HC directs not to arrest any Panch before election of Sarpanchs in Punjab

CHANDIGARH: If verbal observations made in a courtroom are an indicator, the Punjab and Haryana High Court is not pleased with the way politics has creped into the gram panchayat elections in Punjab.
Taking up petitions filed by panches and other persons concerned on election of sarpanches in the state and related matters, the Division Bench of Justice K.S. Garewal and Justice Daya Chaudhary verbally observed: “The government has brought politics to gram panchayats”.
Referring to apprehensions expressed by the state counsel on certain acts leading to horse-trading in the elections, the Bench added: “What is all this talk about horse-trading…. This is what your government does in Parliament”.
The Bench had, just before the summer vacations in May, commented on the state of affairs prevailing in Punjab during panchayat elections. The judges had verbally observed that the “ruling party went berserk”.
Referring to the allegations such as booth capturing, the Bench had further observed it was ridiculous; and added the government had “missed the entire point of having panchayat elections”.
As the petitions came up for hearing before the Bench today, the judges also “felt that the presiding officers are sometimes” not taking proper interest in carrying out their duties and are “often siding with one or the other group of the party.” The Bench stated they had been receiving a large number of petitions, complaining about acts of the presiding officers allegedly designed to help one party or a group of panches.
The judges took note of the fact that the common grouse of the petitioners was that even though they constituted majority group in the panchayat, the meetings were not being held. Or, the majority-group of panches was not allowed to take part in the meeting convened to elect the sarpanch.
Besides this, the petitioners had submitted one or two panches belonging to the majority group were targeted and criminal cases were slapped on them to prevent them from attending the meeting and reducing them to a minority group.
The Bench asserted the presiding officers were expected to be fair and impartial, while holding elections of the sarpanches in a peaceful manner.
The Bench of Justice K.S. Garewal and Justice Daya Chaudhary today ruled: “The police shall not arrest any panch until the first meeting of the gram panchayat has been held and the sarpanch has been elected”.
Punjab Newsline Network
Thursday, 24 July 2008


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