The Madras High Court Bench here has set aside a resolution passed by the president of Ambilikkai village panchayat in Dindigul district and has directed to permit two disqualified members of the panchayat to attend the panchayat meetings.

Petitioners N.S. Ramasamy and P. Velusamy, members of the panchayat, moved the court stating that the panchayat disqualified their membership after they did not attend three meetings consecutively in 2012.

The Collector suspended the resolution of their dismissal and the decision is pending before the government under Section 41 of the Panchayat Act, the petitioners told the court. The petitioners further claimed that the panchayat president prevented them from attending the meeting by using muscle power though they had arrived at the venue well in advance.

The counsel appearing on behalf of the panchayat contended that there is no need for the government to pass a formal order to disqualify the members. He relied on Section 38 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1994 to substantiate his arguments and said that a member shall cease to hold office if he absents himself from the meeting of the panchayat for a period of three consecutive months.

Justice K.K. Sasidharan, in his judgement, said, “The disqualified members have come up with a specific allegation that the president of the panchayat prevented them from attending the meeting. Democratically-elected members of the panchayat could be removed from office only in case it is proved that they incurred a disqualification.”

He further stated that if the contention of the panchayat’s counsel is accepted, more people would use muscle power to disqualify members by preventing them from attending meetings.

Justice Sasidharan issued directions to the Secretary of the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department to take a decision on their disqualification as expeditiously as possible.

More In: Madurai