Gram Panchayat is the ‘Appointing Authority’ for posts in ‘Inferior Panchayat Services’ in the State of Gujarat

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Supreme Court: In the matter where the family of a deceased Safai Kamdar appointed by a Gram Panchayat, sought family pension, the question before the Court was to decide the deceased was a member of the Panchayat Service as envisaged by Section 203 of the Gujarat Panchayats Act, 1961 (the Act), thereby entitling the appellant to claim any family pension or gratuity.

The deceased was appointed by Gram Panchayat by passing an appropriate resolution in the year 1964. It was contended by the respondent that since the deceased was not appointed by the District Panchayat Service Selection Committee constituted under Section 2(11) of the Act, the family of the deceased was not entitled to pension. The Gujarat High Court considered the said contention and observed that only those employees who had been appointed following the procedure laid down in Section 203 of the Act and the rules framed thereunder, would alone be members of Panchayat Service, apart from the allocated employees from the municipality to the Panchayats at the time of formation of the Panchayats or such other employees who had been recognized as members of Panchayat Service by the State Government, or by the District Panchayat Selection Committee. It was further observed that merely because Panchayat had paid salary and other benefits to the deceased, it did not mean that he was member of Panchayat Service so as to get the benefits available to members of Panchayat Service like family pension and gratuity.

The bench of V. Gopala Gowda and U.U. Lalit, JJ did not agree with the ruling of the High Court and hence, took notice of the Gujarat Service (Appointing Authorities) Rules, 1967. It was noticed that Rule 2 of the said Rules stipulated, inter alia, that the Appointing Authority in respect of posts under the Gram Panchayat, which are included in the “local cadre” is Gram Panchayat itself and that ‘local cadre’ includes ‘Inferior Panchayat Services’. The Court, hence, held that in the year 1964 when deceased was appointed, there were no rules governing the appointment in question. And that nothing had been pointed out how Gram Panchayat was not competent to make such appointment or that at the relevant time in question the power to make appointments was vested in an authority other than Gram Panchayat or that there was any separate modality or procedure prescribed for effecting such an appointment. Hence, it was held that the family of the deceased was entitled to family pension and gratuity. [Harijan Paniben Dudabhai v. State of Gujarat, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 652, decided on 01.07.2016]

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