Make Process Of Nomination And Election Of Devaswom Board Members Open And Transparent, Kerala HC Tells Govt [Read Judgment]

Make Process Of Nomination And Election Of Devaswom Board Members Open And Transparent, Kerala HC Tells Govt [Read Judgment]

Time has now come for the Executive and the Legislature to act and cause framing of appropriate Rules/ Procedure/Mechanism to make the process of nomination and election of members to the Boards open and transparent, the bench said.

The Kerala High Court, in a recent judgment, has highlighted the necessity to make the process of nomination and election of members to the Devaswom Board open and transparent.

The division bench of Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Devan Ramachandran also asked the government to frame rules so as to allow the citizens to offer themselves as candidates or to suggest eminent persons of their choice, who may be supported by a fixed number of nominations, to be considered for being nominated or elected to the board.

These observations were made by the high court on a writ plea filed by TG Mohan Das wherein he challenged the vires of Sections 4(1) and 63 of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950.

Though the court turned down the main prayers made in the writ petition, it made certain observations as regards to the submissions made by senior advocate Mohan Parasaran, who appeared for the petitioner, that the procedures for both nomination and election of the members to the TDB and CDB are shrouded in utmost secrecy and that it is kept away from public scrutiny or inspection, thus encouraging favoritism, cronyism, arbitrariness and capriciousness. The senior counsel, referring to provisions of the Act, submitted before the bench that since the candidates are not chosen through any discernible or rationale process but are chosen by the ministers or the legislators, as the case may be, on secret considerations.

With regard to these submissions, the bench observed: “This rather uncanalised method of choice of candidates given to the Ministers and Legislators would certainly throw suspicion of favouritism, cronyism, patronisation and even nepotism.”

The bench also observed that the Act is completely silent with regard to the manner in which candidates are identified by ministers for being nominated while, as regards the candidature of a member put up for election by the legislators is concerned, Schedule II of the Act only says that every Legislator would be entitled to nominate a duly qualified person. The bench further observed: “It is doubtless that the candidature of persons put up for nomination or election are exclusively within the choice of the Legislators and Ministers, as the case may be and the private citizens who aspires or desires to put his life and service at the feet of the Lord, as a member of the Devaswom Boards, would obtain no chance at all for being considered as a candidate. In other words, it is irrefragable that persons would be able to obtain candidature only if they are known to and cultivate connections of such nature so as to be identified by the Ministers or Legislators and further since such candidates would perhaps find no competition at all, the general citizenry being not involved either in the choice, scrutiny or nomination/election, it certainly may lead to cronyism, favouritism, patronisation and such other irrelevant considerations, while the field of choice is created for nomination/election of members to the Board.”

The court further suggested: “The Government may, either allow citizens to offer their candidature in a prescribed manner by stipulating specific qualifications or conditions or the Ministers and Legislators, within the electorate, may make a choice of their candidates, as is now provided in the Statute, but with an obligation and enjoinment to disclose such nominations for public scrutiny and opinion suitably, perhaps in a website maintained for this purpose. This would enable the citizens to know who the potential candidates are and would enable them to make their views on such candidatures available to the competent authorities, which, we are certain, will go a long way in obtaining transparency to the process. Once the nominations of the candidates are made available for public information and scrutiny, it would also be the desideratum that a proper mechanism, either in the form of a Subcommittee or such other, be constituted by the Government to assess and evaluate all such candidates and then place the names for consideration before the Ministers and the Legislators, as the case may be.”

Justice Devan Ramachandran ended his judgment observing thus: “Such action to ensure transparency and openness is the need of the hour and we are certain that every Government who believes in the dignity of democracy would employ their wisdom for this purpose without any reservation. We close this writ petition with this fond hope.”

Read the Judgment Here