HC notice to state minister on sarpanch post draw

The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday served notice on Maharashtra Rural Development Minister Hassan Mushrif for the state government’s decision to take out draws to reserve sarpanch post after the completion of ongoing elections to the 14,234 gram panchayats.

Polling is slated for January 15 and counting on January 18. Similar notices were issued to the state chief secretary, principal secretary of the rural development department and the State Election Commission. The high court issued directives during hearing on a petition challenging the government’s decision to take out draws after the elections.

The petitioner had argued that the government decision was unconstitutional and the reservation was not just limited to one or two elected persons but for the entire community.

Musrif on December 15 had announced the cancellation of such draws and declared that draws will be taken out fresh after the elections.

In his defence, the minister said that elections have to be held again if one's caste certificate is not verified in time or he/she submits a fake certificate after draws were taken out for the posts of sarpanch. ‘’ The draws already released have been cancelled to keep a check on such "malpractices" and ensure justice for the "right" person, he added.

The draws have already been cancelled in eight districts where the sarpanch reservation was announced before the announcement of elections. The district collector of the district concerned has issued a new order and thereby scrapped the old reservation.

High court’s directives come days after the State Election Commission has asked the district collectors to submit a report on the alleged auction conducted for the post of sarpanch in various districts. There were some cases reported of horse-trading for sarpanch posts and contesting of elections on the basis of fake caste certificates.

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