In this Writ Petition, petitioner challenges proceedings dated 01.07.2020 issued by respondent No.2 - District Collector, Rajanna Sircilla, under Section 37(5) of the Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 2018 (for short ‘the Act’), relieving him from the post of Sarpanch for a period of six (6) months.There is no dispute with respect to the issuance of show cause notice dated 27.06.2020, submission of explanation by the petitioner on 30.06.2020 and issuance of the impugned proceedings by respondent No.2.At the outset, it is to be noted that the alleged misconduct on the part of the petitioner does not fall within the scope of Section 37(1) (i) and (ii) of the Act, for violation of which alone, the powers under Section 37(5) of the Act can be invoked. However, the allegation levelled against the petitioner, as mentioned in the aforesaid show cause notice, may be noted hereunder.“Sri Rapelli Gangadhar, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat Narsingapoor Mandal Chenburthi had deliberately destroyed the plants which are planted in Government respectable Haritha Haram Program.”Section 37(1)(i)&(ii) may be noted hereunder.“37. (1) If in the opinion of the District Collector the Sarpanch,(i) omitted or refused to carry out the orders of the District Collector or Commissioner or Government for the proper working of the concerned Gram Panchayat; or(ii) abused his position or the powers vested in him;xxxx”However, the allegation levelled against the petitioner destroying the already planted saplings, in strict sense, does not fall under Section 37(1) (i) and (ii) of the Act. However, it may be noted that one of the functions which is required to be discharged by a Sarpanch in terms of Section 32(1)(f) is as under:“take up plantation and maintain Green coverage in the village”.Further, Section 37(1)(v) of the Act reads as under:“persistently defaulted in the performance of his functions and duties entrusted to him under the Act to the detriment of the functioning of the Gram Panchayat or has become incapable of such performance.” A perusal of Section 32(1)(f) read with Section 37(1)(v) of the Act, would show that the action of the Sarpanch may fall as a violation under Section 37(1)(v) for which proceedings could be initiated in terms of Section 37(1) and not under Section 37(5) of the Act.According to Section 37(1)(iii) to (v), the allegation of gross misconduct of the Sarpanch may amount to even inviting criminal action against him in allegedly destroying the public property.Even assuming that the allegation levelled against the petitioner is true, the impugned proceedings is in violation of the statutory provisions, as, the said proceedings is appealable under Section 37(6) of the Act, but not, Section 141 of the Act, as mentioned in the impugned proceedings.In that view of the matter, as the allegation of misconduct on the part of the petitioner does not come within the purview of Section 37(1)(i) and (ii) of the Act, there is no other alternative for this Court except to set aside the proceedings impugned.Accordingly, the impugned proceedings is set aside and this Writ Petition is allowed, however, leaving it open to the respondents to take action against the petitioner in accordance with law.While parting with this case, it may be noted that this Court is noticing day in and day out that a large number of cases are being filed before it questioning the orders passed by the District Collectors under Section 37 without being conscious of the scope of the provision, under which, they are required to act, resulting in wasting of time in passing lengthy orders and thereafter, such orders are being set aside by this Court on account of the fact that they are not falling within the four corners of law. Probably, this is happening on account of the fact that the statutory authorities are placing over-reliance on their subordinates for putting up of the note and signing the orders blindly, without application of mind and without being conscious of the scope of the power, which they are exercising. As a matter of fact, the scope of enquiry under Section 249(6) of the Act and the powers of suspension/removal of office bearers in Gram Panchayat etc., are explained in detail in the judgments of the Courts in M. Kavitha v. The Government of Andhra Pradesh (2010 (5) ALD 750); Janagama Shankaraiah v. Government of A.P. (2011 (1) ALD 251); Yerneni Kusuma v. Government of A.P. (2010 (6) ALD 737); and Madasu Ravi v. State of Telangana (2018 (5) ALD 235 (DB), and the law declared by this Court in Ananth Rao Deshpande v. State of Telangana (W.P. No.12778 of 2020) and the course to be followed was also indicated therein by pointing out the errors committed / errors that may be committed by the District Collectors. It would be worthwhile for the District Collectors to study the provisions keeping in view the guidance provided by the Courts repeatedly so as to ensure that they apply the law correctly in the cases coming before them while passing orders.Yet another aspect, which is required to be stated, is that while it is being routinely stated that an appeal would lie to the Gram Panchayat Tribunal under Section 141 of the Act with respect to the orders passed under Section 37(1) or an intimation under Section 37(2), appeal lies under Section 37(6) of the Act, there is no appeal remedy with respect to the orders made under Section 37(5). The same is clear from a combined reading of Section 37(6) read with Section 141. Yet in all the
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cases routinely it is being mentioned that an appeal would lie to the Gram Panchayat Tribunal, against the suspension orders passed under Section 37(5) of the Act, which is a glaring example of non-application of mind on the part of the officers concerned.The 1st respondent-Principal Secretary, shall examine these issues and provide clear guidelines to all the District Collectors and other officers with necessary instructions to enable the respective District Collectors to take note of these issues.Miscellaneous applications, if any pending, shall also stand closed. There shall be no order as to costs.