A bill to merge the three municipal corporations in the national capital into a single entity was introduced in Lok Sabha on Friday amid opposition claims that the move was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai introduced the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, dismissing the claims made by the opposition as asserting that Article 239AA of the Constitution gave Parliament the right to amend the laws passed by the Delhi assembly.
The bill has been introduced a month before the elections to the three municipal corporations, prompting the AAP to launch a sharp attack on the BJP, accusing it of delaying the polls fearing defeat.
The BJP has been ruling the municipal corporations in Delhi for the last 15 years and the AAP has been sensing an opportunity to oust it from power and strengthen its grip on the national capital.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation was trifurcated in 2011 by the then Delhi government led by chief minister Sheila Dikshit to create compact municipalities to provide efficient civic services to the citizens of the national capital.
In Lok Sabha, RSP member N K Premachandran, Congress members Gaurav Gogoi and Manish Tewari and BSP’s Ritesh Pandey opposed the introduction of the bill contending that Parliament lacked the legislative competence to amend the bill.
“This is disrupting the legislative assembly, and the will of the members of the legislative assembly. They have passed an Act that enforced the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Now, the Union Government is coming up with a legislation so as to unite them,” Mr Premachandran said.
Mr Pandey said Article 243U states that no amendment of any law for the time being in force shall have the effect of causing dissolution of a municipality at any level, which is functioning immediately before such amendment, till the expiration of its duration specified in clause.
Mr Tewari said according to Part 9A of the Constitution, the powers to constitute municipalities were of the state governments.
“And this House cannot, after Part 9 was inserted into the Constitution of India, substitute itself for the Assembly of Delhi and pass this particular legislation in an illegal manner,” he said.
Mr Gogoi claimed that the move by the Centre to merge the three municipal corporations into one through a law of Parliament was an attack on the federal structure of the constitution.
He also questioned the rationale behind capping the number of seats in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi at 250, contending that the same should be decided after taking into account the population of the national capital.
Mr Pandey said that the Constitution granted powers to states to constitute municipal corporations.
Union minister Mr Rai said the trifurcation of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi was uneven in terms of territorial divisions and revenue generating potential and created a huge gap in the resources available to the three corporations compared to their obligations.
“The experience of the last ten years shows that the main objective of trifurcation of creating compact municipalities in Delhi to provide more efficient civic services to the public has not been achieved,” he said.
The bill seeks to unify the three municipal corporations into a single, integrated and well equipped entity; ensure a robust mechanism for synergised and strategic planning and optimal utilisation of resources; and bring about greater transparency, improved governance and more efficient delivery of civic service for the people of Delhi.
At present the three corporations in Delhi — North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations — have a total of 272 seats. While North and South corporations have 104 seats each, the East corporation has 64. The bill has a provision that the central government may, “if necessary”, appoint a person to be called the “special officer”, to exercise the power and discharge the functions of the corporation until the date on which the first meeting of the body is held after the commencement of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022.
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