Allow elected Gram Panchayats Zilla Parishad members to function till election notification, rules HC
The State Election Commission should complete the election process and hold the General Panchayat Elections, 2023 at an early date to avoid further litigation, said the HC ruling.
High Court of Manipur directed the state government and other concerned authorities to allow the elected representatives of gram panchayats and Zilla Parishads of six districts, namely Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Jiribam, Kakching and Thoubal to function through their respective elected representatives till the issuance of election notification.
Acting chief justice of the HC MV Muralidaran in his ruling on April 18 made clear that since the State Election Commission has designated the officers as District Election Officers in respect of the six districts for the purpose of preparation of electoral rolls and conduct of elections for the General Panchayat Elections, 2023. The State Election Commission should complete the election process and hold the General Panchayat Elections, 2023 at an early date to avoid further litigation, the ruling added.
The HC ordered that the term of all six Zilla Parishads and Gram Panchayats were expired in October, 2022 and thereafter, the Joint Secretary (RD & PR) on January 23, 2023 informed constitution of Administrative Committees for each Gram Panchayat and also the authority by way of the impugned order to dissolved all the six Zilla Parishad due its inability to hold the elections on time before the expiry of the five years term and, as such invoking the provisions of Section 92 read with Section 109 of the Act of 1994 and in pursuance of the Cabinet decision, appointed Deputy Commissioners of the six districts as administrators.
Meanwhile, on February 17, 2023, the Joint Secretary (RD & PR) issued another letter thereby conveying a general instruction to be followed while setting up Administrative Committees for each Gram Panchayat and further directed that for Zilla Parishads, the Deputy Commissioners shall function as administrators with support of staff from PRI and from the District as per functional/technical requirements.
Being aggrieved to the orders, some petitioners filed writ petitions before the HC to set aside the impugned orders.
In between heated arguments between hearing, advocate general submitted that the 6th General Election to Panchayats, 2023 has been scheduled for June 26, 2023 and therefore, till such time, an interim arrangement is required to be made for the Zilla Parishads for taking up developmental programmes/schemes that were implemented by the Panchayat Raj Institutions and for maintaining unhindered governance at the Panchayat level.
“It is to be noted that the issue is for not holding the 6th General Election of Gram Panchayats and Zilla Parishads. No doubt, the Administrative Committees can be appointed by the Deputy Commissioner of each district. However, the earlier elected representatives are required to be continued as per the amended provision of Section 22(3) of the Act of 1994.
Moreover, the word “appointment of Administrator” and Administrator as mentioned in Section 22 of the Act of 1994 has already been deleted by its subsequent Amendment Act, 1996. Since the word “appointment of Administrator” has already been deleted pursuant to the Amended Act of 1996, the appointment of Administrator for Zilla Parishads vide impugned order dated 21.3.2023 is doubtful”, stated the HC.
The HC highlighted that after the dissolution of Gram Panchayat consequent upon the completion of five years term, the state authorities have neither proceeded for holding elections for the 6th Panchayat elections. It said that since the State Election Commission has initiated steps for holding General Elections to Municipal Councils and Imphal Municipal Corporation, it is hereby requested the State Election Commission hold the 6th General Election to Panchayats, 2023 to Gram Panchayats in consultation with the state government as expeditiously as possible without any further delay as holding the election for the post of Pradhan, Zilla Parishad and Members are mandatory as per the Constitution.