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No Confidence Motion – against President of Municipal Committee – Secret ballot voting not required – Motion carried if passed by voting by show of hands: Punjab and Haryana High Court

It appeared that the allegation of the petitioners regarding any political pressure upon these members is ruled out; per se. Had there been any pressure on any one of them; then having voted for the no-confidence motion against the petitioners, they need not come to this Court also; to support the result of their vote during the no-confidence motion held by Hon’ble Justice Rajbir Sehrawat and Justice MAHESH GROVER in Suresh Kumar & Anr versus State of Haryana & Ors [CWP No.26 of 2018].

The facts leading to this case relate to the as pleaded in the writ petition, are that the election of Municipal Council, Narwana were held in May 2016 and thereafter the election for the office of President and Vice President were held. The petitioners were elected as President and the Vice President; respectively; on 07.07.2016 and had taken the oath of their office accordingly. The Municipal Council has 23 elected Municipal Councillors. Since the members were not satisfied with the functioning of the petitioners, therefore, a motion was made on 11.12.2017 for calling the special meeting of the Municipal Council to discuss the issue with regard to the no-confidence motion against the petitioners. This motion was handed over to the Deputy Commissioner, Jind for further proceedings as per the requirement of law. Accordingly, the Deputy Commissioner, Jind – appointed SDM, Narwana, as Presiding Officer to preside over this special meeting to be held in the office of Municipal Council; Narwana, with regard to the no-confidence motion against the petitioners. On 15.12.2017, the respondent issued a notice for calling the special meeting of Municipal Councillors for considering the no-confidence motion; on 02.01.2018 at 11.00 am with regard to the post of President and at 12.10 pm with regard to the post of Vice President. This notice was circulated amongst all the members of the Municipal Council, Narwana. Pursuant to the above-said notice, the special meeting was actually held on 02.01.2018 and the no-confidence motion was passed against the petitioners. Respondent sent the entire proceedings to Deputy Commissioner, Jind. It is this resolution; passing of no-confidence motion against the petitioners, which is under challenge in the present petition.

The petitioners assailed the resolution of the no-confidence motion passed against them on the ground of alleged procedural lapses on the part of the Presiding Officer. First of all, it is pleaded that the Presiding Officer had wrongly adopted the procedure of show of hands to seek a vote of a no-confidence motion. Petitioner had demanded a secret ballot on the no-confidence motion. At his request, the Presiding Officer had even taken the recourse to the secret ballot. The Presiding Officer had asked the voting councillors to write on the ballot paper whether he/she wanted to remove the President or not. In this voting, total of 17 members had cast their vote . Petitioner cast his vote against the motion. Another councillor, namely, Smt. Poonam Devi, councillor had not written anything on the ballot paper except putting her signatures, whereas, she was required to give her response to the question of whether she was in favour of removing the President or not. In view of this, the vote of this councillor was rendered invalid. Therefore, the same could not be counted against the petitioners; and if this vote is excluded; then required 2/3rd votes i.e. 16 votes are not reached. Hence, the resolution shall be deemed to have failed; because a no-confidence motion was required to be passed by a 2/3rd majority of the total 23 elected members of the Municipal Council. It is further pleaded that although the motion had not been carried due to invalidity of one vote, however, the Presiding Officer again wrongly resorted to vote by show of hands. During this show of hands, 16 members again raised their hands in favour of the no-confidence motion and therefore, the impugned proceedings were recorded and the resolution was recorded as having been passed. It is pleaded that by resorting to the method of a show of hands, the secrecy of votes has been breached, which has rendered the election to be void. Still, further, it is pleaded that every ballot was having the signatures of the voter. Hence, the identity of voters can be very easily verified. This action has also breached the secrecy of voting. It is further pleaded that even at the time of counting of ballots, the Presiding Officer did not show the votes to any member of the Municipal Council and announced the result. It is pleaded in the writ petition that the entire proceedings were stage-managed to prevent free and fair voting. Firstly, petitioner no.1 was not permitted to enter the office of Municipal Council, Narwana and only after arguments he was permitted to enter the office. Secondly, on entering the meeting room, he was threatened by respondent No.3. Respondent No.3 did not follow the due procedure and the entire procedure was conducted in an illegal and malafide manner under political pressure. Against adoption of this procedure and the alleged resolution passed in the meeting, petitioners had submitted their affidavit on the same day to the Deputy Commissioner –respondent No.2. However, no action was taken by him. Along with the writ petition, the petitioners have also filed a CD of the videography of the proceedings to show how the no-confidence motion was passed.

While arguing the case, learned counsel for the petitioners has submitted that procedure adopted for carrying out the no-confidence motion was totally illegal. On the other hand, learned counsel for the respondents submitted that there is no rule that ‘no-confidence motion is to be carried through secret ballot. He further submits that there is no absolute rule that in case a candidate demands a secret ballot then a secret ballot has, necessarily, to be taken on ‘no-confidence motion’.

After hearing learned counsel for the parties they found that this case has two aspects. Firstly, a question is raised regarding the procedure of voting to be adopted during the consideration for no-confidence motion and secondly, the illegalities in the procedure; reflecting the external influence upon the members have been alleged saying that the entire proceedings were stage-managed under the political pressure. So far as the procedure to be adopted for voting at the time of no-confidence motion is concerned, the same is prescribed under Rule 72-A of The Haryana Municipal Election Rules, 1978.  It has to be held that the secret ballot is not required for consideration of a no-confidence motion against the President and the Vice President of the Municipal Council under the Rules. No illegality if the motion of no confidence is considered and carried by show of hands; in an otherwise properly called and held the meeting.

The procedure adopted by the Presiding Officer in asking for a show of hands in the first instance, which displayed sufficient support to pass the resolution of ‘no confidence motion’, then going for a ballot vote in which one member has not voted either in favour of or against the motion and then again going for a show of hands, which again confirmed passing of no-confidence motion, may be irregular. However, it does not vitiate the result of the meeting at all. All these members have duly reiterated their stand that they had voted against the petitioners in the no-confidence motion.” Therefore, the allegation of the petitioners regarding any political pressure upon these members is ruled out; per se. Had there been any pressure on any one of them; then having voted for the no-confidence motion against the petitioners, they need not come to this Court also; to support the result of their vote during the no-confidence motion. In view of the above, we do not find any merit in the present writ petition and dismiss the same”.

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