2-kids limit for gram panchayat members only restricted to biological children: HC | Mumbai News

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Saturday held that the “two-children norm” or limit for disqualification of member under the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act would include only the biological children of the member for whose birth the member is responsible whether from present or previous marriage and may not include “step children”.

A division bench of Justice Atul S Chandurkar and Justice Vrushali V Joshi on August 19 passed a verdict in a matter referred to it by a single-judge bench, wherein the petitioner Khairunisa Sheikh Chand had approached the HC after she was disqualified as member of Gram Panchayat by the Divisional Commissioner.

She was disqualified on the grounds that she had more than two children after the cut-off date. However, she had stated that her husband Sheikh Chand had two sons from the earlier marriage and the third child was born from the marriage with the petitioner, therefore the step-children cannot be considered to disqualify her.As per Section 14(1)(j-1) of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, a person having more than two children on commencement of the Amendment Act of 1995, shall not be disqualified as long as the number of children he/she had on the cut-off date does not increase later. However, a child or more than one child born in single delivery within a period of a year from the commencement date cannot be considered for disqualification.

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Advocate Sukrut Sohoni for petitioner Khairunisa Sheikh Chand had argued that she could not be disqualified as she had only one child from her marriage. Sohoni argued that “two children” expression under the Act would only include biological children of the member in question. However, the single-judge bench had disagreed with the petitioner’s counsel and referred the matter to a division bench composed of two judges.

The single-judge bench referred the matter to clarify whether the expression “two children” used under the law has been used in “generic sense” so as to include all children including step-children or it is used in a restricted sense to mean only those children born to the person.

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Justice Chandurkar-led division bench observed that the “two-children” expression used in the Act was in a restrictive sense. It noted , “In case of a male member, if he is responsible for the birth of more than two children irrespective of the number of wedlocks, the disqualification would be attracted. Same analogy would apply to a female member when she has given birth to more than two children irrespective of the fact that the child/children are born from the previous or present wedlock,” the bench held.

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