Govt advice not needed to nominate 10 aldermen: Delhi LG
LG VK Saxena’s counsel submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, citing new grounds to claim prerogative on the appointments that could tilt the balance of the Capital’s important civic agency
The lieutenant governor (LG) does not need the advice of the government to nominate the 10 aldermen to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), LG VK Saxena’s counsel submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, citing new grounds to claim prerogative on the appointments that could tilt the balance of the Capital’s important civic agency.
Aldermen are nominated members who hold voting rights in zone committees of MCD, which forms a key rung in the decision-making ladder of the civic agency. Their nomination was challenged in court, which in February suspended their voting rights, which in turn has put the formation of panels such as the zone committee and the standing committee in limbo.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain, on behalf of the LG, submitted an affidavit on Monday claiming the LG was not bound by conditions under Article 239AA and the law establishing the Delhi government, and drew the powers to appoint the nominated members from two other pieces of law.
“MCD is an institution of self-government and the role of the Administrator (L-G) within the meaning of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act, 1956 is not a mirror image of what is provided either under Article 239AA or under the GNCTD Act,” said the affidavit, seen by HT, and read out by Jain in court on Tuesday.
The latter two laws mentioned were at the centre of a legal fight settled last week, when a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court said the Delhi government had primacy over all the bureaucracy in all matters except land, public order and police.
Following the order, the ASG sought to re-file the affidavit on the aldermen issue on Friday — a request that was allowed — leading to Monday’s submission.
The stand suggests the fight between the elected Aam Aadmi Party government and the LG, a representative of the Union government that is controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will drag on. Such acrimony between the city’s two power centres is unprecedented, even when arch-rivals BJP and Congress held control of each.
At stake are core functions of the city’s administration, including the upkeep of roads and work on sanitation and waste management — areas where the Capital is still playing catch-up with other global megapolises. It is imperative that the matter gets resolved quickly so that politics, now that the MCD elections are long over, do not interfere with crucial civic functions.
In a separate matter, the ASG on Tuesday also sought time to file a response to another legal challenge on the LG’s inaction to clear the appointment of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) chairperson, a position that has been vacant since January.
The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud is hearing both matters that were initiated by petitions from the AAP. The court directed the matter regarding aldermen to continue on Wednesday, while granting 24 hours for Saxena to file a response in the DERC matter that will be taken up on Friday.
Aldermen are appointed members in MCD, and they have voting rights in the civic body’s zonal committees that form the backbone of the decision-making process. AAP won 134 out of 250 wards in the Capital and the BJP 104, with the rest bagged by Congress. The role aldermen play can sway the power balance in the zonal committees, which have not yet been formed.
Saxena’s affidavit claimed that it was for the first time that aldermen with expertise in municipal administration were directly nominated.
“It necessarily follows GNCTD has no power over the subject matter of Section 3(3)(b)(i) of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act and it, therefore, is a natural sequitur that there is no provision requiring the administrator to seek or act upon the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of GNCTD,” said the affidavit read in court by the ASG.
Representing the Delhi government, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shadan Farasat objected to the LG’s stance.
“In 30 years since 1993, this has not happened. Every time the LG appointed aldermen on the aid and advice of Delhi government, irrespective of who was in power in the Centre or Delhi,” Singhvi said.
Instead of the proposal being routed through the Delhi urban development department, Singhvi said, the municipal secretary forwarded a note to Saxena, who recommended names and sent the file to the department.
Jain clarified that Saxena did not call for the file, and that it was sent to him.
On the matter of the DERC chairman, whose appointment has been in limbo for five months, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the LG, sought time to file a response in the wake of the recent five-judge bench ruling. The court agreed to take up the matter on Friday and permitted Saxena’s office to file its affidavit within a day.
The Delhi government has recommended appointment of retired justice Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava of the Madhya Pradesh high court in January for the post of the electricity regulator. But Saxena sat on the proposal, awaiting legal advice on whether the opinion of the Delhi high court chief justice needed to be taken.
The Delhi government claimed that under the Electricity Act, prior consultation from only the chief justice of the parent high court of the person sought to be appointed was necessary — in this case, the Madhya PradeshHC. The earlier incumbent, who retired in January, was a former Allahabad high court judge. The then chief justice of the Allahabad high court was consulted on his appointment, the government added.