Allahabad High Court overturns order limiting financial power of Muzaffarnagar Municipality Head

The Allahabad High Court has quashed the order seizing the financial powers of Muzaffarnagar Municipality Chairman, Anju Agarwal.

The Divisional Bench of Judge Manoj Kumar Gupta and Judge Ram Manohar Narayan Mishra passed this order while hearing a motion filed by Anju Agarwal.

The petitioner is the Chairman of Nagar Palika Parishad, Muzaffarnagar. She questioned the order passed on 19.7.2022 by the state government terminating her financial powers pending an investigation for her dismissal under section 48 of the 1916 the municipalities of the UP. The order indicates that the petitioner received a notice dated 28.3.2022. calling on her to explain the charges against her.

The petitioner, in her letter dated 7.4.2022, requested the state government to receive the documents and other evidence on the basis of which the charges are made to enable her to file an effective response.

On 6.6.2022, the state government ordered Respondent No. 2 to make documentary evidence available to the petitioner. The ADM (Admn.), Muzaffarnagar, by letter dated 14.6.2022 addressed to the Claimant, provided her with a copy of the complaint and other evidence. The order also states that the applicant submitted a partial response to the charges against her on 2.5.2022. By another notice dated 4.7.2022, the petitioner was required to submit her explanation and evidence within three days with a further stipulation therein that if the explanation is not provided as required, it will be assumed that the petitioner admits the charges and action will be taken against her in accordance with the provisions of the law.

The order proceeds to record that, pursuant to said notification, the applicant did not provide any explanation and this was done with the intention of delaying the ongoing investigative process and abusing its financial power. As a result, its financial authority has been suspended until the claimant is cleared of the charges against her in the ongoing investigation.

Lead Counsel Shashi Nandan argued that the Impugned Order’s finding that no response was submitted in response to the 4.7.2022 Notice is factually incorrect. In fact, a detailed response was submitted by the petitioner on 8.7.2022 by registered mail as well as by e-mail. In support of this assertion, the petitioner submitted the dispatch report from Swiss Post, according to which the consignment was delivered to the addressee on 15.7.2022.

The second argument is that even assuming that the above response was not delivered on time, it was the first respondent’s responsibility to review the response submitted by the petitioner on 2.5.2022. Although the order indicates that the above response was duly received, it is not taken into account in the order.

Third, it is argued that there is no finding in the order that the state government had reason to believe that the allegations do not appear to be without merit. It is urged that this conclusion can only be registered after having examined the elements of the file in the context of the response submitted by the petitioner. It must demonstrate application of spirit as well as an objective examination of all the elements in the file, which is lacking in this case.

On the other hand, Anurag Khanna, Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Complainant/Intervenor, submitted that the Applicant is guilty of serious financial irregularities and that the order merely ceases financial powers and not administrative powers. Therefore, the Court should decline to interfere in the matter.

Dilip Kesarwani, Additional Chief Permanent Counsel, attempted to support the contested order by filing before the Chamber a photostatic copy of the Secretariat’s receiving and dispatching record to show that the registered letter was issued on 21.7.2022 after adoption of the contested order. However, he rightly admits that the contested order does not take into account the response and the evidence presented by the applicant on 2.5.2022. He declares, on the instructions received from the State government, that the matter be remanded for adoption of a new order after reviewing the response submitted by the petitioner as well as the evidence on file.

In view of the above position of the state government, the Court quashed the order and returned the case to the state government to pass a new order according to law.

The Court clarified that when adopting a new order, the state government will consider the response submitted by the petitioner on 2.5.2022 as well as the response dated 8.7.2022, which admittedly was received by the defendants.

Anurag Khanna, the Complainant/Intervenor’s lawyer, suggested that some time be allowed to decide the case so that the Applicant would not succeed in delaying the proceedings.

The Court accepted the argument and ordered that a new decision be made by the state government as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the arrangement.

Accordingly, the Court ruled on the motion.

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