Case Analysis: Bhanumati v. State of UP
Authored by Satvica Dixit
Keywords: The Panchayati system, U.P. Panchayat laws, Chairperson, Pramukh, No confidence, Constitutional validity, Majority, Doctrine of Silence.
Case No.: AIR 2010 SC 3796
Parties to the case: Petitioner: Bhanumati. Respondent: State of Uttar Pradesh
The Bench of the case: Asok Kumar Ganguly, G.S. Singhvi
Date of Judgement: 6th February 2009
Concerned Provisions of the law
1.Section 15 and 28 of Uttar Pradesh Kshetra Panchayats and Zila Panchayats Adhiniyam, 1961
2. Articles 243A, 243C (1), (5), 243D (4), 243F (1) (6),243G, 243H, 243I (2), 243J, 243(K) (2), (4) and Art. 243X (6) of the Indian Constitution.
3. Part IX, 7th Schedule Entry 5 List II of the Indian Constitution
This article gives the comprehensive and exhaustive study of the landmark case of Bhanumati v. State of UP in the history of the Panchayati system. This case was filed to challenge the validity of the U.P. Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2007 which later on became the U.P. Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Act, 2007 after its constitutional validity was upheld in the case. The Panchayati system is the most primeval system of local government in the Indian subcontinent which was set up with the primary function of settling disputes between the people or villages. After Independence, the government took this under its control and set up a new form of local government for villages officially. Previously Panchayats had their own rules and regulations to follow but now they could only work on the provisions given in the Constitution.
Mainly the Sections 15 and 28 of the U.P. Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2007 were challenged before the Supreme Court. Section 15 talks about the functions of the Gram panchayat while Section 28 talks about the Bhumi Prabandhak Samiti and its members. These sections were challenged because of provision for no-confidence motion relating to the position of chairperson of Panchayat for the reduction of the period of `more than half' instead of `not less than two thirds' and the words `one year' in place of `two years' in Sections 15 and 28 of the Act. This case was the appeal which was again filed by Bhanumati in the Supreme Court even after the decision of the High Court that already declared the U.P. Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Act, 2007 (U.P. Act 44 of 2007) as Constitutionally valid.
Facts of the case
The Uttar Pradesh Kshetra Panchayats and Zila Panchayats Adhiniyam, 1961 was challenged for the addition of a no-confidence provision for Kshetra Samiti of which the block period was of one year along with the majority of more than half of the total no. of members of Kshetra Panchayat were required.
The block period of ‘two years’ was reduced to ‘twelve months’ and the law regarding the majority for passing no-confidence provision, the phrase ‘not less than two-third’ was replaced by ‘more than half’. Several parts of the amendment act were challenged starting with the offices of "Up-Pramukh",`”Junior Up-pramukh", "Senior Up-Pramukh", and "Upadhyaksha" which were deleted by Section 9 of the Amendment Act. Similarly, the amendment was made to the United Provinces Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 by Section 2 of the Amendment Act. Also, Section 15 and Section 28 of the amended act were challenged because it lacked the principle of continuity and stability.
Issues in concern
1.Whether the U.P. Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2007 is constitutionally valid or not?
2. Whether the omission of offices of Uppramukh, Junior Uppramukh, Senior Uppramukh, and Upadayaksh in the amended act is against the principles of the Panchayati raj system given in the Constitution?
3. Whether the provisions of the no-confidence motion in Section 15 and 28 are in contrary to the Panchayati raj institution?
Arguments by the parties
The counsel on behalf of the petitioners presented before the hon’ble court that the provisions added in the amendment act invites for executive interference and erodes the essence of the Panchayati principles. The counsel also said that such an amendment is in total contravention to the principle enshrined in Part IX of the Constitution which provides for a three-tire structure of Panchayat administration and the reason for this is to minimize the scope of executive interference.
It was urged that if the Pramukh in Panchayat is removed or disqualified for any reason from running the administration, uppramukh could have taken before such amendment but in this act, the abolition of these offices will pave the way for executive interference. It was further urged that there is no concept of a no-confidence motion in the constitutional provisions under Chapter IX of the Constitution. Therefore, the adding of the said provision in the statute hinders the principles of the Panchayati Raj Institution. Apart from that, the substitution of the provision `more than half' instead of `not less than two thirds' and the words `one year' instead of `two years' in Sections 15 and 28 of the amendment act further dilutes the principle of continuity and stability.
The Counsel also cited various case judgments to prove that the provision of no-confidence is vague and unreasonable.
The Counsel on behalf of the respondents argued that the provision of the no-confidence motion against the Chairman or pramukh is there in the Constitution which specifically enables the State Legislature to provide the procedures of election of the Chairperson under articles 243A, 243C(1), (5), 243D(4), 243F(1) (6), 243G, 243H, 243I (2), 243J, 243(K) (2), (4), 243X(6).
Also, the statutory provision of the no-confidence motion against the Chairperson or pramukh is a pre-constitutional provision and was given in Section 15 of the 1961 Act and is not inconsistent with Part IX of the Constitution. This provision of no-confidence has never repelled and has always received the assent of the legislature from over the years. The learned counsel also said that the argument of the impugned amendment act sabotaging the stability and dignity of the Panchayati Raj system is also not well-founded.
The Bench agreed with all the arguments and statues presented by the respondents and said that the Court does not find any shortage of legislative competency on the part of the State Legislature in enacting the impugned amendment Act. The Court said that the Counsel on behalf of petitioners missed the difference between an individual and an institution. If a no-confidence motion is passed against the chairperson of a Panchayat then he/she ceases to be a Chairperson but continues to be a member of the Panchayat and the Panchayat continues. Therefore, there is no institutional setback or hindrance to the stability or continuity of the Panchayati Raj Institution.
The Court further stated that the chairperson enjoys the continuous confidence of the majority members in the Panchayat so any statutory provision that reflects that the Chairperson has lost the confidence of the majority is favorable to the public interest and strengthen such bodies of self-governance. So, any such provision cannot be called either ultra vires or unreasonable to Part IX of the Constitution.
The continuance of no-confidence provision has been proven by the learned counsel on behalf of respondents but factually it wasn’t challenged here but the reduction of the period from `two years' to `one year' and the majority from "not less than two- thirds" to "more than half" was challenged. The court accepted the view of a very well-known Constitutional Doctrine i.e. the Doctrine of silence and said that as the Constitution is silenced on this aspect and even its utmost relevance hasn't been proved. So, the judgment of the High Court was upheld and the U.P. Panchayat Bill, 2007 was held constitutionally valid.