The office of "lambardar", who is a hereditary tax collector, is not an office of profit and he/she can contest panchayat election as the same person is allowed to contest assembly poll and become Chief Minister, the Supreme Court has said.
The apex court passed the ruling while quashing a Punjab government's "incongruous" circular which had held that a "lambardar" cannot contest panchayat election as his post was considered to be an "office of profit", though he/she was eligible to contest assembly election.
"Being a member of panchayat can be the beginning of a long career in public life. Therefore, the disqualification introduced though the impugned circular could prove disastrous to democracy at the grassroots level in Punjab," a bench of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said in a judgement.
Anokh Singh, a lambardar, had challenged the Punjab government circular(Memo No. SEC-2008/4365) restraining the holders of such hereditary posts from contesting the elections.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the circular, following which he appealed in the apex court. The apex court rejected the state government's argument that exemption from being called an `office of profit' granted to the office of lambardar under the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification ) Act, 1952, applies only in the case of election to state legislative assembly and not in case of election as a member of panchayat.
"We need not consider the effect of Section 2(a) of the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of disqualifications) Act, 1952, on Section 11(g) of the State Election Commission Act. By virtue of the aforesaid Act, a lambardar would be qualified to contest the elections for legislative assembly. "This could be a stepping stone for becoming the Chief Minister of the state.
Therefore, it would seem a little incongruous that a lambardar would not be permitted to seek election to panchayat. The village-level democracy is the bedrock of Indian National Democracy," Justice Nijjar writing the judgement said.