DELHI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION AMENDMENT BILL (2022): A MIRAGE OF PROGRESS

INTRODUCTION

The democratization of the States breaded the system of representative democracy, wherein, people elected the representative directly or indirectly, depending upon the density of the population of the Nation. In countries like India, there’s a practice of indirect democracy, wherein, people, trust and elect a representative, who makes decisions on their behalf, in this sort of democracy, “trust” is the focal point of the administration. Trust of the people, becomes the heart of democracy, as it’s the essential criterion for the attainability of the government. And this trust is earned, when the actions meet the words. Thereupon, the elected governments, at both State and Central levels, need local bodies to carry on a vigorous process of effective execution. Thus, we can say, Municipal Corporations are very important for the inception and development of a representative form of democracy[1], i.e local body, which determines the sustainability and transparency of administration of the country, is referred to as, looking glass shelf of the Democracy, as it acts as the mirror to understand the baroque structure of the democracy. Around the world, people have started appreciating and enduring local governance. It’s our responsibility, as citizens, to know about the structure and function of local bodies. And knowledge about them has become more than ever important after, the introduction of the amendment bill, of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1956. Even though Municipal corporations existed before independence, it should be noted that the 74th amendment of the constitution,[2] ceded constitutional status to the Municipal Corporations of the country, presented institutional stability, which was previously absent, and also provided electoral seats, and reservations for backward classes and women. Almost all the states, in India, have Municipal corporations, that’s to say, states and UTs having legislation have Municipal corporations. But Delhi is a special Union Territory, it has legislation, but, the legislative assembly, is cut off, from the matters of state list, police, and land [3]Unlike, other states and Union Territories, with legislations. Hence, Delhi Government won’t have any say in the administrative functions of MCD, that’s not to say, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is an independent body. Municipal Corporation in Delhi has different levels of accountability, yet, it’s neither directly under the state government nor the central government.

LIMITATIONS OF THE AMENDMENT BILL

Delhi Municipal Corporation Amendment Bill 2022, was introduced in the parliament, to make changes to the existing, Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957. [4]This legislation had earlier gone, through the amendment, in the year, 2011, where the corporation, was bifurcated into, North, South & East Delhi Municipal Corporation. [5]However, the new bill introduced aims to, forge all three Municipal corporations into a single corporation i.e Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Taking note of the eventuality, the State Election Commission has postponed the Municipal corporation election, of Delhi, which was scheduled for April. It has Cited, the unification, as the reason for the deference. However, this would result in the current ruling party, relishing the power for some more time. Though Election Commission, has postponed the elections, the decision isn’t been received without criticism. Even though Election Commission, is an independent body, it does have some constitutional limitations. Article 243U of the constitution, explicitly states that every Municipality, unless sooner dissolved under any law for the time being in force, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and no longer[6] To further elucidate the same, in the case of, Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of The City[7], the State election commission of Gujarat, had delayed the corporation elections, in the advent of formation of a new Municipal Body. The question before the court there was, whether, there could be any digression to the fixed period of five years? Could the periodic chain of elections be crippled? Allahabad High Court, in this case, taking the cue from Section 14 & 15 of the Representation of People’s Act 1957[8], HC remarked that Election Commission is required to take steps for holding an election immediately on the expiration of the term of the Assembly or its dissolution, an anomaly which could be accepted is, in the case of natural disaster. Since the bifurcation doesn’t come under, the exception, it would not be possible, for the Election Commission, from a constitutional perceptive, for the Election Commission to delay the Delhi Municipal Corporation, elections, on the grounds of a unification bill.

The second question to be addressed here is the impact, the reduction of the seats shall have on the reservation & representation. As we know, the grim tale of underrepresentation of women in the legislation and its consequence, it is very important to look at this amendment, from a perceptive of reservations. According to the new bill, the number of seats shall be reduced to not more than 250, as against the previous cap of 272 seats.[9] According to article 243T of the Constitution, seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election.[10] 

Earlier, as per the 2011 amendment, there were 272 wards, 104 in North Delhi, 104 in South Delhi & 64 wards in East Delhi. [11]Thereupon, 20,15 & 11 seats were reserved for the Scheduled Caste, in the three corporations, of its composition of the population.[12] Nonetheless, in the scenario of the bill passed, where, there shall be a cap of 250 seats, the reservation of scheduled, caste, will also decrease from 46 to 41 seats.

