Even as the issue of granting voting rights to nine nominated councillors in the MC House gains traction a month before a new House is to be elected, a scrutiny of documents collected on the basis of Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that the right has no legal basis.
Congress councillor and former mayor Subhash Chawla sought information under RTI from the Union government and was told that the home ministry had not issued any notification providing voting rights to councillors in Chandigarh. The urban development and the law ministry also have no information on the issue.
Nominated councillors have been given voting rights since the MC was set up 20 years ago.
THE REPLY TO THE RTI PLEA
The reply that Chawla received said that under Article 243 of the Constitution, nominated councillors do not have voting rights. This can be done provided that the President may, by public notification, make exceptions and modifications to the Article.
Chawla, who even sought information from the UT administration, found that even it does not have any such notification.
“In reply to my query, I was supplied with a copy of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1994, as extended to UT Chandigarh,” Chawla says, adding that it was a major lapse on the part of different Union ministeries as well as the UT administration. A senior officer with the UT administration admitted there was no such notification with the administration issued by the President.
It is not as if the Act is immune to any amendment. It was amended in 1996 when the then BJP MP Satya Pal Jain got removed the para speaking of the inclusion of the MLA as an ex-officio member and got included ‘MP’ in the relevant column instead. On why was the issue of voting rights to nominated councillors not clarified or included then, Jain told HT, “A Private Member’s Bill was moved, but it never came up for discussion.”
Pawan Bansal, who remained MP for 15 years said, “There were lapses in the way the Act was interpreted, but now the matter is in the court. Let the court decide.”
QUESTION MARK ON AGENDA APPROVED OVER TWO DECADES
With this, there is a big question mark on the election of the mayor, the senior deputy mayor and the deputy mayor since the formation of the MC. Nominated councillors have almost always played king-makers in these elections. Due to the voting right they enjoy, nominated councillors have also played a critical role in rejecting or accepting agenda items worth crores of rupees.
BJP councillor Satinder Singh who has moved the Punjab and Haryana high court questioning the voting rights to nominated councillors, said, “The UT legal department has been found sleeping on the issue. The issue of voting rights has been controversial. An amendment in the Act is needed to harmonise it with the Constitution and restore the democratic spirit.”