The Bombay HC on 6th April 2021 decided a case which questioned the validity of a nominee in a Panchayat election due to the number of children she had.
The petitioner in the case was a registered voter; whereas the respondent was a female elected member of the village panchayat. The petitioner alleged that she had furnished a false declaration regarding the number of her children in her nomination form.
According to him, she had three children. The youngest, Akash, was born in October 2001, after the cut-off date of 13th September 2001 and was thus disqualified under the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act 1959.
The petitioner thus filed a dispute with the District Collector in 2015 attaching birth certificate and a bona fide certificate issued by the Headmaster of Akash’s school; which listed his birth date to be October 2001.
The respondent contended that he was born in May 2001, and documents such as entries in the register of mothers’ and newborn children, maintained by the health officials, were submitted. She claimed that the suit was filed merely for seeking her disqualification for personal vengeance.
Decision by the Collector:
After seeing the material on record the collector saw that even the respondent’s husband had filed a suit for declaration that Akash was born in May 2001, and the issue of date of birth of Akash was sub-judice. Also, the entries made by the health officials were held more valid. Thus, the dispute came to be rejected by the collector in 2016, but liberty was given to the petitioner to appeal in the civil court.
The petitioner thus appealed, wherein the Additional Commissioner in 2017 dismissed the appeal concurring with the view of the Collector. Thus, the current petition was filed.
Proceedings in the HC:
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the authorities had approached the issue from the wrong perspective. The Birth Certificate was issued on the basis of the entries in the birth and death register made lawfully by competent authorities. The authorities below based their decisions on the record by health officials which may be doubtful. They had also not mentioned as to why the birth certificate was unworthy of reliance. Further the petition instituted by the husband was dismissed in 2019.
The Respondent Counsel stated that the entries made in the birth register and bona fide certificate do not command implicit reliance, especially in the face of contra material, which indicates with sufficient clarity that Akash was born on 21st May 2001. There was also no reason to doubt the entry made in the birth register. Anyways, the term of the Village Panchayat had expired, which would make the petition infructuous.
Decision of the Court:
Hearing the above submissions, it was clear to the court that the question as to whether the woman had incurred disqualification under the Act for having more than two children onthe cut-off date, rested upon Akash’s birthdate.
The court first saw if the entry made in the birth and death registrar was valid, for which central and state statutory provisions were also referred. It was held that the entry was made by a competent authority and conformed with the law. Infact, the Woman’s husband had given the intimation of the birth and the entry was made in October. The court even stated that the entry in the registrar as well as the birth certificate were reliable and admissible, in light of statues as precedents referred.
The authorities had also not given a reason for invalidating the birth certificate and enty made in the register. Instead, reliance was placed on entry by health officials.
Hon’ble Justice, N.J. Jamadar, found that the authorities below had indeed committed an error in law. The respondent had relied continuously on the entry by the health officials, and could not wriggle out of such a situation. Also, in her declaration, she claimed that Akash was born in July 2001 and not May. Thus, it was clear that the child was shown to be born in May, whereas records showed October.
Also, merely because the term of the panchayat was over, the suit cannot be said as infructuous. Despite the fact that her term was over, a declaration that she incurred a disqualification for having more than two children was required to be made. The petition thus succeeded.
Story by Sai Kulkarni – Intern