The Bombay High Court's Aurangabad Bench observed that non-performance of statutory duty does not lead to automatic disqualification and had set aside order of the Collector whereby Sarpanch was disqualified on the ground of non-performance of statutory duty.

The Bench of Justice Arun R. Pedneker observed that “an elected member is to be removed in exceptional circumstances and that he has to be explained the specific charge against him and also the elected member should be given an opportunity to explain sufficient cause for his failure to perform statutory duty. Mere non-performance of the statutory duty would not disqualify the elected member unless he is not able to give a good reason for non-performing of the statutory duty.”

Advocate Aniruddha A. Nimbalkar appeared for the petitioner and AGP G.O. Wattamwar appeared for the respondent-State.

In the case, the Sarpanch had challenged the order of the Collector whereby he was disqualified for not conducting at least four meetings of the Gram Sabha in the financial year as per section 7 read with 16 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958 (Act).

The counsel for the petitioner argued that he was unable to conduct four meetings in the first half of 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic measures under the Disaster Management Act and section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC). But, after the prohibitory orders were lifted, meetings were conducted in the second half.

The Court noted that four meetings of Gram Sabha were held after the prohibitory orders were lifted and observed that “the Act does not contemplate holding of meetings in a particular way. The requirement of law is that in the financial year there has to be at least four meetings of the Gram Sabha and that gap in between meetings should not be more than 4 months.” and the petitioner had complied with the said requirement under the Act.

Accordingly, the Writ Petition was allowed, and the impugned order was quashed and set aside.

Cause Title- Manohar v. The Collector, Jalna & Ors.

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