Read Judgement: Gurdev Singh v. State of Haryana and ors 

LE Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 19, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the plea of a Sarpanch from Haryana who was removed after being found ineligible following an inquiry.

A Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal held that it is apparent from reading of provisions of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 that a sarpanch, who has not passed the matriculation examination or its equivalent examination from any recognised institution/board, shall not continue as such. For a woman candidate or a candidate belonging to a Scheduled Caste, the minimum qualification is middle pass.

The petitioner was elected as Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat of Ludas village, Tehsil and District Hisar, in the general election held in 2016. The petitioner while filing nomination papers claimed that he had passed matriculation examination from the Bihar Sanskrit Shiksha Board, Patna, in 1989.

On a complaint submitted by one Sukhbir, the then Deputy Commissioner, Hisar directed that a preliminary inquiry be held. The Law Officer (Panchayat) held the preliminary inquiry. 

During the  inquiry, the District Education Officer, Hisar, after verification, sent a report on 16.01.2017 informing the inquiry officer on the basis of information provided by the Controller of Exams, Bihar Sanskrit Shiksha Board, Patna, that the Sarpanch did not pass the exam.

On the basis of the inquiry report, the Deputy Commissioner found that the petitioner was not qualified to be elected as a Sarpanch and hence, ordered his removal.

The Sarpanch then filed an appeal which was dismissed by the Additional Chief Secretary to Government of Haryana, Development and Panchayats Department, on 23.06.2021. The Sarpanch then challenged his dismissal in the High Court. 

Deciding the matter, the HC stated that there can hardly be any doubt about the fact that the petitioner does not possess the minimum qualification to remain on the Sarpanch’s post.

“The aforesaid findings arrived at by the Deputy Commissioner as well as the Additional Chief Secretary have not been assailed by the learned counsel. However, as noticed above, he contends that the petitioner could only be removed by filing an election petition under Section 176 of the Act,” the High Court observed.

The petitioner also contended that the Deputy Commissioner could not exercise the powers to remove him from the office of Sarpanch under Section 51 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994

“This Court has considered the submission, however, finding no merit therein,” the court said.

The Bench stated that it is well settled that all the provisions of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 have to be given effect by “harmonious construction”. If two separate provisions overlap then both the provisions have to be read conjointly, the Bench held.

“On a conjoint reading of the Act, it is apparent that both provisions do not exclude each other. Both the sections operate in their own field. Section 176 operates when an election petition is brought before the competent Court of jurisdiction. Whereas, Section 51 enables the Director or the Deputy Commissioner concerned to pass an order of removal on the basis of grounds specified in sub-section (3) of Section 51,” stated the HC.

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