By Siddhant Sharma, Amity Law School, Jaipur.
The MCD came into existence on the 7th of April, 1958, by an act of the Indian parliament (The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957). It was the successor of the Delhi Municipal Committee. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is an autonomous body which constitutes as the one of the three municipal corporations that governs 8 out of 9 districts of National capital Territory of Delhi. The other two are New Delhi Municipal Council, and Delhi Cantonment Board. The MCD provides civic services to more than 12 million citizens making it one of the largest municipal bodies in the world.
The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment provided legal status to the local assemblies and entrusted them with greater powers. The 74th amendment states that- “not less than one – third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.”[i]
Trifurcation of MCD
The municipal corporation was trifurcated into three smaller Municipal corporations namely-
- North Delhi Municipal Corporation – Districts of Central Delhi, North Delhi, North West Delhi,
- South Delhi Municipal Corporation – Districts of South Delhi, West Delhi, South West Delhi (excluding Delhi Cantt)
- East Delhi Municipal Corporation – Districts of East Delhi, North East Delhi
While it is being alleged that the trifurcation was a political motive of the then congress government, the current BJP government at the centre plans to re-unite the three municipal corporations. The corporations feel that they have been unable to take any major decisions due to lack of funds after the split. Since, after the 2012 DMC elections BJP have been ruling all the 3 parts, it plans to send a proposal to the home ministry to reverse the decision.[ii]
Elections in the DMC
The municipal corporation holds direct elections in the state at a five year interval. The latest round was concluded in 2012 with Bhartiya Janta Party winning the elections for the third consecutive time.[iii]
But the elections always do not conclude so smoothly. During the MCD elections on December 23rd 1997 a presiding officer at polling station namely Ram Kumar Dahiya alleged that some persons reached the booth, snatched and tore ballot papers besides destroying property. He then lodged a complaint against which a charge sheet was filed by the police on December 21, 1999.[iv]
7 persons were accused of disrupting the 1997 MCD elections with charges including rioting and unlawful assembly under the IPC and provisions of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. But the 17 year trial came to an end when a Delhi court acquitted them in December 2014.
The court held that “the prosecution has miserably failed to substantiate the offences alleged against the accused persons since prima facie requirement of establishing the identity of the accused persons had been completed derailed.” The magistrate said that the testimonies of the witnesses did not inspire confidence as they seemed to be narrated in ‘parrot fashion’.
While observing that the witnesses have said that rioting took place at various polling booths including the Okhla primary school and Jamia Milia Islamia, by the same persons which was not possible the magistrate added that “the same shows it to be highly improbable to my mind since the alleged accused persons could not have been present, at the same time in different places together to commit the offence stated to be rioting,”[v]
Steps taken by Election Commission of India–
Looking at the events of the first general elections, the ECI decided to train the officials involved in MCD elections. Before the fourth general elections the election officials involved in MCD elections as General observers and Expenditure observers besides the District Election officers of Delhi were imparted training by the Election Commission of India at the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management, IIIDEM of ECI at New Delhi, this being the first time when IIIDEM trained officials for state elections.
The Workshop which was inaugurated by the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr S Y Quraishi dealt with the specific subjects of Expenditure Monitoring and Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation based on the expertise of the Election Commission of India. Officials were asked to perform their election duties in the most neutral and fearless manner to maintain the shine of the Civil Services in Election Management.[vi] The training was undertaken to strengthen the various aspects of election management so that past incidences like that of 1997 do not get repeated in future.
[i]Municipal Corporation of Delhi, [online] available from- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipal_Corporation_of_Delhi
[ii] Corporations keen to undo MCD trifurcation, The Times of India, 20 May, 2014 [online] available from- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Corporations-keen-to-undo-MCD-trifurcation/articleshow/35352968.cms
[iii]Municipal Corporation of Delhi, [online] available from- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipal_Corporation_of_Delhi
[iv] The New Indian Express [online] available from- http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/1997-MCD-Election-Riots-Court-Acquits-7-Persons-After-17-Yrs/2014/12/29/article2593879.ece
[v] 1997 MCD election riots: Court acquits 7 persons after 17 years, The Economic Times, Dec 29, 2014 [online] available from- http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-12-29/news/57495217_1_ballot-papers-delhi-municipal-corporation-act-persons
[vi] ECI trains officials for Delhi local elections at IIIDEM, Election Commission Of India, March 26, 2012 [online] available from- http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/current/PN_2632012B.pdf