24 April 2023 1:57 PM GMT
The Bombay High Court recently held that the Collector has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether an electoral candidate is disqualified from Panchayat membership due to submission of false caste certificate under the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1958.Justice Arun R Pedneker of the Aurangabad bench, while dismissing a woman’s writ petition challenging her disqualification...
The Bombay High Court recently held that the Collector has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether an electoral candidate is disqualified from Panchayat membership due to submission of false caste certificate under the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1958.
Justice Arun R Pedneker of the Aurangabad bench, while dismissing a woman’s writ petition challenging her disqualification from Panchayat membership due to false caste certificate, held –
“Disqualification of a membership is determined under section 16 by the Collector and not by an election petition under section 15. The Collector under section 16 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the issue of submission of a false claim or a false caste certificate at the time of nomination or non submission of caste validity certificate within the period contemplated in section 10-1A of the Village Panchayat Act.”
The petitioner got elected in the Panchayat general election in 2015 on a post reserved for ST women. She did not have a caste validity certificate at the time of nomination. Hence, she attached the receipt for application for the certificate before the Scrutiny Committee with the nomination papers. In 2016, the Scrutiny Committee rejected her application.
In the next election in December 2020, she filed her nomination along with the earlier receipt for the application for Caste Validity Certificate. She claimed that she did not know about the rejection of her Caste Validity Certificate in 2016 and thought that the Scrutiny of her Caste Certificate was still pending.
She got elected but was not able to produce the Caste Validity Certificate within 12 months from her the date of election. Therefore, a village resident approached the District Collector seeking to disqualify her. After this, the petitioner obtained a fresh Caste Certificate and applied to the Scrutiny Committee for verification. However, it has not been accepted for verification.
In May 2022, the District Collector disqualified her from the village panchayat and the Additional Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad dismissed her appeal. Hence the present writ petition.
The petitioner contended that the Collector wrongly entertained the complaint as only an election petition filed before the civil court under Section 15 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1958 could have led to her disqualification.
As per section 10-1A of the Act, the candidate contesting on a reserved post has to submit the Caste Validity Certificate with the nomination form. If she does not have a Caste Validity Certificate at the time of nomination, then she has to submit the proof of application to the Scrutiny Committee for the certificate. If the candidate fails to produce the Validity Certificate within twelve months from the date of election result, her election is deemed to have been terminated retrospectively and she is disqualified from being a member.
Section 15 provides that a person challenging the validity of the election of a panchayat member can do so within 15 days of the declaration of election results through an election petition before the Civil Judge having ordinary jurisdiction in the area of election.
Under Section 15(5)(a), if a candidate is found to have committed a corrupt practice, the Civil Judge shall disqualify her for the purpose of that election and of any fresh election and set aside the election of that candidate.
Section 14(1)(k) provides that a Panchayat member cannot continue his term if she is disqualified under any provision of the Act and the period for which she is disqualified has not elapsed.
According to section 16 of the Act, if any elected person is subject to any disqualifications under section 14 at the time of his election or during his term, she cannot continue to be a member and her office will become vacant. Further, the Collector has to whether a vacancy has occurred within 60 days from the receipt of a complaint.
The court held that the jurisdiction of Civil Judge trying an election petition under section 15 is limited by sections 15(5) and 15(6). The court noted that the words “or submitted a false claim or a false caste certificate” in Section 15(5)(a) were deleted with effect from December 2006. Therefore, the submission of a false claim or false caste certificate was taken out from the purview of the Judge determining the election petition, said the court.
The court said that this deletion from Section 15(5)(a) shows that the legislature intended to restrict only corrupt electoral practices to be determined by an election petition before the court.
Therefore, the court held that the Collector exercised his jurisdiction in the present case correctly and dismissed the petition.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 11276 of 2022
Case Title – Archana W/o. Ananda Shembalwad v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 214
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