30 Sep 2023 12:00 PM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently quashed the appointment of two Anganwadi workers to the permanent post with the Kadapra Panchayat as illegal, since the appointments had been made by the Child Development Project Officer and not the Village Panchayat. Single Judge Bench of Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V. perused Section 166 (2) Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, which provides that the...
The Kerala High Court recently quashed the appointment of two Anganwadi workers to the permanent post with the Kadapra Panchayat as illegal, since the appointments had been made by the Child Development Project Officer and not the Village Panchayat.
Single Judge Bench of Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V. perused Section 166 (2) Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, which provides that the Village Panchayats shall have exclusive power to administer the matters enumerated in the Third Schedule and to prepare and implement the schemes relating thereto, and proceeded to observe as follows:
"...on a conjoint reading of Section 166(2) and the relevant clause in the Schedule, it would be evident that the Village Panchayat would have the exclusive power to administer matters relating to the running of Anganwadis and the only requirement is that it has to be subject to the other provisions of the Act and guidelines and financial, technical or other assistance of the Government. In other words, it is for the Village Panchayat to decide matters relating to the running of Anganwadis."
The Kadapra Panchayat had decided to appoint permanent Anganwadi workers in the year 2016. However, following certain complaints, the rank list, which had been published late, got cancelled. The petitioner claimed that she had been working as a temporary Anganwadi worker during the period 2016-2023. She alleged that following the issuance of a Circular by the Women and Child Development Department to finalize the rank list and to publish the same before February 28, 2023, the Child Development Project Officer randomly selected the 5th and 6th respondents in the present case for the said post.
The petitioner argued that as per Section 166 of the Act, 1994, Village Panchayat would have the exclusive power to administer matters pertaining to running of Anganwadis. She also relied upon the decision in Valanchery Service Co-operative Bank Ltd v. State of Kerala (2006) to state that the action taken by the Child Development Project Officer would amount to nullifying the independence of Panchayat Raj institutions. She thus prayed that the illegal appointments of the 5th and 6th respondents ought to be quashed.
The petitioner further claimed that there was no clear procedure for appointment of Anganwadi workers, and that another Single Bench had held in Padmini & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2021) that if posts of Anganwadi workers are not filled up in accordance with the Government Rules, the employees who retired from the posts could be engaged on contract basis.
She thus also prayed for her re-engagement on a contract basis till a selection procedure to the post of Anganwadi workers was laid down by law.
The counsel for the respondents however argued that the action taken had been proper and that the 4th respondent was vested with the power to make the appointments, in light of the Circular issued by the Women and Child Development Department. It was also submitted that the appointments had been made after ascertaining the qualifications of the candidates, and by fully satisfying the reservation criteria.
The Court upon perusal of Section 166 of the Act, 1994, and the law laid down in Valanchery Service Co-Operative Bank Ltd. (Supra), accepted the petitioner's contention as regards the appointment of the 5th and 6th respondents and accordingly, quashed the same.
However, as regards the question as to whether directions could be issued to the authorities to re-engage the petitioner in the Panchayat on a contract basis until a selection procedure was in place, the Court was of the considered opinion that the said decision would have to be taken by the Panchayat. "It is for the petitioner to approach the Panchayat and seek re-engagement on a contract basis," the Court said.
It thereby directed the Panchayat to consider re-engagement of the petitioner, and arrive at an appropriate decision in accordance with law.
The plea was thus disposed.
Counsel for the Petitioner: Advocates Paul Jacob, Mathew Thomas, and Anand Krishna
Counsel for the Respondents: Advocate K.N. Radhakrishnan
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 524
Case Title: Anitha K. Varghese v. State of Kerala & Ors.
Case Number: W.P. (C) No. 6171 of 2023
Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment