The Madras High Court bench here quashed an order issued by a Collector suspending the right of a panchayat president to sign cheques, on the grounds that panchayat members cannot be denied the right to exercise their statutory powers.

Petitioner A. Logeswari, the president of Peragambi panchayat in Tiruchi district, challenged an order issued by the Tiruchi Collector on March 23, 2012 suspending her rights to sign cheques for the panchayat under Section 203 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act.

According to her, the Collector did not issue notice to her before passing the impugned order and hence it is liable to be quashed.

The assistant director of panchayats in Tiruchi district filed a counter-affidavit stating that the petitioner did not maintain proper accounts of the funds of the Peragambi panchayat. Therefore, the collector passed orders, under Section 203 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, transferring the cheque signing power from the president of the panchayat to the Block Development Officer. The Act does not require any notice to be served before issuing the orders, the additional government pleader contended.

Citing the provisions of Section 203 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, Justice K.K. Sasidharan stated that the Act does not entitle the collector to act as an authority to take disciplinary proceedings against the president or the vice-president of a village panchayat.

“Section 37 of Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Act and Section 203 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act deal with the emergency powers conferred on the district collector to take action in certain urgent situations”, he noted.

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