Stalemate over Delhi mayoral polls may lead to bigger MCD crisis
If the stalemate continues beyond February 15, the House will not be able to pass the civic Budget, and if it continues beyond February 24, the councillors may face disqualification.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is staring at a Constitutional crisis as the newly elected House has been unable to address political differences that have stalled the elections to the posts of Mayor, deputy mayor and members of the Standing Committee, senior officials aware of the matter said.
They cited two immediate problems.First, the House will not be able to deliberate and pass the civic Budget -- a key privilege of the elected representatives -- if the stalemate continues beyond February 15. Second, and the graver one, is if the stalemate continues beyond February 24, the councillors may face disqualification.
This is because the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act mandates the councillors to file a full disclosure of their assets before the Mayor within 30 days of taking oath of office. The councillors were administered the oath on January 24, when the House met for the second time after the House was adjourned following pitched battles between the AAP and BJP members.
Anil Gupta, former chief law officer of the erstwhile North MCD, said that 50 days have passed since Delhi elected its councillors and the House is yet to elect a Mayor. He said the deadlock has to be resolved as soon as possible since the House has to meet certain timelines provided under the DMC Act.
Gupta said that if the problem persists, the Special Officer will pass the Budget after February 15, presenting an unprecedented situation in which the elected representatives will have no say in the tax proposals and allocations under various heads that will provide the road map for civic governance.
“MCD faces a unique situation in which the councillors have taken oath, and the 30-day deadline under Section 32A of DMC Act for them to file details of their assets before the Mayor has begun. It has led to disqualifications in a few cases in the past. If Delhi continues not to have a Mayor at the end of the 30-day period, this can legally lead to automatic disqualification of the councillors,” Gupta said.
Even though the DMC (Amendment) Act, 2022 states that the post of Special Officer will cease exist with the first House meeting, the MCD clarified on January 24 that the officer will continue to be in charge till mayoral elections are concluded.
Meanwhile, the political standoff showed no signs of resolution with both the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing each other of now allowing the House to conduct normal business.
Prem Chauhan, former leader of opposition in South MCD and an AAP councillor, said that the issues related to budget passage and the 30-day deadline for fling details of assets can solved only by a court. “Two days have passed since we took oath and the 30-day period for filing assets remains in place. This situation has been created because BJP is running away from the mayoral election. We have the number and despite BJPs attempt to break our councillors we continue to hold the majority. It is clear that with the help of presiding officer, the central government wants to indirectly run the civic body,” he said.
Mukesh Goyal, AAP councillor and leader of the House, blamed the BJP and the presiding officer for the legal complications. “The only solution to this matter is early election for the post of mayor. The budget will have to be cleared before February 15, and we will call a special House meeting for clearing Budget proposals,” he said.
Former MCD mayor and BJP’s veteran civic leader Subhash Arya said that in the interim the Special Officer should clear the Budget as well as accept the submissions for asset declaration through the municipal secretary office. “The developments that took place on January 24 should not have taken place. This has never happened in the history of MCD. Now, we have councillors who have all the powers that vested in them as people’s representatives, but the MCD leadership has not been elected. The real problem is trust deficit between the BJP and AAP. Instead of MLAs and MPs running the show from AAP’s side, senior municipal councilors from both parties should sit together and find a solution to the problem and build trust,” Arya said.