District collectors asked to give petitioners personal hearings.
The Bombay High Court (HC) on Friday deferred sarpanch elections among elected gram panchayat members in villages of six districts after hearing a clutch of petitioners challenging the reservation policy. The elections for sarpanch posts were due between February 8 and 11.
A division bench of Justice SJ Kathawalla and Justice Vinay G Joshi was hearing nearly 31 petitions, most of them filed by elected members of gram panchayats from the districts of Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli, Solapur, Nashik and Pune.
The petitioners contended that the reservations to the post of sarpanch were not in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the Maharashtra Panchayat Act, 1958 and the Bombay Village Panchayats (Sarpanch and Upa-sarpanch) Election Rules, 1964.
The pleas stated that tahsildars held a draw of lots to declare reservation for the post of sarpanch where petitioners were present. “There was no transparency in the draw of lots and the same is being implemented at the whims of tahsildars,” one of the pleas stated. The petitioners sought to quash and set aside the reservations made as per the draw of lots.
It was also submitted that although the petitioners had filed their objections before their respective tahsildars, the same were not being considered and decided, therefore, they filed pleas before the HC.
The court then directed district collectors of the six districts to treat the writ pleas filed by the petitioners as representations, by providing them with a personal hearing on February 9 and disposing of the same with a speaking order for every plea before February 16.
The collectors shall hear the petitioners or their advocates and also the parties who are likely to be affected by the orders passed on grievances of the petitioners.
The HC also noted that as per statutory provisions, the elections to the office of sarpanch will have to be held within 30 days from the date of notification of the constitution of village panchayats, which were issued on January 29.
Disposing of the pleas, the bench noted, “The elections scheduled to be held on February 8 to 11 shall not be held up to February 16.”
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