Thursday, April 25, 2024

No Confidence Motion under Bihar Panchayat Raj Act must be considered: Patna High Court

In Munni Khatun v. State of Bihar and 22 others, Patna High Court's division bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar endorsed the submission of  Y. C. Verma, the senior counsel of the appellant, and directed that No Confidence Motion be considered immediately under Section 44 (3) of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 2006.  

The final paragraphs of the judgement reads: "it is imperative that the No Confidence Motion be considered immediately. The No Confidence Motion will be considered on 26.04.2024 at 11:00 AM in the Panchayat Bhawan, in the presence of the Executive Officer....Whatever legal consequences follow, on the decision taken at the meeting will have to be scrupulously complied with." The judgement authored by the Chief Justice was delivered on April 20, 2024.  

The writ petitions filed by the Pramukh and Up-Pramukh from Fulwaria, Gopalganj against the No Confidence Motion being carried on January 12, 2024 were rejected by Justice Purnendu Singh, the Single Judge of the High Court due to undue delay of more than three months. It was also found that there was already an election scheduled on February 7, 2024, which was stayed. After dismissal of the writ petition there was an election scheduled on April 22, 2024. The petitions were filed by Ranjan Kumari Tiwari and Munni Khatun. Justice Singh had recorded that "No reason has been assigned for delay in approaching this Court." He had concluded that "The writ petitions deserve to be dismissed for having approached this Court after delay of nearly three months after the requisition dated 30.12.2023, was communicated to the petitioners and also in view of the fact that elections for the post of Pramukh and Up-Pramukh have been notified."

The division bench heard senior counsel for the private respondents and counsels for the State Election Commission and the State besides Verma, the senior counsel. 

The Court drew on Section 44 (3) of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act which specifies that the requisition for a special meeting to consider the no confidence motion shall be presented to the Pramukh in writing with a copy to the Executive Officer of the Panchayat Samiti, by not less than one third of the total number of members elected directly from the territorial constituencies. The provision then provides that the Executive Officer should immediately bring the requisition to the notice of the Pramukh and the Pramukh should convene such meeting on a date falling within 15 days of such requisition. It is further provided that if the Pramukh fails to call the special meeting, the Up-Pramukh or the requisitionists themselves i.e. one third of the total number of members elected directly, could call for a specialmeeting. 

The Court observed that "the right of the Up-Pramukh or the requisitionists to call for a special meeting would arise only on the expiry of the first fifteen days."

The Court's judgement recorded that in the Munni Khatun case, the requisition was made on December 30, 2023 and the special meeting convened by the requisitionists, as notified by the Executive Officer to the Pramukh and Up-Pramukh was on January 12, 2024, within the fifteen days period.

The Court observed, "we are of the opinion that there is a clear statutory violation insofar as the convening of the meeting is concerned. However, the Pramukh has also failed to comply with the statutory obligation cast on the Pramukh, to call for a meeting within fifteen days; since till 12th, the 13th day, no meeting was scheduled. Since there is clear statutory violation in convening the meeting, where the No Confidence Motion was scheduled; we are of the opinion that the election convened on 22.04.2024 shall not be proceeded with."

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