President's nod to Bill that unifies three Delhi MCDs | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

President's nod to Bill that unifies three Delhi MCDs

By, New Delhi
Apr 20, 2022 06:40 AM IST

The approval means the bill passed for the unification is now an Act, which will come into effect with its publication in the official gazette

President Ram Nath Kovind has signed into law the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to unify the three civic bodies in the national capital, and was cleared by the Lok Sabha on March 30 and the Rajya Sabha on April 5 amid strong protests from opposition parties.

President Ram Nath Kovind. (ANI)
President Ram Nath Kovind. (ANI)

After the presidential assent, the North, East and South Delhi municipal corporations will be subsumed into the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) once the terms of the three Houses end next month or the MHA issues the notification announcing the date of unification (whichever is earlier), and a process of redrawing municipality wards will begin at a time elections to these were originally due. The Bill mandated the Centre to appoint a special officer to exercise the power and discharge the functions of the corporation until its first meeting is held.

“The following Act of Parliament received the assent of the President on the 18th April, 2022 and is hereby published for general information: The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022 No. 10 of 2022,” said a gazette notification issued by the Centre.

Also Read | Delhi’s 3 MCDs in limbo till merger rules are laid out, say officials

The merger will come into effect after another gazette notification is issued by the MHA, the government said.

Now that the Bill has received the President’s nod, the delimitation process is expected to begin shortly, an official aware of the matter said. Once an official notification is released on the completion of the delimitation process, the MCD elections are likely to be scheduled, the official added.

“Now the MHA will keep issuing a series of notifications. One will be on the date from which the unified MCD will come into effect, one on the appointment of the special officer, another of starting the delimitation process and so on,” said a senior ministry official requesting anonymity.

The terms of the three municipal bodies will expire on May 18, 19, and 22.

The merger will come into effect after another gazette notification is issued by the MHA, the government said. (HT Illustration)
The merger will come into effect after another gazette notification is issued by the MHA, the government said. (HT Illustration)

A fresh census will be carried out to redraw the wards of the merged civic body, the notification added. There are currently 272 municipal wards in Delhi, but the city can have a maximum of 250 wards, according to the new law.

“Upon the completion of each census after the establishment of the Corporation, the number of seats shall be on the basis of the population of Delhi as ascertained at that census and shall be determined by the central government by notification in the Official Gazette and the number of seats to be reserved for the members of the Scheduled Castes shall, as nearly as may be, bear the same ratio to the total number of seats as the population of Scheduled Castes bears to the total population of Delhi,” said the notification by the law ministry.

The seats reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates may be allotted by rotation to different wards in a manner prescribed by the Centre, it added.

The municipal corporations of Delhi continued to operate normally on Tuesday. Mayor of east Delhi municipal corporation Shayam Sunder Aggarwal said: “The citizens can assume that every wing of the corporation will function on the same pattern as of now and until further notifications are issued by the MHA. All services, portals and rates are operating on old patterns and will continue until further orders. We will wait for a specific order from the centre detailing the dates and process of unification.”

Delhi’s MCD elections were scheduled to be held in April and the state election commission planned to announce the poll schedule on March 9, but deferred it at the last minute citing a communication from the Lieutenant Governor, who reports to the Centre, that the Union government is planning to reunify the three MCDs.

On March 30, Union home minister Amit Shah said the merger was meant for more transparency and better services. He said MCD was trifurcated in 2012 in a hurry for political reasons, which led to an imbalance between the income and liabilities of the divided civic bodies. The terms of the three municipal bodies will expire on May 18, 19, and 22.

The law for the merger appears to give greater authority to the Centre. It specifies the word “government” will be replaced with “central government” in at least 11 sections of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. These pertain to naming or resizing any zone or ward, listing out the obligatory functions of MCD, rules on declaration of assets of councillors, the appointment and pay scale of the commissioner, approvals for loans, and action against any councillor or MCD official.

The new law says the commissioner shall exercise powers and discharge functions on “building regulations” under the Centre’s general superintendence and direction.

According to the legislation, the unification of the municipal corporations in Delhi will ensure synergised and strategic planning and optimal utilisation of resources.

Replying to debates on the legislation in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month, Shah also said that the move was necessitated due to the “stepmotherly treatment” meted out to the civic bodies by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi.

“The way the AAP government in Delhi meted out stepmotherly treatment towards the three civic bodies, we had to bring this bill. You can have animosity towards us, but what animosity do you have towards the people of Delhi? They have voted you to power...,” Shah said.

“This bill is in accordance with the Constitution. The Centre has the power to enact laws in the Union Territory of Delhi... This bill, from no angle, is an attack on the federal structure,” the Union home minister said, addressing the concerns raised by some Opposition members.

The AAP has maintained that the legislation is only a pretext being used by the BJP to “run away” from the MCD elections. “The BJP must remember that before 2011-12, the municipality was a single entity under BJP’s rule. There used to be corruption and pollution then as well. You’ll see with three municipalities also, BJP won’t be able to make a change, it can only do corruption. Union home minister Amit Shah knows this well. Currently, they’re just running away from the polls and have, thus, brought the Bill. The people of Delhi have understood the actions of the BJP very well by now,” Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on March 30.

Opposition parties also attacked the government for allegedly undermining the federal structure of the country and passing a bill they said was unconstitutional and interfered with impending elections. They wanted the bill to be sent to a standing committee.

SK Sharma, former Delhi assembly secretary and constitutional expert, said that the central government will need to issue another notification detailing the process for unification of the municipal corporations.

The Bill whittles down the number of wards from 272 to 250 at present, which will require the redrawing of these. Delhi’s municipal ward boundaries were last redrawn between 2016 and 2017 and the process took around 16 months. Till elections are completed, the unified MCD will in the interim be under a special officer appointed by the Centre.

The MCD was split into three in 2011 after the Delhi assembly, at the time controlled by Congress, passed a bill for its trifurcation. The bill was subsequently approved by then President Pratibha Patil, following which the Delhi government at the time issued a notification splitting the MCD into the East Delhi municipal corporation, the South Delhi municipal corporation and the North Delhi municipal corporation in early 2012.

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