. It was admitted that the programme Nava Kerala Sadas is not a function of the Municipality. Thus, Section 283(6) of the Act cannot confer any power upon the Government to direct the expenditure of the Municipality from its own fund to be utilised for a particular programme or purpose which is not a municipal function. By no stretch of imagination, such a power can be read into Section 283 (6) of the Municipalities Act, 1994," the Court observed.
It was the case of the petitioner that the impugned order was ultra vires the statutes, insofar as it directed the Municipal Council and the Secretaries of the Local Authorities, to contribute towards the conduct of Nava Kerala Sadas.
The petitioner averred that the order interfered with the autonomy of the Local Self Government Institutions and is in the nature of a compulsion, mandating contribution to Nava Kerala Sadas.
The Additional Chief Secretary however, disputed the same, and submitted that there was no such compulsion the Local Self Government Institutions to provide any financial assistance for organizing the programme, but had only given permission Self Government Institutions/Secretaries to expend the amount required for conducting Nava Kerala Sadas from its own funds.
The respondents further argued that the Government was vested with the power to issue such an order by virtue of Section 283(6) of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994.
The Court however, could not find merit in the afore contention of Section 283(6) conferring any power on the Government to issue the impugned order.
It was of the considered view that interference by the Government in the functioning of the local authority including in the manner of its expenditure is not contemplated by the statute.
Taking note of the submission of the State authorities that the order was not intended as creating any compulsion on the local self-government institutions, the Court clarified that the impugned order ought only be treated as a permissive sanction enabling the Municipal Council to expend the amounts if it decides to do so, in exercise of its own powers.
It added that the Municipality Act also does not confer power upon the Secretaries to incur any expenditure dehors a decision by the Municipal Council or the Chairperson.
It thus held that the impugned order, to the extent that it conferred power on the Secretaries of local authorities to expend money from the Municipality's own funds, is prima facie ultra vires the Act.
“The conferment of power upon the Secretaries of the Municipalities by Ext.P1 (impugned order), to spend money without any decision of the Municipal Council or the Chairperson's directive is therefore stayed until disposal of this writ petition. It is clarified that the contribution to the “Nava Kerala Sadas” can be expended from the Municipal fund only if the Municipal Council takes a decision in that regard, in accordance with law,” the Court added, while issuing the interim order.
The plea has been moved through Advocates E. Adithyan, and P.B. Krishnan.
Case Title: Beena P.R. @ Beena Sasidharan v. State of Kerala & Ors.
Case Number: WP(C) NO. 39668 OF 2023