9 July 2021 7:28 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday quashed a 'no confidence' motion initiated against Pabitra Kar, President of Boyal-I, Gram Panchayat in the District of Purba Medinipur by the majority of the Panchayat members. Pursuant to the motion of 'no confidence, the Prescribed Authority and the Block Development Officer in the exercise of powers conferred under Rule 5B of the West Bengal...
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday quashed a 'no confidence' motion initiated against Pabitra Kar, President of Boyal-I, Gram Panchayat in the District of Purba Medinipur by the majority of the Panchayat members.
Pursuant to the motion of 'no confidence, the Prescribed Authority and the Block Development Officer in the exercise of powers conferred under Rule 5B of the West Bengal Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1975 had issued a notice dated May 21, 2021, for conveying a meeting on June 7, 2021, at the Panchayat office. This notice was under challenge in the instant petition.
Justice Arindam Mukherjee while setting aside the impugned notice observed that the Prescribed Authority had failed to comply with its statutory obligations under Section 12 of the West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973 and accordingly observed,
"The Prescribed Authority in the instant case has failed to do an act as provided under Section 12(2) and 12(3) of the said Act. Looking at the matter from both the angles i.e., if it is an administrative action then it is arbitrary and irrational, if it is quasi-judicial then the action of respondent no.3 is tainted with illegality for not having done an act in the manner specified in the statute."
Ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal, the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee had accused members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of capturing polling booths in Nandigram. As a result, the Chief Minister had staged a demonstration outside a polling booth in Boyal, Nandigram to protest against such allegations of vote-rigging.
The petitioner submitted that pursuant to Section 12 (2) of the Act, a copy of the motion of 'no confidence' was mandatorily required to be delivered to the petitioner in person or sent via registered post to the Panchayat office. However, this was not complied with by the members of the Panchayat. As a result, the notice issued by the Prescribed Authority for the purpose of conveying a meeting should be deemed to be void and accordingly set aside. It was also alleged that the Prescribed Authority had acted in a partial and arbitrary manner in order to intentionally oust the petitioner.
Upon perusal of the rival contentions, the Court observed that Section 12 (2) of the said Act enumerates a mandatory procedure that has to be complied with pursuant to the initiation of a motion of "no confidence". A copy of such motion of "no confidence" is required to be delivered in person through any of the members or be sent by registered post to the Prescribed Authority indicating party affiliation or independent status of each of such members. A copy of the concerned motion is also required to be delivered to the concerned office bearer.
"In the instant case, it is apparent that the Prescribed Authority has received a copy of the motion in terms of the provisions of Section 12(2) of the said Act, but, there is no proof produced before this Court to show that one copy of the motion had been delivered to the petitioner either by hand or by Registered Post to the petitioner at the office of the said Gram Panchayat", the Court opined.
Furthermore, the Court noted that a copy of the motion was also not sent to the residential address of the petitioner as mandated under Section 12(2) of the Act. Elucidating further on the requirement of 'despatch' and not 'delivery', Justice Mukherjee remarked,
"Although no such proof has been produced yet assuming without admitting that the other copy of the motion as per the second limb of Section 12(2) has been complied with by only despatch since the word used therein is "sent" and not "delivered" then also the other copy having not been delivered either by hand or through registered post the first limb of service of a copy of the motion on the petitioner is not complied with."
Ruling on the judicial obligation of the Prescribed Authority under the statute, the Court observed that in the instant case the Prescribed Authority ought to have verified whether mandatory requirements had been complied with before issuing the impugned notice to convene a meeting.
Accordingly, the Court set aside the impugned notice dated May 28, 2021, issued by the Prescribed Authority. It was also observed that any decision taken at the meeting held on June 7, 2021, pursuant to such a notice is also void.
Case Title: Pabitra Kar v. State of West Bengal
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