KH.NOBIN SINGH,J. -
(1.) Heard Shri N. Ibotombi, learned Senior Advocate and Shri R.S. Reisang, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioners while Shri N. Kumarjit Singh, learned Advocate General appearing for the State respondents and Shri Ch. Momon Singh, learned Advocate appearing for the State Election Commission.
(2.) Since the above writ petitions have arisen out of a similar set of facts, the same are being disposed by this common judgment and order.
WP(C) No. 613 of 2020:
3.1 The validity and correctness of the letter dated 13-11-2020 written by the respondent No.3 to the respondent No.5 in so far as it relates to para No. A(ii) and the decision of the Cabinet taken on 10-11- 2020 in so far as it relates to Agenda No.1 are under challenge in this writ petition and in addition thereto, it has been prayed by the petitioners to direct the respondents to extend the term of office of all the members of the Autonomous District Councils with effect from 01- 12-2020 or till the completion of the election proposed to be held for electing new members of the said District Councils.
3.2 According to the petitioners, they are the elected members of the six District Councils- (a) Autonomous District Council, Kangpokpi; (b) Autonomous District Council, Senapati; (c) Autonomous District Council, Tamenglong; (d) Autonomous District Council, Chandel; (e) Autonomous District Council, Churachandpur and (f) Autonomous District Council, Ukhrul.
3.3 The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act, 1971') came to be enacted by the Parliament for constitution of District Councils in the Hill areas of Manipur and for matters connected therewith, with regard to the power and functions thereof and incidental thereto. The Act of 1971 came to be amended from time to time. In exercise of the power conferred by the provision of Section 3 of the Act, 1971, the State of Manipur vide its notification dated 14-02-1972 constituted the said District Councils which came to be renamed as the Chandel, Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Sadar Hills/ Kangpokpi and Senapati Autonomous District Councils respectively (hereinafter referred to as 'the District Councils').
3.4 In exercise of the power conferred by sub-section 1 of Section 4 of the Act, 1971 as amended from time to time and on the basis of the election results being declared by the State Election Commission, the Governor of Manipur notified a list of elected members of the District Councils vide Notification dated 17-06-2015. The petitioners were elected as the members of their respective District Councils in the said election held in the year, 2015.
3.5 Section 13(1) of the Act, 1971 provides that the term of office of the members of the District Councils shall be five years which will commence from the date of notification of the election or nomination. The proviso to Section 13(1) states that the State Government may, when satisfied that it is necessary in order to avoid administrative difficulty, extend the term of office of all the members by such period not exceeding one year as it thinks fit.
3.6 As the term of office of the elected members was to expire on 31-05-2020 and as no election was likely to be held, the Governor of Manipur issued an order dated 19-03-2020 extending the term of the District Councils for a period of six months in order to avoid administrative difficulty and also to hold the election in the meantime. The said extension of term of the District Councils was made on the recommendation of the Hill Areas Committee, Manipur Legislative Assembly.
3.7 The respondent No.5 vide its letter dated 22-08-2020 requested the respondent No.1 to issue notification for the publication of Draft Electoral Rolls of the District Council Constituencies so as to enable it to hold the election in time but no action was taken from the side of the State Government to hold the District Council's Election in time in spite of the said letter being addressed to the State Government by it. In the meantime, Dr. Yaronsho Ngalung, Chairman of the Autonomous District Council, Ukhrul vide his letter dated 17-08-2020 requested the Hon'ble Chief Minister, Manipur to extend the term of the District Councils after the expiry of the extended period on the ground that it might not be conducive to hold the election in view of the Covid- 19 Pandemic and that all the District Councils/ Schools were being used as the quarantine centre.
3.8 A meeting of the Hill Areas Committee, Manipur Legislative Assembly was held on 08-10-2020 to consider the issue relating to the election of the District Councils wherein it took a resolution for holding the election in time and recommended for holding the election. No decision was taken in the said meeting either to extend the term of the District Councils or not to extend it. As desired by the State Government, the respondent No.5 vide its letter dated 12-10-2020 informed the respondent No.1 that the duration required for conducting the District Councils election would be, at least, 75 days.
3.9 Thereafter, the respondent No.1 after obtaining the opinion of the Law Department, prepared a Memorandum for Cabinet dated 22- 10-2020 wherein it has wrongly been mentioned that the Hill Areas Committee has recommended for non-extension of the term beyond 30-11-2020. The Law Department has opined that there is no provision for dissolving the District Councils in the Act, 1971 and that the District Councils can be superseded by invoking Section 47 of the Act, 1971.
3.10 The State Cabinet in its meeting held on 10-11-2020 took a decision in Agenda No.1 approving para No. 6(A) of the Memo for Cabinet and thereafter, the Joint Secretary (Tribal Affairs and Hills) , Government of Manipur informed the State Election Commission to take up necessary action in compliance with the State Cabinet decision. Being aggrieved by the said decision dated 10-11-2020 and the letter dated 13-11-2020, the instant writ petition has been filed by the petitioner on the inter-alia grounds that since the State Government has been conferred power to extend the term of the District Councils for a period not exceeding one year, the same cannot be taken lightly and ignored. The elected and nominated members of the District Councils are not responsible for not holding the election in time. The election could not be held in time because of the inaction on the part of the State Government. If the terms of the members of the District Councils are not extended, it will create administrative difficulty for which the people at large shall become the victim. As the term of the District Councils are not extended, the development works in all the District Councils could not be done and that apart, many serious consequences will be there in the education sector. If the District Councils are to be superseded by invoking the provisions of Section 47, the ingredients mentioned therein will have to be there and in absence thereof, no District Councils could be superseded. The State Government cannot play hot and cold at the same time in as much as in the earlier occasion, the State Government vide its order dated 05-05-2015 had extended the term of the members of the District Council till the completion of the election process. ;