The Tripura High Court dismissed the declaration by which the petitioners were removed from the post of Gram Panchayat and observed that it is essential to communicate the party whip before the commencement of the election as mere reading of the whip would not suffice it under section 16 of the Tripura Panchayat Act (Act).

The Bench of Acting Chief Justice TA Goud and Justice Arindham Lodh observed that, “it is essential to communicate party whip prior to the commencement of the election process. Mere reading loudly of the whip does not come within the purview of the said Act and Rules. Further, there is no evidence on record that any written intimation of the party whip was ever served upon any of the petitioners. There is no evidence also on record that such a whip, in any manner, being communicated to the petitioners by any of the authorized members of the party.”

Advocate N. Das appeared for the petitioners and GA D. Bhattacharjee appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the petitioners were disqualified from the membership of Gram Panchayat for violation of party whip. The petitioners being a majority of six members out of nine, proposed to remove the Pradhan as they were dissatisfied with the works and activities of Pradhan in the execution of the development works of gram panchayat.

The Pradhan was removed by majority and a memorandum was sought for some clarification from the petitioners on the whip. Thereafter, a declaration was issued wherein it was declared that the petitioners had been disqualified and that they had ceased to be a gram panchayat members. Against this declaration, petition was preferred.

Section 16 of the Act, clearly provided that any member of Gram Panchayat would stand disqualified if he voluntarily gave up his party membership or if he voted or abstained from voting in the panchayat disobeying party whip or direction issued by the party and when such voting had not been condoned by the party within 30 days from the date of such voting.

The Court noted that no whip had been served upon the petitioners and further said that as per the Acts and the Rules, service of whip was an essential ingredient and the contention that the whip was read out in the meeting, could not be taken for granted unless it was established.

“Moreso, when the law does not permit the said reading over of the whip, this court is of the prima facie view that doctrine of audi alterm partem has been grossly violated by the respondents.” observed the Court.

Therefore, the Court observed that “From the above analysis, it is abundantly clear that disqualification of the petitioners from being members of the Gram Panchayat is wholly disproportionate to the default committed by the respondents under Section 16 of the Act and under Rule 27 of the Rules. Thus, we have no hesitation in holding that the impugned declaration dated 24.09.2021 betrays utter non-application of mind to the facts of the case and the relevant law.”

Accordingly, the Writ Petition was allowed, and the petitioners were declared to continue as elected office bearers till their tenure.

Cause Title- Gautam Das v. The State of Tripura

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