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Bhagwan Dass Sehgal Vs. State of Haryana & Ors [1974] INSC 229 (5 November 1974)

SARKARIA, RANJIT SINGH SARKARIA, RANJIT SINGH ALAGIRISWAMI, A.

CITATION: 1974 AIR 2355 1975 SCR (2) 580

ACT:

Constitution of India 1950, Article 14 and 191-Office of Chairman of Improvement Trust, if office of profit-Removal of disqualification-If amounts to discrimination.

HEADNOTE:

In the contest for election to the Haryana Legislative Assembly one of the respondents, who was the Chairman of the Ambala Improvement Trust.. was declared elected. The appellant challenged the election on the grounds that : (i) the respondent's nomination was improperly and illegally accepted because he was holding an office of profit under the State Government, and (ii) S. 2(i) of the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention and Disqualification) Act, 1952, introduced by the Haryana Amending Act 25 of 1969, enacted by the Haryana State Legislature under Art. 191 of the Constitution which purported to take the office of the Chairman of an Improvement Trust out of the purview of an office of profit, was invalid as it offended Art. 14 of the Constitution.

The High Court dismissed the petition.

Dismissing the appeal to this Court,

HELD:(1) The office of the Chairman of an Improvement Trust constituted under the Punjab Town Improvement Act is an office of profit, but s. 2(i) provided that such a person does not incur the disqualification for being chosen as and for being a member of the Haryana State Legislative Assembly. [581H-582B] (2)(a) Article 191(1)(a) of the Constitution gives a wide power to the State Legislature to declare by law what office or offices of profit held under the government shall not disqualify the holder thereof from being chosen or for being a member of the state Legislature. Classification is thus left primarily to legislative discretion and when this power is exercised reasonably in a manner which does not drain out the article of its real content the court will not interfere. [582H-583B] (b)There is no discrimination between the chairman of the trust and the members of the trust. In the case of the members of the trust the disqualification on the ground of their holding the office of profit had been removed by s. 2(e) of the 1952-Act.

(c)Further, the status and responsibilities and other conditions of the office of the Chairman of an Improvement Trust differ from those of the members of the trust or other statutory bodies, and therefore, the mere fact that for the purpose of removing the disqualification the Chairmen have been put in cl. (i) as a class se rate from that of the members of the Trust and other statutory bodies in cl. (e) of s. 2 does not offend the guarantee of equal treatment.

[582G]

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 1188 of 1973.

Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment & Order dated the 11th October, 1972 of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in C.W. No. 2490 of 1970 and Civil Appeal No. 1 of 1973.

From the Judgment & Order dated the 30th October, 1972 of the Punjab Haryana High Court in Election Petition No. 19 of 1972.

D.V. Patel, S. S. Khanduja and S. K. Jain for the appellant (In both the appeals) 581 V.M. Tarkunde, V. C. Mahajan and R. N. Sachthey for respondent No. 1 (In CA No. 1188/73.

Uma Datta for respondents Nos. 2 (In CA. No. 1188/73.) and respondent No. 1 (In C.A. No. 1 of 1973).

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by SARKARIA J.-The common question that arises for determination in these appeals is Whether Clause (i) in Section 2 of the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) _Act 7 of 1952 ,(hereinafter referred to as the Disqualification 'Act) inserted by Haryana Amendment Act 25 of 1969 suffers from the vice of discrimination and as such, is an invalid piece of legislation ? Both these appeals will therefore be disposed of by this judgment.

The appellant and respondents, as rival candidates, contested the election to Haryana Legislative Assembly from Ambala Cantonment Constituency in March 1972. Hans Raj Suri, Respondent was declared elected. The appellant, Bhagwan Dass Sehgal challenged this Respondent's election on the ground that his nomination papers had been improperly and illegally accepted. It was alleged that on the material dates, the respondent being a Chairman of the Ambala Improvement Trust was holding an office of profit under the Government of the State, and as such, was disqualified from contesting the election. It was further pleaded that cl.

