Tamil Nadu Government vs Governor row | Records reveal Madras High Court having restrained Nayakkaneri panchayat president from taking charge

Tamil Nadu Government vs Governor row | Records reveal Madras High Court having restrained Nayakkaneri panchayat president from taking charge

A view of the Madras High Court building in Chennai. File

A view of the Madras High Court building in Chennai. File
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

Nayakkaneri panchayat in Tirupattur district has become the latest reason for exchange of war of words between Governor R. N. Ravi and the Tamil Nadu government. Duraimurugan, the seniormost Minister in the Cabinet, issued a strong statement on October 6, accusing the Governor of having made defamatory remarks, regarding a Scheduled Caste woman not having taken charge as the panchayat president since 2021, without knowing about pending court proceedings.

A rummage into the Madras High Court records by The Hindu reveals that a Division Bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and A. A. Nakkiran had on October 7, 2021 restrained P. Indumathi, who was declared elected unopposed, from assuming office. Passing interim orders on a writ appeal, the Bench had said: “Since this court feels that the place is not meant for the person of this category, we make it clear that she shall not take charge.”

The appeal was filed jointly by former Panchayat president K. Sivakumar and and R. Selvaraji, a Scheduled Tribe aspirant to the post, against the September 22, 2021 refusal of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh to interfere with the election of the Scheduled Caste woman. The appellants had originally filed a writ petition questioning Tamil Nadu State Election Commission’s (TNSEC) decision to reserve the Nayakkaneri Panchayat president’s post for Scheduled Caste (women).

In thier affidavit before the single judge, the petitioners had pointed out that Nayakkaneri was a village situated 3,024 feet above the seal level and a majority of the population belonged to the Scheduled Tribes and the rest to the backward- and most-backward classes. They claimed that not even a single family in the village belonged to any Scheduled Caste and therefore it was not right on the part of the TNSEC to have reserved the post of Panchayat president for SC (women).

When their writ petition was heard by Justice Venkatesh on September 22, 2021, the TNSEC explained to the court the rationale behind having reserved Nayakkaneri panchayat president post for SC (Women) though a majority of the residents were scheduled tribes. The court was told that the total voter population of the panchayat was 4,270 ( including 2,146 men and 2,114 women) of whom 3,108 (1,551 men and 1,557 women) belonged to Scheduled Tribes.

The Commission stated that the Panchayat had only seven Scheduled Caste voters ( four men and three women) and hence, the president post was reserved for STs in the 1996 and 2001 elections. Thereafter, it was opened up for general candidates in 2006 and 2011 and reserved for SC (Women) in 2021 in terms of the rotation policy followed by the TNSEC while earmarking seats for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women candidates.

After submission of the figures, the writ petitioner’s counsel contended that there were hardly any SC residents in the village and hence, the seat should at least get allotted to ST (women). However, the TNSEC counsel replied that already two SC women had filed their nominations and the nomination filed by one of them, Ms. Indumathi, was accepted. The petitioner’s counsel objected to such acceptance by claiming that Ms. Indumathi was not a resident of the Panchayat.

The counsel contended that the proceedings of the Ambur Tahsildar dated September 21, 2021 had made it clear that she does not belong to the panchayat. “This Court understands the sentiments raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner. However, this court is not in a position to interfere with the acceptance of the nomination by exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 (writ jurisdiction) of the Constitution,” the judge said and decided to wait for declaration of results.

It was this interim order that was taken on appeal before the Division Bench, which on October 7, 2021 restrained Ms. Indumathi from taking charge and ordered notice to her. The Bench also permitted the appellants to implead Ms. Indumathi as one of the respondents in the writ appeal as well as the writ petition. Subsequently, on November 11, 2021, she was impleaded and both the appeal as well as the writ petition remain pending in the High Court as on date.

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