Reigning over the capital, from above

Source– The post is based on the article “Reigning over the capital, from above” published in The Hindu on 16th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.

Relevance– Municipal governance

News– It has been more than a month since the election results to the Delhi Municipal Corporation was declared. But the city still does not have a mayor. Election of the Mayor could not be held in three attempts.

The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi had nominated 10 members to the Municipal Corporation just before the first session. AAP party approached Supreme Court against this decision.

What are different legal opinions about the right of nominated members to vote for election of Mayor?

The Supreme Court observed that “nominated members cannot go for election”.

Section 3(b) of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 provides that 10 people who have “special knowledge or experience in municipal administration” are to be nominated to the Corporation. Such nominated persons “shall not have the right to vote in the meetings of the Corporation.”

Article 243R (2) provides that state legislation can include those with special knowledge of municipal administration to be represented in municipalities. But such persons shall not have the right to vote.

What is the larger picture behind the recent event related to the election of MCD Mayor?

It is part of the Union government’s increasing attempts to gain control over Delhi’s governance. The Union government passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.

It has affirmed the primacy of the elected government in Delhi. It has provided that on matters specified by the LG, the Council of Ministers must obtain the permission of the LG before taking any executive decision.

In April 2022, Parliament amended the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act to merge the North, South, and East Delhi Municipalities.

It was initiated by the Union government and passed by Parliament, undercutting the Legislative Assembly. The Union government used its plenary powers under Article 239AA of the Constitution to pass this law.

What are the issues faced by municipalities in India?

First, Local governments tend to function as administrative vessels of the State government, and not as an independent level of government.

Second, the 74th Amendment provides for devolution of 18 functions to municipal governments. But, many of these functions continue to be exercised by state government-controlled parastatal agencies such as development authorities.

Third, the executive powers of the municipality are often vested with the State government-appointed commissioners. It renders the mayor to a ceremonial role.

Fourth, Municipalities are vested with very few revenue generating powers. It keeps them reliant on grants and loans from the State and Union governments.

Fifth, more recently, national-level urban programmes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Smart Cities Mission have given the Union government a larger role in driving urban development and governance.

What is the way forward for decentralised governance in urban areas?

There needs to be more clarity about the authority of each level of government.

Local autonomy is crucial. But, higher levels of government can also have a legitimate role in local issues to ensure regional coordination, reduce spatial inequality, or manage economic and environmental externalities.

Print Friendly and PDF