-Report by Nehha Mishra
In the case of VIRENDRA SINGH VS THE ADDITIONAL COMMISSIONER, the appellant was disqualified under Sections 40 and 16(1)(i) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961.
The appellant was elected as a member of the Zilla Parishad, Chimthane Block, Taluq Shindkheda, District Dhule, as a candidate of a recognized party. He was, however, disqualified from this office by an order issued by the Divisional Commissioner, Nashik, in response to a plea made by the respondent, who had lost the Zilla Parishad election.
The respondent sought the appellant’s disqualification because the appellant had abused his elected position for personal financial advantage. This financial gain is said to have occurred due to the appellant’s role in adopting a resolution by which the Aarave Gramme Panchayat sanctioned the repairing and tarring of a road from Aarave Phata to Mauje Aarave.
Following that, the appellant’s Zilla Parishad, Dhule, granted administrative sanction to the project. This sanction order documents that the Zilla Parishad, Dhule, sanctioned the project for Rs. 15 lakhs by exercising its powers under Section 125 of the aforementioned Act.According to Sections 40 and 16(1)(i) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, the respondent filed the plea.
An e-tender was floated by the Aarave Gram Panchayat upon the sanctioning. The appellant’s son was successful against the other two candidates who had applied. As a result, he got the tender and was assigned the work of repairing roads at Mauje Aarave for a sum of Rs 14,62,871/-
The Divisional Commissioner observed that it was obvious the appellant would be able to influence the same because the Aarave Gram Panchayat was in the Chimthane Block, which was under the jurisdiction of Zilla Parishad, Dhule. Additionally, it was noted that there was no proof that the son of the appellant had received work orders from any other blocks under the jurisdiction of the Dhule Zilla Parishad, and as a result, there was a prima facie indication of misuse, which was sufficient to disqualify the appellant under Section 16(1)(i) of the aforementioned Act.
The appellant’s main argument was that Zilla Parishad Dhule, not Gram Panchayat Aarave, had assigned his son work. The allocation was carried out using an electronic tendering procedure that was made public on the Maharashtra Government website. Although it was formally approved by the Zilla Parishad, the Gram Panchayat also paid the appellant’s son for the work.
The second argument was that the appellant had no personal stake in his son’s business and that they didn’t even live in the same house.
Third, it was argued that in disqualifying the appellant, the Divisional Commissioner did not follow the rules of natural justice. It was urged that an elected official cannot be hastily dismissed from office without investigation.
Learned counsel for respondent no.3 attempted to emphasize the goal of Section 16 of the impugned Act, namely, to inject probity into the operation of the Zilla Parishads.
In this situation, the job was done on the instruction of the Zilla Parishad, and the payment was also made through the Zilla Parishad. As a result, it was argued that the facts fit fully within the purview of Section 16(1)(i) of the aforementioned Act, and the disqualification was obvious.
There were some controversial changes in the translated version of the Gram Panchayat Resolution, which has served the purpose of awarding benefit to the appellant’s son in one way or the other.
It is undeniably true that elected officials should not be disqualified on frivolous grounds.However, we are also obligated by the statutory mandate, which states that activities that undermine the goal of transparency should not be tolerated.
The only contract he received was one in which funds were sent to the Gramme Panchayat from the Zilla Parishad, of which the appellant was a member. The appellant attempted to excuse the circumstance by arguing that his son was registered as a contractor shortly after the appellant’s election since he had just finished his studies. This fact, in our opinion, raises more questions regarding the appellant’s involvement in his son’s business.
The Zilla Parishad’s issuing of the work order dated 09.06.2020 demonstrates the Zilla Parishad’s supervisory and sanctioning role in the contract, which falls within the broad reach of Section 16(1)(i) of the aforementioned Act.
As a father, the appellant had a higher responsibility to ensure that his son did not sign into a contract that is sanctioned by the Zilla Parishad itself. We can see from the lower courts’ findings of fact that nothing had been put on record to demonstrate even a separation of residence between the son and the father, other than a ration card purporting to show that the son was living with his grandmother.
The appeal was accordingly dismissed. The consequential disqualification would take place from the date of the judgement.
READ FULL JUDGEMENT: https://bit.ly/3GOupNa