(i) of s.2 of the Disqualification Act 1952 (added by the Haryana Amendment Act 25 of 1969) which purported to take the office of the Chairman of an Improvement Trust out of the purview of an 'office of profit' was invalid as it offended Article 14 of the Constitution.

The validity of the aforesaid c (i) was also challenged separately, under Article 226 of the Constitution in a writ petition on the same grounds.

The learned single-Judge before whom the writ petition first came up for hearing, got it referred to a Division Bench of the High Court, which dismissed the writ petition. In consequence, the election petition, also, was dismissed.

Hence these appeals.

A few facts may now be set out:

It is not disputed that at the date of filing the nomination papers and also on the date' of' their scrutiny, the respondent was Chairman of the Ambala, Improvement Trust.

He was appointed by the State Government under s. 4 and 5 of the Improvement Act by a notification dated May 21, 1970.

As Chairman he was receiving a salary of Rs. 1,000/P.M.

plus Dearness and Conveyance Allowances. It is also not disputed that the power of appointment and removal of the Chairman of the Trust vests in the State Government and his remuneration is paid out of the public revenues. In short, the office of the Chairman has all the attributes of an "office of profit'. But for the impugned provision, the respondent would have been disqualified from contesting the election.

582 By virtue of. the powers conferred by Article 191 of the Constitution, the Legislature of Haryana State enacted the Amendment Act 25 of 1969, whereby it inserted the impugned cl. (i) in the original s. 2 of the Disqualification Act.

The effect of this amendment is that a person holding the office of the Chairman of an Improvement Trust constituted under the Punjab Town Improvement Act or the office of the Chairman of the State Agricultural Marketing Board constituted under s.3 of the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, does not incur the disqualification for being chosen as, and for being a member of the Haryana State Legislative Assembly.

Mr. D. V. Patel, learned Counsel for the appellant contends that the impugned provision is discriminatory inasmuch as it enables the Chairman of the Trust to contest an election to the State Assembly by removing his disqualification but does not accord the same treatment to the members of the Trust appointed under s. 4(i) (c) of the Improvement Act. It is further urged that the impugned provision has created an unreasonable classification between the members of the statutory bodies falling under clause (e), and a Chairman of the Improvement Trust falling under clause (i) of s. 2 of the Disqualification Act.

To us, these contentions appear to be devoid of merit.

In the case of members of the Trust appointed under S. 4(i) (c) of the Improvement Act, the disqualification on the ground of their holding the office of profit, had already been removed by clause (e) of S. 2 of the Disqualification Act, 1952, which runs thus :

"A member of any statutory body or authority, or a member of an Committee or other body, appointed or constituted by the Punjab Government, and who is not in receipt of a salary but who is paid only travelling and daily allowance during the performance of his duties." It is therefore not correct to say that the members of the Trust have been discriminated against in the matter of removing the disqualification.

It is noteworthy that the status, administrative responsibilities and other conditions which go with the office of the Chairman of the Improvement Trust are not the same as those of the members of the Trust or other statutory bodies. The mere fact therefore, that for the purpose of removing the disqualification, the Chairmen of the Improvement Trusts have been put in clause (ii) as a class separate from that of the members of the Trust and other statutory bodies in clause (e) of s.2 does not offend the guarantee of equal treatment enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

It must be remembered that Article 191(1) (a) of the Constitution gives a wide power to the State Legislature to declare by law what ,office or offices of profit held under the Government shall not disqualify the holder thereof from being chosen or for being a member of the State Legislature.

Classification of such offices for the purpose 583 of removing the disqualification has thus been left primarily to legislative discretion. It follows that so long as this exemptive power is exercised reasonably and with due restraint and in a manner which does not drain out Article 191 ( 1 ) (a) of its real content or disregard any constitutional guarantee or mandate, the Court will not interfere. Nothing of this kind has been done by the impugned provisions which would justify the invocation of the extraordinary powers of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.

No other point has been argued before us.

In the result the appeals fail and are hereby dismissed with cost shearing fee limited to one set.

Appeals dismmissed.

V.P.S

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