Fear misuse of ₹1,000 crore for personal gains: Punjab to HC on Dissolution of panchayats - Hindustan Times
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Fear misuse of 1,000 crore for personal gains: Punjab to HC on Dissolution of panchayats

By, Chandigarh
Aug 31, 2023 12:30 AM IST

The pleas were filed challenging the government notification of August 10 on dissolution and declaration of general elections of the members of gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishad under the Panchayati Raj Act. On Tuesday, Gurjeet Singh Talwandi, a general secretary with Shiromani Akali Dal, also moved high court challenging government action in a PIL.

The Punjab government has told Punjab and Haryana high court that there are 1,000 crore in the bank accounts of gram panchayats and there was a “reasonable apprehension that this precious public money can be misutilized or unnecessarily utilized to lure the residents of the village for personal gain” by elected panchayat representatives.

A view of Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh. (HT File)
A view of Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh. (HT File)

Hence, in the public interest, charge of the same was taken and would be handed over to the newly elected panchayats for the development activities, the government told the high court in response to the pleas filed challenging the dissolution of panchayats.

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The pleas were filed challenging the government notification of August 10 on dissolution and declaration of general elections of the members of gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishad under the Panchayati Raj Act. On Tuesday, Gurjeet Singh Talwandi, a general secretary with Shiromani Akali Dal, also moved high court challenging government action in a PIL.

The government has asserted that it has the constitutional duty and the power to hold the general election of Panchayati Raj Institutions under section 209 of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994.

It has further submitted that an election to constitute a panchayat is to be held before the expiry of its duration or before the expiration of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution. The notification of August 10 is strictly in accordance with the constitutional provisions. The term of gram panchayats has been taken from the date of its first meeting on January 10, 2019, and these have been dissolved on August 10, 2023, i.e. within six months before the expiry of the term.

Referring to previous such exercises, the government has told the court that gram panchayats were dissolved on July 16, 2018, for the elections held on December 30, 2018, in the last such elections. Therefore, even the past precedent also suggests the same criteria, which has been followed now, it added.

It also argued that there are 1,3,241 gram panchayats, 22 zila parishads and 152 panchayat samitis from whom the record has to be taken. There are 30 kinds of registers/records which are in the custody of sarpanches. Handing and taking over the records and other movable properties is a “herculean task”. That will consume a lot of time, the government said adding that in fact, those seeking re-election would have to be issued NOCs, which could also be done only after the record is scrutinized, it has submitted.

As per the affidavit, various factors like weather, availability of people to participate (as they should be free from harvest/sowing of crops), academic schedule of children and other major national or state-level activities are also taken into consideration before issuing the schedule. The Lok Sabha elections of the country are due in the initial months of 2024 and the state government does not want to create a conflict of interest in such important national activity, it asserted seeking petitions filed against the August 10 notification be dismissed.

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