In democracy leader should be elected, not imposed: Supreme Court

In democracy leader should be elected, not imposed: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: In a democracy, leadership of a political party and a coalition front should be decided only through election and not imposed on the members of the group, the Supreme Court on Friday said.

The court said that once a leader was put in place through this process, then a change in leadership could happen only through the process of election within the group.

“In a democracy, a leader is not imposed; leader is elected. Once the birth of a leader in a group is by way of election by the group, the group leader thus elected cannot be replaced otherwise than through the very same process of the election in the group, in the absence of any rules to the contra,” a bench of Justices M Y Eqbal and Kurian Joseph said.

The case relates to election of Amravati Municipal Corporation in which councillors of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Muslim League, Republican Party of India, Samajwadi Party and Independents formed a 23-member aghadi (group) and elected Avinash Gulabrao Mardikar of NCP as their group leader. He was recognized as leader by divisional commissioner in March 2012.

A year later the NCP changed the group leader and Mardikar was replaced by Sunil Haribhau Kale, which was allowed by the commissioner.

The court, however, found fault with decision of the commissioner and set aside appointment of Kale as a group leader. It said the group leader of the aghadi could be changed only by the group and not by one of the political parties.

“Once an aghadi (group) is formed and duly recognized by the Divisional Commissioner, it becomes a municipal party in terms of Section 2(i) of the Act. Once original political parties form a municipal party by way of an aghadi, for all purposes, the group leader is chosen by the municipal party (aghadi) only. Rules do not provide for nomination of group leader. Similarly, the group leader of the aghadi can be changed only by the group and not by one of the political parties, big or small, belonging to the aghadi,” the bench said.

“No doubt, the Nationalist Congress Party has 17 members in the aghadi (group). That does not mean that the said party can impose a group leader in the aghadi. 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. It is always open to the original political parties to have their respective leaders in the aghadi. However, as far as group leader is concerned, he has to be elected by the aghadi (group),” it said.

The court said the change of leader has to be in the same democratic process of induction, in the absence of any other method prescribed under the Rules concerned.

“The definition of the term leader very clearly shows that where a municipal party is an aghadi, its leader has to be chosen by the aghadi or front. Necessarily, any change in the leader of the municipal party is to be effected by the aghadi and not by any outsider. Once the Rules provide for the election of the group leader, it has to be done in that manner only and not in any other manner, even when there is change of the leader,” it said.

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