-Report by Eshna Ray
The Constitution of India has been invoked by the petitioners under Article 32 to seek relief regarding the constitution of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi after the elections held on December 4, 2022. The elections were held to elect 250 Councillors, and the first petitioner is a prospective candidate for the post of Mayor. Despite over two months passed since the election, the election of the Mayor has not taken place. The matter is now before the Court, seeking a resolution to this delay in the constitution of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 is an act that establishes the municipal corporation in Delhi. Chapter II of the Act deals with the establishment of the corporation, and Section 35(1) provides for the election of the chairperson, known as the Mayor. Chapter V of the Act deals with the procedure and transaction of business by the corporation, and Section 72(1) provides for monthly meetings.
The controversy in the case before the court was whether aldermen nominated by the Administrator have the right to vote at the first meeting of the corporation where the Mayor is elected and the order of holding elections. The opposing views were that the aldermen should not have the right to vote, and all elections should be held simultaneously, respectively.
Article 243R of the Indian Constitution deals with municipalities, and Clause (1) stipulates that all seats in a municipality shall be filled by direct election. An exception is provided in Clause (2) of the Article, which allows the legislature of a state to provide for representation in a municipality of persons with special knowledge or experience in municipal administration. The Court heard arguments from both sides and considered the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, and Article 243R of the Constitution.
In this case, the Court was dealing with the question of the order in which the election of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and members of the Standing Committee of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi should be conducted. The Court referred to the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, and also relied on the judgment in Ramesh Mehta v Sanwal Chand Singh (2004) 5 SCC 409.
Article 243R of the Constitution provides for the composition of Municipalities. Clause (1) of the Article provides for direct election to all the seats in a Municipality, subject to exceptions provided in clause (2). Clause (2) contains provisions, inter alia, for the representation in a Municipality of persons having special knowledge or experience in Municipal administration as well as other persons such as members of the House of the People and the Legislative Assembly and members of the Council of States and the Legislative Council of the States representing the specific constituency and the Chairpersons of the Committees constituted under clause (5) of Article 243S. The Constitution has imposed a restriction in terms of which nominated members who are brought in on account of their special knowledge or experience in Municipal administration do not have the right to vote. The same restriction finds statutory recognition in Section 3(3)(b)(i) of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.
The Court held that the election of the Mayor should be held first, and upon the election of the Mayor, the Mayor shall act as the presiding authority for conducting the election of the Deputy Mayor and the members of the Standing Committee. The Court clarified that the prohibition on the exercise of vote by the nominated members in terms of Section 3(3)(b)(i) shall continue to operate even during the election of the Deputy Mayor and members of the Standing Committee. The Court directed that the notice convening the first meeting of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi should be issued within a period of twenty-four hours and should fix the date for convening the first meeting at which the election of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and members of the Standing Committee shall be conducted in terms of the above directions.
The Supreme Court issued directions for the first meeting of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which includes holding elections for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor posts, and members of the Standing Committee. Members nominated in Section 3(3)(b)(i) of the Act cannot vote in these elections. The elected Mayor will preside over the elections for Deputy Mayor and Standing Committee members, where the same prohibition on voting by nominated members will apply. The notice for the first meeting must be issued within 24 hours and should include the dates for the elections as per the Court’s directions.
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