HIGH COURT OF KERALA
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(1.) These three Civil Revision Petitions arise from a common order passed by the District Judge disposing of C.M.A. Nos.24, 32 and 36 of 2002, which in turn arose from three different Election Petitions numbered as O.P. (Election) Nos.12 of 2000, 8 of 2000 and 15 of 2000. Since the challenge in all the three Election Petitions is one and the same, that is to say, the validity of the election of the first respondent in all the three Civil Revision Petitions, who is the returned candidate, the learned District Judge heard and disposed of these three Civil Miscellaneous Appeals together. So, the Civil Revision Petitions are also heard together and disposed by a common order.
(2.) The first respondent was the returned candidate of the Constituency No.VII of Kizhakkambalam Grama Panchayat for the election to the local bodies held on 27th September, 2000. He was declared elected. The revision petitioner in C.R.P.1613 of 2002 who is an elector of that Ward filed O.P. (Election) No.12 of 2000 for a declaration that the election of the first respondent to Ward No.VII of Kizhakkambalam Grama Panchayat is void. The revision petitioner in C.R.P. No.1765 of 2002 who is another elector filed O.P. (Election) No.8 of 2000 for the identical relief. The revision petitioner in C.R.P.2098 of 2002, another elector, had filed O.P. (Election) No.15 of 2000 in the very same court for the very same relief. The common ground alleged in all the three petitions is that the first respondent was not qualified and hence disqualified for being chosen as and for being a member of the Panchayat. It was alleged that the first respondent was a member of the former Panchayat Committee. He ceased to hold office as a member of the Panchayat under S.35(k) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act (Act for short) and consequently on the date on which he filed the nomination as well as on the date of declaration of the results, he was not qualified and hence disqualified to be a member. In C.R.P. No.1765 of 2002 the election was challenged on the further ground that names of large number of electors were clandestinely removed from the voters list, thereby blocking the chance to exercise their right of franchise. In that case, the learned Munsiff found the Original Petition as not maintainable as there is violation of the provisions contained in S.91(2) of the Act. The learned Munsiff found that the fact that the first respondent ceased to hold the office as a member of the previous Panchayat will not attract the mischief of S.34 of the Act and hence he was not disqualified from contesting as a member. The learned Munsiff dismissed all the three Original Petitions. Aggrieved by the decisions the petitioners in the three Original Petitions filed three Civil Miscellaneous Appeals. The learned District Judge concurred with the view taken by the learned Munsiff and dismissed all the three Civil Miscellaneous Appeals. Those orders are under challenge in these three Civil Revision Petitions.
(3.) As I have already stated, the case of the revision petitioners in all the three Civil Revision Petitions is that the first respondent was not qualified to contest the election and hence the first respondent was disqualified for being chosen as and for being a member of the Panchayat at any level. The first respondent was a sitting member of the former Panchayat Committee. The evidence adduced in these cases shows that the first respondent was involved in a criminal case. He was absconding for some time. Subsequently he was under judicial custody. Since the first respondent did not attend the meetings of the Panchayat for more than three consecutive months without obtaining permission, the Panchayat passed a resolution disqualifying him from holding the office as the member of the Panchayat for the remaining period of his term. He filed an appeal before the Election Commissioner and the same was dismissed. He challenged the decision of the Panchayat before this Court in O.P. No.8375 of 1998. The Original Petition was dismissed upholding the decision of the Panchayat. W.A. No.1992 of 1998 filed against the decision rendered by the learned Single Judge was also dismissed. The last date fixed for filing the nomination was during the existence of the previous Panchayat Committee. The election was also held during that period. The question arising for consideration is whether a member who ceased to hold the office as a member in view of the violation of the provisions contained in S.35(k) of the Act is entitled to contest for the another Panchayat Election during the period of the former Committee.;
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