Hyderabad: Can a sarpanch be removed by the District Collector without conducting any inquiry into the allegations of corruption and misconduct? The High Court at Hyderabad has declared that the District Collectors can indeed do so.They, however, have to seek an explanation from such sarpanches regarding the allegations levelled against them.
The division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Shameem Akhter made this pronouncement while disposing of an appeal filed by one Middela Yadi Reddy, seeking removal of K Mangamma, the sarpanch of Bowrampet gram panchayat under Qutbullapur mandal of Medchal district.A single judge of the High Court had earlier, on a petition filed by the Sarpanch, set aside the District Collector’s order.
The Sarpanch had alleged that the District Collector, without ordering any sort of inquiry into the baseless allegations against her, removed her from the post. She had alleged that the Upa Sarpanch, who is with the ruling party, had levelled the allegations in order to grab the post. The present appeal was filed against this interim order.
Senior counsel S Satyam Reddy, who appeared for the Sarpanch, said that the ruling party Upa Sarpanch had been openly threatening that he would not allow the Dalit Sarpanch to continue in her post and he was instrumental in making trumped up allegations against her. The fact that the alleged misappropriation by the Sarpanch was initially pegged at Rs 2.05 crore and later brought down to Rs 35 lakh was a pointer to the trumped-up charges, he said.
Maintaining of the records pertaining to this amount of Rs 35 lakh is the responsibility of the Panchayat Secretary. However, in this case the Sarpanch was fixed up, saying those records were not available.The bench made it clear that it was not going into the merits of the case. It was intervening only because the single judge had not given the authorities a chance before setting aside the order of the District Collector.It also noted that under Section 249 (1) of the Panchayat Raj Act, it is clear that the Collector must only seek explanation from the sarpanch and there is no provision to conduct an inquiry.
In the current case that formality was fulfilled as the Collector sought the explanation of the sarpanch and she furnished it too, the bench said. It referred to the matter back to the single judge to decide after giving all the opportunity of being heard.