SC defers hearing on Delhi mayor's plea on transfer of Standing Committee's powers to MCD House

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New Delhi, Feb 5 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned hearing on a plea by Delhi Mayor Shelly Oberoi seeking a direction to allow the functions of the Standing Committee be exercised by the MCD till the panel is constituted.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra deferred the hearing by two weeks on the plea of the mayor against the office of the Lt Governor after senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the AAP leader, said the judgment on an earlier separate petition was reserved in May last year.

"Then, we will stand this over for two weeks. Let us see what happens," Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

On May 17, 2023, a bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud reserved the verdict on a separate petition filed by the Delhi government, challenging the Lt Governor's power to nominate aldermen. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has 250 elected and 10 nominated members.

The Delhi government had alleged that the Lt Governor nominated 10 members without its aid and advice.

The Delhi mayor, in the fresh plea, does not want the nominated aldermen to be part of the electoral college for MCD standing committees.

The mayor sought a direction to allow the Standing Committee's functions to be exercised by the MCD till the panel is constituted.

In the brief hearing, Singhvi said the Standing Committee performs all vital functions and deals with issues, including midday meals scheme, needing a budget of Rs 5 crore and above.

He said the Standing Committee has not been set up and one of the reasons could be that the top court has reserved its verdict on the earlier plea.

The subsequent plea was filed in the top court after the mayor, during a special session of the MCD, proposed vesting the powers of the Standing Committee in the House. The proposal ran into opposition from BJP members, who alleged that it was "illegal and unconstitutional".

The plea, in which the Lt Governor's Office is the respondent, sought a direction for the smooth functioning of the civic body.

"The adjudication of the legality of the nominated persons' appointments will directly and substantially impact the election of 12 out of 18 members of the Standing Committee, ie it will directly determine the special majority within it. Thus, the Standing Committee could not be constituted yet," Oberoi said in her plea.

It stated that while the judgment of the court is awaited, the functions of the Standing Committee, such as granting approval to the MCD commissioner to enter into any contract involving an expenditure greater than Rs 5 crore and other budgetary issues, have come to a halt.

The plea stated, "The prevailing situation has affected a range of governance functions of the MCD -- from the procurement of textbooks and medical supplies for MCD schools and health centres to the maintenance of public parks, public toilets and other amenities." Oberoi said the MCD passed a resolution dated January 15, 2024, resolving that approvals for contracts involving expenditure greater than Rs 5 crore, including where approval will be normally routed through the Standing Committee, be taken by the competent authorities directly from the corporation, with a view to alleviate the situation and preserve the interests of the citizens in Delhi.

"In view of the petitioner's constitutional responsibilities to the citizens of Delhi, the present petition has been preferred to seek a direction that the functions of the Standing Committee -- pending the adjudication of the legality of the process of appointment of its electors -- be exercised by the House of the MCD, ie the 'Corporation' composed of all the elected councillors as defined in Section 3(3)(a) of the DMC Act," the plea said.

It added that since the MCD is the body superior to the Standing Committee in both power and accountability, it would be appropriate for the functions of the committee to be exercised by the MCD in its meetings, till such time that the panel is legally constituted.

"The petitioner is the mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and is instituting the present petition to seek appropriate directions for the smooth functioning of the MCD during the pendency of the constitution of the Standing Committee on account of the peculiar circumstances," the plea said. PTI SJK SJK SZM