Democratically elected representative cannot be ousted unceremoniously, observes Bombay HC

Narsi BenwalUpdated: Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 10:17 PM IST
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Bombay HC | Photo: Representative Image

MUMBAI: Democracy demands accountability and transperancy from the head of a democratic institution, observed the Bombay High Court last week. The HC further said that the head of a democratic institution or an elected representative cannot be ousted from office unceremoniously.

A bench of Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a writ petition filed by a voter in a village in Beed, who sought to remove the Sarpanch under charges of corruption. He claimed that the Sarpanch - Radhakisan Mhetre, had indulged into illegal activities such as disbursing amounts to random persons under the Swachh Bharat mission.

On the complaint of the voter, the divisional commissioner removed the Sarpanch from his office. However, the Minister of State (MoS) Rural Development found that there was no personal interest of Mhetre in the alleged corrupt transactions.

Taking note of the same, Justice Dangre in her judgment said, "Since, on election of the Sarpanch to head the Village Panchayat, which is expected to work as a body of local self-government, with complete autonomy, he is removable only on the grounds provided by the statute and since he heads the Village Panchayat, he can only be removed by following the procedure prescribed by law and therefore, when the Village Panchayat Act contemplates his removal on the ground of misconduct in discharge of his duties, such misconduct will have to be specifically proved."

Justice Dangre further said that democracy can be described as "Power of People”, a way of governing, which depends upon the will of the people.

"Though it is true that in democratic institution, the confidence is the foundation on which the super structure of democracy is built and the democratic accountability rests on the confidence of the electorate and if the representative body does not have confidence in the head, whom they have elected, the democracy demands that he ought to be removed in a democratic manner," the bench observed.

The judge further cited the Supreme Court observation wherein it has observed that any head of the democratic institution must be prepared to face the test of confidence.

"Democracy demands accountability and transparency in the activity of the chairperson/ the head of the democratic institution," Justice Dangre observed, adding, "However, on the other hand, it is equally true that the exercise of any power having effect of destroying the democratic institution besides being outrageous, is also dangerous to the democratic set up of this country and the elected representative cannot be permitted to be removed unceremoniously, without following the procedure prescribed by law by adopting casual approach and by resorting to manipulations to achieve ulterior purpose."

The judge further said that the essence of democracy is the decentralization of power and allowing governance to reach at the grass root level for welfare of people. She accordingly, upheld the decision of the minister which was against the ousting of the Sarpanch.

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