Relationship, by itself, does not prove extent of interest of candidate in contract under Section 14(1)(g) of Maharashtra Panchayats Act

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of S.B. Shukre, J. dismissed a petition filed challenging the orders of Collector, Gadchiroli and Additional Commissioner, Nagpur under Section 14(1)(g) of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958.

The petitioner, a candidate for Gram Panchayat elections, was disqualified under the said section by the orders impugned as the husband of the petitioner had entered into a contract with the Gram Panchayat for giving of a shop block belonging to the Gram Panchayat, and the petitioner, being his wife, was indirectly interested in the contract. The petitioner challenged the order on the reasoning that there was no contract executed between her husband and the Gram Panchayat, the execution being only of a rent agreement. According to her, the word contract used in Section 14(1)(g) has a restrictive meaning which has to be understood as referring only to those contracts which had been awarded by the Gram Panchayat for execution of some work of the Gram Panchayat. Secondly, the petitioner being only the wife, could not be said to having an indirect interest in the said contract.

The High Court found favour with the submission of counsel for the respondent that the word contract had nowhere been clarified in the Act by laying down that the word has to be understood only in the context of a particular type of contracts. In such circumstances, contract must be understood by the definition given in Section 2(h) of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, according to which even the rent agreement executed between the Gram Panchayat and the husband would be a contract. As to the second contention, it was held that mere relationship, by itself, would not determine the extent of interest in a contract and something more is required to be proved against of Gram Panchayat. In the instant case, the petitioner admitted that her family is maintained from the income earning from the business carried out from the rented premises. Thus, it was clear that she had an interest, and therefore the said rent agreement was to be treated as a contract in which the petitioner was having an interest. Resultantly, the Court found no fault with the order impugned. The petition was accordingly dismissed. [Gita Vijay Somankar v. Divisional Commr., Nagpur, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2943, decided on 03-10-2018]

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