The Kerala High Court has recently held that a request for convening a meeting as per Rule 7 of Kerala Municipality (Procedure for Meeting of Council) Rules can be rejected only if the conditions mentioned in the proviso to Rule 7(1) are not complied with or if the request is not made by one-third of the members in the Council existing at that time.
"The procedure for moving a resolution in the Council meeting and the requisition for convening the meeting are different. Once a request is made by the one third of the members in the Council strictly in accordance to Rule 7(1) read with its proviso, the Chairman has no other option but to convene the meeting. The procedure for moving the resolution in the Council meeting is applicable only after convening the meeting."
Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan also added that pendency of some cases before the Court is not a ground to reject a request for convening a meeting as per Rule 7(1).
"The Chairperson only needs to look into whether the conditions in Rule 7(1) and its proviso are complied, and if the same is complied with, the Chairperson has no other option but to convene the meeting. The procedure for moving a resolution in the Council meeting is separately narrated in Rule 18."
The petition was filed by elected members of the Thrissur Corporation Council challenging the decision of the Chairman and the Secretary of the Corporation rejecting their request to convene a meeting in accordance with the Rules.
According to the petitioners, the master plan for the Corporation ignited widespread criticism alleging lack of transparency in its creation and its content. Thus, they suggested discussing the master plan and its issues within the Corporation Council and before the general public. However, it was alleged that the Chairman consistently scuttled their attempts to deliberate the said matter in the Council.
Hence, they along with 22 other members issued a notice under Rule 7(1) before the Chairman, but this was rejected citing that two writ petitions were pending regarding the master plan and a meeting about the same would affect these cases. Therefore, the petitioners and other members decided to convene the meeting in accordance with Rule 7(2) but this was also rejected by the Secretary of the Corporation.
Advocates V.M. Syam Kumar, Sneha Rajiv, P.F Rosy and K.M. Basheer appearing for the petitioners submitted that if 1/3rd of members of the Council request the Chairperson to convene a meeting of the Council, such a meeting has to be convened if the conditions in the proviso to Rule 7 are complied with. Since there was no case that these were not complied with, it was argued that the order was unsustainable.
Standing Counsel Santhosh P. Poduval submitted that the master plan was sanctioned by the Government and that Municipal Council does not have the administrative power to cancel the same. It was added that the Chairman has the power to disallow any resolution if it does not comply with the conditions laid down in Sub Rule 4 of Rule 18.
The Court noted that there was no ambiguity in the Rule for any other interpretation except that if a request in writing by not less than one-third of the members of the Council is submitted for convening a meeting, the Chairman shall convene the meeting as long as the conditions are met.
Although the respondents had submitted that Rule 7 should be read with Rule 18, the Judge noted that they were independent Rules applicable in two different situations.
"Requisition for convening a meeting and procedure for moving a resolution in the Council meeting is different. The question of procedure for moving resolution in the Council meeting is applicable only if there is a meeting is convened. Once a meeting is convened, the procedure for moving a resolution in the Council meeting can be followed by the respondents. But a request for convening a meeting cannot be rejected for the reasons mentioned in Rule 18."
As such, the orders of the Chairman and the Secretary were found to be unsustainable and thereby quashed. The petition was accordingly allowed, the petitioners were declared free to file a fresh requisition to convene a meeting strictly in accordance with Rule 7(1).
If the request for convening the meeting was rejected or if the Chairman does not convene the meeting even after meeting the conditions in Rule 7 and its proviso, the Secretary was directed to facilitate the members to convene a meeting strictly in accordance with Rule 7(2).
Case Title: Rajan J. Pallan & Anr. v. Municipal Corporation of Thrissur & Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 276