Asset declaration: Do Delhi councillors risk disqualification amid delay in Mayor election?

While the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act mandates elected councillors to furnish their assets details before the mayor within 30 days of taking oath or face disqualification, experts say the rule may not work in the current context as the mayor is yet to be elected; the councillors may be instead required to submit their asset details to the municipal secretary

Delhi mayor, MCD polls, Supreme Court, Lt Governor, AAP, BJP
AAP has challenged the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor's decision to permit the nominated members to vote in the elections for mayor and deputy mayor in MCD.

With the office of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi declaring the postponement of the election for the Delhi mayor, confusion persists over certain provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act that mandates that the elected councillors have to file a full disclosure of their assets before the mayor within 30 days of taking oath or face disqualification.

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the plea filed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its mayoral candidate Shelly Oberoi on the timely conduct of the polls on February 17.

Elections to the post of Delhi mayor could not be held on three prior occasions following ruckus in the house as the BJP and AAP members were unable to agree on the question of allowing nominated members to vote.

Clearing the air


Speaking to The Federal, constitutional expert, Rajesh Kumar said: “It is unlikely that any such disqualification would take place. The decision to declare them disqualified lies with the administrative authority, which is unlikely to happen. However, it would be incumbent upon the authorities to find an alternate way of satisfying such compliances which are universally acceptable to all the factions of councilors. As far as the courts are concerned, it is unlikely for it to interfere in case a unanimous decision is being taken for said compliances in view of the Wednesbury principle. However, the matter may be called for judicial scrutiny in case factions couldn’t reach on common ground on the issue.”

Also read: Delhi mayor election postponed again

The civic body has faced a similar situation before as well. For over twelve years in total, the annual budgets have been passed by the officials as the House was in a “suspension state” during those years, reiterated Kumar.

The fine print

According to the statutory requirement under the DMC Act 1957, a councillor shall, not later than 30 days after taking oath, and before the last day of the same month in each succeeding year, file with the mayor, the declaration of the assets owned by him and his or her family members – spouse and dependent children. The amended DMC act of 2022, section 14 gives the Lieutenant Governor the power to issue a notification in case of difficulty in implementing the passed amendments. Such a notification can be approved by Parliament within two years.

The role of municipal secretary

Keeping the present scenario in mind, advocate Naveen R Nath said, since the mayoral election could not be held after three sittings, the law on disqualification of the councillors won’t be applied in a blanket manner. “The law on disqualification would have been applicable if the mayor had been elected and the councillors failed to furnish the requisite information within the 30-day window,” he said.

Since the mayoral election has not been held till date, the councillors will now be required to submit these details to the office of the municipal secretary as he is the custodian of the papers of the municipal House, Nath said.

Also read: Constitution does not permit nominated members to vote in MCD elections: SC

Once the mayoral election is held and the deliberative wing is in place, the municipal secretary will hand over the papers to the mayor, he added.

MCD passes schedule of taxes

The civic body on Wednesday passed its annual budget through a bureaucratic process without any debate or discussion. This is the first time in close to 25 years that the budget was passed without a debate in the house. Centre-appointed special officer Ashwani Kumar presided over the session. Provisions of the Delhi Municipal Act, 1957, mandated the budget for the upcoming fiscal year to be cleared by February 15.

According to Section 109 of the DMC Act (adoption of Budget estimates), the corporation is supposed to determine the rates at which various municipal taxes, rates and cesses shall be levied in the next following year on or before February 15 each year.

The contentious issue

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, which posted hearing of a plea filed by AAP mayoral candidate Shelly Oberoi to February 17, observed that nominated members cannot vote in the election.

“Nominated members cannot go for election. The constitutional provision is very clear,” the bench observed.

Also read: MCD passed civic body budget without keeping it in loop, alleges AAP

The apex court had on February 8 sought responses of the office of the L-G, pro-tem presiding officer Satya Sharma of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), and others, on Shelly Oberoi’s plea.