Decided on January 17,1979



P.D.DESAI - (1.) An interesting question which might not be of infrequent occurrence in the present days arises in this petition and the question is whether the presiding officer of a local authority who is himself a candidate for election to one of the statutory committees can preside over the meeting at which the election is held and give a casting vote in case of equality of votes and thereby secure his own election. The circumstances under which the question has arisen for decision may be briefly adverted to.
(2.) Kamrej Taluka Panchayat is constituted under sec. 14 of the Gujarat Panchayats Act 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). There are 25 elected members of the said Panchayat. At the relevant time one of its members was under suspension and another member was disqualified. At the material time therefore there were 23 elected members of the said Panchayat. Under sec. 111 of the Act a Taluka Panchayat has to constitute certain committees and one of such committees is the Executive Committee which has to exercise such powers and perform such functions and duties of the Taluka Panchayat (not being functions pertaining to its Social Justice Committee) as the Taluka Panchayat may assign to it. The strengh of the Executive Committee depends upon the total number of elected members of the Taluka Panchayat and accordingly when the total number of elected members of the Panchayat is 23 the Executive Committee must consist of seven members. A meeting of the Kamrej Taluka Panchayat was called on February 27 1978 for constitution its Executive Committee consisting of seven members. At the said meeting 22 out of 23 members were present. Out of the members who were present 11 belonged to the Janata Party and the remaining 11 members belonged to the Congress Party. The President of the Taluka Panchayat presided at the said meeting. When the proposal regarding constitution of the Executive Committee was taken up each group of members proposed a panel of 7 members. Be it mentioned at this stage that the president was himself a candidate for election to the Executive Committee and his name was included in the panel of the Congress Party. The proposal was then put to vote. Each group voted for its own panel and amongst the persons who cast their votes was the President himself. As the strength of each group was equal each panel secured II votes. In view of the equality of votes the President gave his second or casting vote under sec. 115 and declared that the panel proposed by the Congress Party which included himself was duly elected. The petitioner who was present at the meeting as he is an elected member of the Taluka Panchayat objected to the President giving his casting vote but the said objection was overruled and the proposal of the Congress Party was declared as passed. The petitioner thereupon preferred a Revision Application before the Development Commissioner under sec. 335 of the Act. The slid Revision Application was heard by the Additional Development Commissioner who dismissed the same. Hence the present Writ Petition.
(3.) Two contentions were raised at the hearing of the petition. First that sec. 115 which was a general provision empowering the presiding officer of the meeting to exercise a second or casting vote in all cases of equality of votes was not attracted when the question before the meeting is in relation to the constitution of the statutory committees and secondly that in any case the president who was himself a candidate was disqualified from presiding over the meeting or at least from exercising that part of his powers as the presiding officer which enabled him to give a second or casting vote in case of equality of votes.;

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