- HC: Block Development Officer cannot bypass panchayat
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled that when a local body has been elected, merely because the Chairman and Vice Chairman have not been elected, the Block Development Officer cannot bypass the panchayat and act as its Special Officer.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Ramu, an elected ward member of the Thirupuvanam Panchayat Union. He complained that the choice of development works to be carried out in the wards were influenced by political considerations.
Out of the 17 members in the panchayat union, nine belonged to opposition parties and one was an independent member. With the ruling party not able to secure a majority, no meeting had been held for holding elections to the post of Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
The petitioner alleged that taking advantage of the situation, the Block Development Officer of Thirupuvanam issued a tender notification for development works, bypassing the local body. He sought to quash the tender notification.
The State argued that as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Panchayat Union Council had not been elected, the Block Development Officer can very well continue to act as its Special Officer. The first meeting of the panchayat had not been held, the State said.
Quashing the tender notification, Justice G. R. Swaminathan observed that the tender notification was issued by usurping the role of Panchayat Union Council in violation of the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act.
Article 40 of the Constitution of India mandates that the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government, the court said.
A duly elected local body had been treated as non-existent and totally ignored in the process of decision making. Unless it is a case of emergency, it is the local body that must deliberate and make proposals, the court said.
A mere reading of Tamil Nadu Panchayat (Election) Rules would indicate that the meeting in which the members of the panchayat union council take oath is the first meeting. Elections of Chairman and Vice-Chairman will take place only thereafter. Therefore the BDO cannot take advantage of the non-election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman, the court said.