Article 243T (3), states that not less than one-third including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes[13] of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women. Delhi government had allotted 50 % of the total number of seats to women[14], ergo, a reduction in the number of seats would also decrease the representation of women in the corporation, impeding the participation of women in politics. The whole purpose of providing reservation in the local body is to directly benefit the community, it’s a more wholesome approach, compared to having a mere elected representative, ergo, the entire purpose of reservation would be defeated, with the reduction in the number of seats.

Furthermore, in sections 1, 3A, and 330A, the word ‘Government’ had been replaced by the word ‘Central Government’, ascertaining the center’s, claim on the administrative structure of the corporation.[15] When we look at the grounds provided, for the -unification of the MCD, we realize that its unavailing, as tax and finance of the MCD, from the very beginning, were looked over by the central government.

The last, thing to be discussed here is that there are approximately 8 districts, and 88 villages[16], which come under the purview of Delhi Municipal corporation and added responsibility, for the development of the villages on its borders, and poverty alleviation, making it one of the largest municipal corporations in the country. This was the reason MCD was bifurcated into three zones, to provide an effective administration. This would, just further, abolish the decentralized system of administration, moreover, making the local governing body, accountable to the central government, this would fail, to notice the problems of the people, as the government at the central level, would lack cognizance, of the problems faced by people at the local level. Besides, this bill would destroy, the entire construction of federalism, as the central would overpower, the functioning of the local body.

CONCLUSION

This growing rate of urbanization will induce, various, culturally diverse urban units, which need a customized approach to have, effective administration. Likewise, Delhi is a topographically as well as culturally diverse urban unit, with never-ending migration. With the ever-increasing disparity between the rich and poor in these urban centers, it’s the local body, which has to strive hard for, creating a social and economic fair playground. So, it would be ideal for an urban centre, like Delhi, which is also a Union Territory, to have more than one Municipal corporation. After all, Delhi can never be made a complete state of, its strategic and economic importance, thus, instead of projecting the unification as a stir for, betterment, it would be a real step of progress, if the police department and MCD, are made accountable to the government at the state level, increasing its capacity, to redress the problem of the public, in place of Central government.

Author(s) Name: Aakanksha N (National Law University Trichy)

References:

[1] Timothy D. Sisk, Julie Ballington, Scott A. Bollens, Pran Chopra, Julia Demichelis, Carlos E. Juárez, Arno Loessner, Michael Lund, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Minxin Pei, John Stewart, Gerry Stoker, David Storey, Proserpina Domingo Tapales, John Thompson, Dominique Wooldridge, DEMOCRACY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL,5, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) 2001.

[3]Soumen Bagchi, Governance in Delhi: Too Many Cooks, Vol. 38, Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 4831, 4831,2003.

[4]THE DELHI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, Bill No. 92 of 2022.

[5] THE DELHI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022, section 13 (514AA) Bill No. 92 of 2022, 2022

[6] INDIA CONST, art 243U

[7]KishansingTomar v. Municipal Corp., Ahmedabad, (2006) 8 SCC 352 (INDIA) 

[8]THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT, 1951 ACT NO. 43 OF 1951, section 13, 17th July 1951

[9]THE DELHI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022, section (3), Bill No. 92 of 2022,

[10]State Election Commission NCT of Delhi & UT Chandigarh, No.F.4(101)/SEC/LAW/2022/3309, 25/1/2022.

[11]State Election Commission NCT of Delhi & UT Chandigarh, No.F.4(101)/SEC/LAW/2022/3309, 25/1/2022.

[12]Ibid 10

[13]INDIA CONST, art 243T

[14]INDIA CONST, art 243T

[15]THE DELHI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022, section (1), Bill No. 92 of 2022

[16]des.delhigovt.nic,http://des.delhigovt.nic.in/DoIT/DOIT_DM/district%20profile.pdf, may15th