FPJ Legal: Bombay HC upholds election of Chandrapur corporator; says 'COVID-19 and act of God' delayed her submissions
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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Justice Manish Pitale at the Nagpur seat on Thursday upheld the election of a female corporator from Chandrapur municipal corporation (CMC), who was disqualified for not submitting her caste validity certificate within the deadline due to Covid19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. The HC while quashing the disqualification orders said “it wasn't the woman's fault and it was the act of the dreaded virus and also of the God.”

The bench was petitioned by one Kalamati Yadav (55) challenging the orders of the CMC disqualifying her. She was elected from a reserved seats in June 2019 and as per the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations (MMC) act, it was imperative for her to furnish a validity certificate within a year i.e. till June 2020.

Yadav contended that she had already applied for caste validity certificate before the scrutiny committee at the time when she had filed her nomination form for the polls. However, since the nation-wide lockdown was declared in March 2020 and no restrictions were permitted, the scrutiny committee couldn't hold sittings and accordingly didn't grant her the mandatory certificate before June 2020.

As per Yadav, the validity certificate was issued in July 2020 and thus she couldn't be disqualified by the CMC for no fault of hers. Having heard the contentions, the judge referred the various dates on which the committee heard Yadav's plea and acted upon it calling for evidence etc.

"No conclusion could be drawn that Yadav had deliberately delayed the proceedings before the committee. Imposition of lockdown due to Covid19 crisis certainly delayed the

proceedings before the committee, due to which the validity certificate could be eventually issued only in July 2020," the bench held.

"The circumstances created by the Covid19 crisis adversely affected the entire globe and human kind at large. The scale of the crisis is unprecedented, due to which the highest court of the land (Supreme Court) was required to issue hitherto unknown directions, staying proceedings in all courts and extending reliefs from time-to-time," the bench added.

The judge further held that the committee was also not to blame for such a predicament because imposition of lockdown resulted in a situation where the Committee could not hold meetings and even the parties before it were not permitted to physically enter its office.

"It can be said that the performance of the act (obtaining a validity certificate) by Yadav, mandatorily required under the law, could not be completed due to factors beyond her control and necessarily due to a factor like the act of God. In the present case it could be said to be the act of the dreaded virus," Justice Pitale held, while upholding her election.

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