Home Bureaucracy Action (Disciplinary) Two IAS officers suspended in Punjab for ‘wrongfully’ issuing notification of panchayats...

Two IAS officers suspended in Punjab for ‘wrongfully’ issuing notification of panchayats dissolution before end of term

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Two IAS officers – Dhirendra Kumar Tiwari and Gurpreet Singh Khaira – paid the price for embarrassment the government faced in the High over the decision it had taken to dissolve all the panchayats before the end of their 5-year term. After rolling back the decision, the government suspended both the officers in an action, which is rarely taken against senior officers.

Dhirendra Kumar Tiwari, a 1994 batch officer, principal secretary, and panchayats and Gurpreet Singh Khaira, a 2009 batch officer handling post of director rural development panchayats, were asked to report to headquarter in Chandigarh during the suspension period. Both the officers, who are handling additional responsibilities also, will be entitled to subsistence allowance under provisions of Rule 3 (1) of The All India Services (Discipline and Appeal Rules, 1969).

The issue

On August 10, the government had notified the dissolution of panchayats and declared elections of the members of gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishad under the Panchayati Raj Act. The state has 13,241 gram panchayats, 22 zila parishads and 152 panchayat samitis. For that elections were to be held on December 31.

The government had stated that there are Rs 1,000 crore in the bank accounts of gram panchayats and there was a “reasonable apprehension that this precious public money can be misutilised or unnecessarily utilised to lure residents of the village for personal gain” by elected panchayat representatives.

Hence, in public interest, charge of the same was taken and would be handed over to the newly elected panchayats for developmental activities.
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. The August 10 notification is in accordance with constitutional provisions.

Technical Lacunae

Senior advocate Baltej Singh Sidhu, who appeared against government's decision. Said that the Punjab government had to withdraw the petition because Section 29A of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 states that the state government can dissolve a panchayat and not all the panchayat across the state before completion of the term of five-year, which ends on January 9, 2024.

This explains that Punjab government could have dissolved a single panchayat under the law but can't dissolve the entire body.

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