“In a democratic set up, the will of the majority has to prevail”, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday while upholding the Bombay High Court order to approve selection of an elected member as the group leader of Congress Party in a ‘Panchayat Samiti’ in Maharashtra due to the majority support. A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai said a group leader in a municipality has to be chosen by the majority and cannot be imposed and in the absence of any procedure for removal, the selection process can be adopted for getting rid of the person after he or she loses the majority support.
“It could thus be seen that this court has clearly held that the leader of a municipal party has to be chosen by ‘aghadi’ or front and not by any outsider...,” the top court said quoting judgements.
The imposition of a Group Leader otherwise than by the democratic process cuts at the roots of the democracy and certainly it is in violation of the Rules, said Justice Gavai, who wrote the judgement for the bench.
“As soon as such a person loses the confidence of the majority, he becomes unwanted. In democratic set up, the will of the majority has to prevail,” it said.
The verdict came on the appeal of one Sau Sangeeta against the March 30, 2021 verdict of the Bombay High dismissing her plea against an order, passed on January 6, 2020 by the District Collector of Ahmednagar.
The District Collector had granted approval to the selection of one Vandana Dnyaneshwar Murkute as group leader of Congress Party in the Shrirampur Panchayat Samiti Party.
Sangeeta and three others including Murkute were elected as members of the ‘Panchayat Samiti’, Shrirampur in the elections held in 2017.
In a meeting of the elected members of the party, Sangeeta was elected as the group leader of the Indian National Congress Panchayt Samiti Party (INCPS) and later was removed following the complaint that she did not take other three members of members of INCPS into confidence for over two years nor had convened any meeting.
Later, Sangeeta with the help of elected members of other parties got elected as Chairman of the Panchayat Samiti.
The High Court dismissed her plea against her removal from the post of group leader.
The apex court said “The appellant was elected as ‘Gatneta’ (group leader) when she enjoyed the support of all the members of INCPS Party. However, after she decided to walk on a different path, she lost the support of majority of the INCPS Party and as such, could not have thrust her leadership on the majority.”
It said the law and rules have been framed to prevent horse trading and maintain purity in the political system but, at the same time, the provisions cannot be interpreted in a manner that one person in minority will thrust himself or herself upon the other members who are in absolute majority, the verdict said.
The bench was “amazed” and said the appellant, who became chairperson from outside support, was alleging horse-trading.
“We are amazed to hear the argument of horsetrading from the mouth of the appellant. It is the appellant who has acted contrary to the wishes of the Party and chose to contest the election of the Chairman of the Panchayat Samiti with the support of to guess as to who has indulged in horsetrading,” it said.