Friday, September 28, 2012

Law breakers can't continue as elected representatives: High Court

Vaibhav Ganjapure, TNN Sep 27, 2012, 01.14AM IST

NAGPUR: Rejecting the petition of a Gram Panchayat member from Pune, who was disqualified for having encroached upon on government land, Bombay High Court has ruled, "wrongdoers, law breakers shouldn't continue as elected representatives".

"It is not in public interest that a wrongdoer or law breaker derives any benefit or advantage of his illegal or wrongful act and continues as an elected representative of a unit of local self- government. That would be a wrong or bad precedent before the people," a single-judge bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari observed.

"The provisions (in Bombay Village Panchayats Act, 1958) are enacted in public interest and to protect them from the activities of undesirable persons. They protect and safeguard against evil or wrongful and immoral acts. Hence, it is for public good that their elected representative are not tainted or immoral or wrongdoers," the judge added before dismissing Dnyaneshwar Satav's plea.

"Equally, when the object and purpose is to discourage and prohibit all such persons who have indulged in illegal and wrongful acts from holding an elected office in a unit of local self government such as a village panchayat, then accepting petitioner's arguments would defeat the same," the court said.

Satav from Kharabwadi village in Pune's Khed town had challenged the additional commissioner's orders disqualifying him from the post of Gram Panchayat member on December 20 last year, as per Bombay Village Panchayats Act, 1958, for allegedly encroaching upon government's land. Earlier, the collector disqualified him for constructing a house, lavatory and Gobar gas plant on the village grazing land under control of the government. Subsequently, he was disabled from continuing as a Gram Panchayat member.

Satav had contested Gram Panchayat polls in June 2010 from general category. During scrutiny, objections were raised by contestant Jalindhar Kharabi about Satav allegedly encroaching upon the government property. However, those were rejected and Satav won the polls. Kharabi then filed an application before collector contending that Satav should be disabled from continuing as a member on the ground that he had encroached upon public property. Accordingly, the collector disqualified him after verifying facts and commissioner endorsed this decision.

Satav denied the allegations in his petition stating that his father and cousin were residing on this land since 1965 and had constructed houses and cowsheds. He contended that queries like eligibility should be raised only during scrutiny of nomination papers and thereafter in an election petition. He prayed for setting aside commissioner's orders disqualifying him.

"If the application filed by the Kharabi is perused in its entirety, it does not only set out the objections that have been raised at the stage of scrutiny of the nomination papers, but equally highlights the fact that there was no enquiry nor a detailed scrutiny into these allegations. Therefore, the petitioner can be held to be disabled to continue as member if the question of his disability is gone into and decided by the collector," the judge ruled.

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