By Dr. Gyan Pathak
The result of the election for Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) held on December 4, was declared on December 7, 2022. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had won 134 seats in a house of 250. The BJP that had been ruling the MCD for the last 15 years could win 104 seats while INC could win 9 seats. However, the defeat was not acceptable to the BJP, which is manifested in the stalling of the mayoral elections thrice, now labelled in the Supreme Court of India as ‘destruction of democracy’.
The Supreme Court, in turn has issued yesterday notices to the Lieutenant Governor and the Protem Presiding Officer for the MCD mayoral election, on a petition filed by AAP alleging deliberate stalling of mayoral elections for the third time on February 6, 2023. The three-judge bench has listed the case for detailed hearing on February 13, after senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for AAP mayoral candidate Shelly Oberoi, urged that the case concerned “destruction of democracy”.
Since the BJP has not requisite number in the house to have its own mayor elected, the party has conspired against mayoral election, AAP has alleged. The party had got even members nominated through Lieutenant Governor, and the Protem Presiding Officer has allowed them to vote, which is against the provisions of the law, as the three-judge bench, led by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, remarked in the preliminary hearing that the Constitution does not allow nominated members (aldermen) of a municipality the right to vote in meetings. “The difference is very substantial between you (elected members) and them (nominated members,” said the CJI.
The senior advocate A M Singhvi has said that Article 243U of the Constitution mandates that elections to constitute a municipality should be completed well in time. However, after the election held on December 4, subsequent polls for the offices of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Members of the Standing Committees have been stalled thrice.
Mr Singhvi has argued that the Protem Presiding Officer is herself “illegal” as she is not the senior most member. “Then she orders all three elections of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Members of the Standing Committees to be held together. There is directly a provision that this cannot be done,” he submitted.
“Since in terms of Section 76 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act of 1957, the Mayor, or in his absence the Deputy Mayor, has to preside over every meeting of the corporation, the simultaneous holding elections of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Members of the Standing Committees is directly contrary to the provision of the statute,” Mr Singhvi has submitted.
It is to be recalled that the mayoral poll was first stalled on January 6, and then on January 24. It was for the third time when it was stalled on February 6, 2023. AAP mayoral candidate Ms Oberoi had moved to Supreme Court on January 27, but later withdrawn the case while seeking permission to move the court again in case aldermen were allowed to vote.
On February 6, when the poll was stalled for the third time, the case was brought again to Supreme Court for an impartial conduct of mayoral elections. AAP has shared with the apex court the evidence of the BJP-led Centre trying “to form its own government within the MCD through unfair means,” said the AAP chief spokesperson. “We have videos that show how the BJP councillors started creating a ruckus in the House on Monday while AAP councillors sat quietly. The BJP councillors indulged in hooliganism and shouted slogans, following which the House was adjourned. This means that the whole conspiracy had been planned.”
On February 6, the presiding officer Ms Satya Sharma of BJP, in the run-up to initiating the process for the Mayor’s election, had announced that the 10 aldermen – nominated to the MCD by the LG would vote in the simultaneous elections for Mayor, Deputy Mayor and six members to the Standing Committee. AAP councillors opposed both the decisions, and said that presiding officer’s role ends after the Mayor’s election.
However, Ms Sharma says that her decisions were not contrary to provisions of the Municipal Act. She says that she decided to give voting rights to the aldermen on the basis of a 2016 Delhi High Court judgment. However, it has been clarified by MCD officials that the said judgement do not mention that aldermen can vote in the meetings of the House.
It should also be noted that the BJP had also objected voting by two of the 14 MLAs who are nominated by Delhi Assembly Speaker to vote in the Mayor and Deputy Mayor elections, on the ground that they have cases against them in the sessions court. It was not acceptable to AAP councillors, who said that the presiding officers decision of not allowing them to vote was irrelevant, since both the MLAs had already got relief from the High Court.
DMC Act, 1957 says that the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor are to be elected in the very first session of the House that convenes after the civic polls. The first session held on January 6, was adjourned after the elected and nominated members took oaths. Second session on January 24 was similarly adjourned, while BJP members had walked out. The third session on February 6 was also stalled and the case in now in the Supreme Court. (IPA Service)