In a Latest Order,
the Allahabad High Court considering the monstrous pandemic has directed the Chief Secretary of the State to frame detailed
guidelines for holding statutory meetings of local bodies, including those for considering `No Confidence Motions’.,
as Instituions of Democracy cannot succumb to a Virus.
Tripti Rani, Pramukh of the Kotwali Kshetra Panchayat,
Bijnor, assumed the charge of Pramukh on 29.07.2019. On 21.08.2020,
a no-confidence motion, as per section 15 of the Uttar Pradesh Kshetra Panchayat & Zila Panchayat Act,
1961, was made under the procedure laid down under the Act of 1961.
In pursuance of the no-confidence motion, the District Magistrate,
Bijnor issued a notice dated 21.08.2020 convening a meeting for consideration of the motion of no confidence
on 15.09.2020 at 11.00 a.m. at the Kotwali Kshetra Panchayat Office. Feeling aggrieved,
she moved a Writ Petition, before the Allahabad High Court, seeking following reliefs:
- Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the impugned order/notice dated 21.08.2020 (Annexure No. 3 to the writ petition) passed by Collector, Bijnor.
- Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent no. 1 to initiate appropriate against the District Magistrate/Collector, Bijnor for violation of mandatory instructions issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The petitioner contended that since there are about 185 Members in the Kotwali Kshetra Panchayat,
District — Bijnor, they exceed the number of persons permitted under the Guidelines for
Phased Re-opening (Unlock-4) framed by Home Ministry and issued on 29.08.2020.
It was further submitted that given the Guidelines mentioned above,
the proposed meeting for consideration of no-confidence motion could not be convened
on 15.09.2020 since it would violate the provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
Per contra, counsel for the respondents submitted that convening the meeting for the purposes of consideration of
no-confidence motion cannot be said to be a political function.
Further to buttress the submission, he further stated that sessions of Parliament have also been convened during this period of the pandemic. Similarly,
amid the pandemic,
Rajasthan Assembly, having more than 200 Members, was also convened for considering a no-confidence motion.
As such, there cannot be any legal impediment in convening such a meeting.
It was further submitted that number of exams have also been held during the period of COVID-19 where a large number of students appeared in the examinations.
As such a meeting can be held by adhering to the safety norms as stipulated by the Government.
A Division Bench of Allahabad High Court comprising Justice Shashi Kant and Justice Piyush Agarwal, after hearing the parties, observed that:
The Central Government has indeed issued the Guidelines for
Phased Re-opening (Unlock-4) and in clause 1(iii) thereof, it has been mentioned that
social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions with
a limit of 100 persons will be permitted with effect from 21st September 2020,
with the mandatory wearing of face masks, social thermal scanning, social distancing and hand wash or sanitizers.
The Act of 1961 provides for local self-governance where the people of Gaon Sabhas have been given
the right to manage their affairs and perform governmental function through a democratic process,
under which they have been given the right to elect a Pradhan and remove him by passing a motion of no confidence.
Election and removal by a motion of no-confidence are two crucial aspects in the democratic set-up for which the Act of 1961 has made ample provisions.
Democracy is a kind of setup of Government in which the people choose a country’s political leaders in free, regular and fair elections. In a concept of democracy, people have a choice between different candidates and parties who want the power to govern. The people are sovereign. Thus, the voters have the right to elect their representatives and also criticize and replace them if they do not perform well.
Considering above inherent political philosophy and principle, the provision for
bringing a no-confidence motion for removing the representatives has been introduced in the present Act of 1961.
The Will of people is supreme. It cannot be lightly interfered with.
Under no circumstance can the Will of the people be permitted to be frustrated. The Court emphasised that in democratic setup, a person who has lost confidence/majority canno be allowed to continue in the office.
In view of the above, the Allahabad HC directed that direct the District Magistrate, Bijnor to ensure all the protocols applicable for social and physical distancing are adhered to. The sitting arrangements be made in such a manner so that it may adhere to the prescribed norms.
The District Magistrate, Bijnor may also explore the possibility of seating the Members of the Kotwali Kshetra Panchayat in two or three separate rooms, a big hall or open space. The Authority concerned may also explore the possibility of holding a virtual session,
with the help of modern technological tools.
Considering the Pandemic, the Allahabad HC also directed the Chief Secretary to prepare detailed modalities for holding statutory meetings of local bodies, including those for considering `No Confidence Motions’, are put in place and implemented.
To Ensure State wide complaince the Court also directed that a copy of the order be sent to the Chief Secretary for its necessary compliance.