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The Delhi MCA Act denudes the spirit of Federalism

Context

Recently, both Houses of Parliament passed the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, to unify the trifurcated Delhi Municipal Corporations.

Relevance

GS-II: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Background of the Trifurcation
  • Changes introduced by the Amendment
  • Issues with the changes made
  • Way Forward

Background of the Trifurcation

  • The split-up was first proposed in the 1987 Balakrishnan Committee Report which was bolstered in the 2001 Virendra Prakash Committee Report.
  • The proposal finally took shape in 2011 and the law to trifurcate was enacted.
  • A seven-member Delhi Legislative Assembly Panel was set up in 2001 to study the recommendations and suggest modalities.
  • Trifurcation in 2011: The proposal finally took shape in 2011 and the law to trifurcate was enacted.

Changes introduced by the Amendment

  • The law provides that the power to determine the number of wards, extent of each ward, reservation of seats, number of seats of the Corporation, etc. will now be vested in the Central government. 
  • The number of seats of councilors in the Municipal Corporations of Delhi is also to be decided now by the Central government.
  • By exercising that very power, the number of councilors to the Municipal Corporations of Delhi has been reduced from 272 to 250.
  • The Central government has also taken over powers from the State to decide on matters such as ‘salary and allowances, leave of absence of the Commissioner, the sanctioning of consolidation of loans by a corporation, and sanctioning suits for compensation against the Commissioner for the loss or waste or misapplication of municipal fund or property

Issues with the changes made

  • The Central government’s line is that the amendment has been passed as in Article 239AA of the Constitution, which is a provision that provides for special status to Delhi.
  • No consultation with Delhi govt.-The large-scale changes by the Central government has been done without any consultation with the Delhi government.
  • Not in line with  Part IXA of the Constitution:  Part IXA specifically states that it will be the Legislature of the State that will be empowered to make laws concerning representation to the municipalities.
  • Part IXA is a specific law while Article 239AA is general law: The argument of the Centre that Article 239AA can be applied over and above Part IXA of the Constitution does not hold good as the latter is a specific law that will override the general law relatable to Article 239AA.
  • Against the federalism: In State of NCT of Delhi vs Union of India judgment the Supreme Court held, “The Constitution has mandated a federal balance wherein independence of a certain required degree is assured to the State Governments.”
  • It was made clear that the aid and the advice of the State government of Delhi would bind the decision of the Lieutenant General in matters where the State government has the power to legislate.
  • No doubt, the amendment to the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 will lead to further litigation on the aspect of a sharing of powers between the State of NCT of Delhi and the Central government.

Way Forward

The interference of the Centre in matters such as municipal issues strikes a blow against federalism and the celebrated Indian model of decentralization.

Source – The Hindu

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September 2022
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