In a crucial decision, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday suspended GO No. 2 issued by the government to delegate some powers of gram sarpanches and panchayat secretaries to village revenue officers (VROs). The court almost concurred with the contention of the petitioner that the government had introduced the village secretariat system as an alternate power centre to gram panchayats.
Special Chief Secretary (Department of Gram Volunteers/Ward Volunteers and Village Secretariats/Ward Secretariats) Ajay Jain on March 25 issued the GO delegating certain executive and drawing and disbursement and administrative functions to the VROs to ensure better service delivery through the village secretariats and for better coordination between gram panchayat and village secretariats.
While the Panchayat Secretary would be the Drawing and Disbursement Officer (DDO) for the staff of the gram panchayat, the VRO was made the DDO for all the other staff in the village secretariat. The VRO was also made the DDO for disbursing honorarium to volunteers and coordinator for activities related to service delivery of schemes.
Krishna Mohan, sarpanch of Tokalavanipalem in Guntur district, filed a petition challenging the GO. Arguing on his behalf, advocate Raghava Rao said the GO was in violation of Article 73 of the Constitution and AP Panchayat Raj Act. Advocate General S. Sriram clarified the government did not have any intention to create an alternate power centre.
Justice Devanand, however, observed the sarpanch and panchayat secretary would lose control over functional assistants with the delegation of powers to VROs and this would seriously affect implementation of government schemes. He said if the government is allowed to have its way, gram panchayats would no longer be autonomous functioning bodies.
Going by this decision of the High Court, it is clear about how Jagan government is making brash decisions, even with respect to financial matters, at a time when the state is struggling to cope up with low revenues and income. Many have welcomed this move of the High Court to keep a check on a government that has not only opposed the Judiciary but also the Constitution.