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Elected members of municipalities can’t be removed at whims and fancies of civil servants or their political masters: SC

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New Delhi, May 8: The Supreme Court has said that elected members of municipalities cannot be removed at the whims and fancies of the civil servants or their political masters only because some of such elected members are found to be inconvenient within the system.

Observing that a municipality is an institution of “grass-root level democracy”, a bench presided over by Justice Surya Kant stressed that the elected representatives of a municipality deserve due respect and autonomy in their day-to-day functioning.

The Bench, also comprising Justice PS Narasimha, made the above observations as it quashed the decision of the Urban Development Minister in Maharashtra disqualifying the elected councillors/office-bearers of the municipalities, holding the action to be “unfair, unjust and founded upon irrelevant considerations.”

Against one of the appellants, there were allegations of violation of provisions of the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965 and alleged illegal construction of the house in excess of the permission granted.

In an enquiry held by the Collector, the allegations were determined to be correct and he was served with a show-cause notice.

While the show-cause proceedings were pending, the Minister-In-Charge, in an order passed in December 2015 suo moto, disqualified the appellant Makarand @ Nandu from the post of Vice-President of the Osmanabad Municipal Council and he was also debarred from contesting election for six years.

Similarly, the President of the Naldurga Municipal Council was removed and debarred from contesting election for six years on the complaint that a particular company was given a tender for garbage collection and disposal, overlooking the lowest bid.

Earlier in 2016, the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad bench) had declined to interfere with the disqualification orders passed by the state government.

In its judgment, the apex court said that the impugned action does not satisfy the doctrine of proportionality, and the removal of the appellants with a ban to contest the election for six years is highly excessive and disproportionate to the nature of the so-called misconduct attributed.

“The manner in which the proceedings, while pending before the Collector at the stage of show-cause notice, were suo moto transferred to the State Government and the Minister-In-Charge coming forward to hastily pass an order of removal, are sufficient for us to infer that the action was unfair, unjust and founded upon irrelevant considerations,” it said.

Also, it is noted that the tender for garbage collection and disposal was accepted after due negotiation, ensuring no financial loss was caused to the Municipality.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court, in both cases, had permitted the appellants to continue to hold their respective offices during the pendency of proceedings.

IANS

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