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A right to be heard, before removing from office of Panchayat is mandatory: Bombay High Court

In terms of proviso to Section 39 of the Act, there is a right to be hard, before removing any member from the office of Panchayat, held, Justice Sandeep K Shinde, while adjudicating the matter in Ankush Achutrao Raur v. The State of Maharashtra; [Writ Petition No. 4920 / 2021].

The Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 were Sarpanch and Up-Sarpanch of the Group of Gram Panchayat, Karodi Sajapur (Panchayat for short). In the year 2017, Petitioner No.1 was directly elected as Sarpanch. Petitioner Nos. 3 to 9 were elected as members of the Panchayat. It may be stated the Respondent No.6 is one of the elected members of the Panchayat. In the meeting of the Panchayat held on 30th January, 2018, Petitioners and Respondent No.6 unanimously resolved to grant development permission to six persons to develop their respective plots. Whereafter Respondent No.6 complained to the Additional Divisional Commissioner, that the resolution dated 30th January, 2018 moved by the Petitioner No.1, was in utter disregard to provision of Section 52 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1959 and it amounts to “misconduct in discharge of his duties”.

An application under Section 39-A of the Act was moved. Whereafter on 3rd December, 2018, Additional Divisional Commissioner directed Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad, to hold an enquiry against the Sarpanch and submit the report within a month. In pursuance thereto, Block Development Officer held an enquiry and submitted a report dated 7th May, 2019 to Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad, Aurangabad. On 19th June, 2019, Chief Executive Officer issued a show cause notice to the Petitioners as to why they should not be removed from the office of Panchayat in term of Section 39(1) (i) of the said Act. The Chief Executive Officer, after hearing the Petitioners, recorded a finding that, the resolution passed by the Gram Panchayat, granting development permission, was contrary to provisions of Section 52 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1959 and forwarded his report to Addl. Divisional Commissioner. The Add. Divisional Commissioner, after hearing the Petitioners, held them guilty of misconduct for granting illegal development permissions and removed them from the Panchayat and further disqualified Sarpanch and Up-Sarpanch for remainder of the term of office of Panchayat. Feeling aggrieved by the order passed by the Add. Divisional Commissioner, an appeal was preferred before the State, but it was dismissed by the Hon’ble State Minister for village development by order dated 10th February, 2021. These two orders are impugned in this petition.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts stated that; “The members of the Panchayat, who are the Petitioner Nos. 2 to 9, were not the Respondents in an application filed in October, 2018. Nor the Petitioner Nos. 2 to 9 were heard by the Block Development Officer before submitting the report to the Chief Executive Officer. A right to be heard, before removing from office of Panchayat is mandatory in terms of proviso to Section 39 of the Act. Yet they were not heard by the Block Development Officer.”

Click here to read the judgment.

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