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State PCS

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Indian Polity


  • 23 May 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Alderman, Lieutenant-Governor, MCD, Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, Article 239AA of the Constitution, Transaction of Business Rules 1961.

For Mains: Issue over the appointment of Alderman in Delhi.

Why in News?

The Supreme Court, while considering the Delhi government's plea against the Lieutenant-Governor’s (LG) appointment of Aldermen, observed that granting the LG the authority to nominate MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) members could destabilize the Elected Civic Body.

What is Alderman?

  • About:
    • Etymologically, the word comes from the combination of “old” and “man”, meaning older man or experienced person.
    • The word originally referred to elders of a clan or tribe, though soon it became a term for king’s viceroys, regardless of age. Soon, it denoted a more specific title – “chief magistrate of a county,” having both civil and military duties.
    • In the 12th century CE, as guilds became increasingly associated with municipal governments, the term came to be used for officers of municipal bodies. This is the sense in which it is used till date.
  • Case of Delhi:
    • As per the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, ten people, over the age of 25 can be nominated to the corporation by the administrator (the LG).
    • These people are expected to have special knowledge or experience in municipal administration.
    • They are meant to assist the house in taking decisions of public importance.

What are the Concerns Related to the Appointment of Aldermen?

  • The first concern is related to the suitability of the nominated individuals. After the recommendations were submitted to LG, it was discovered that two out of the 10 nominees were deemed technically unfit for the position. This raises questions about the thoroughness and transparency of the nomination process, as individuals who are not qualified or suitable for the role should not be appointed.
  • The second concern revolves around the perception that the appointment of aldermen by the LG is an attempt to maintain control and influence within the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) despite their electoral defeat. This raises concerns about the democratic principles of representation and the fairness of power dynamics within the MCD.

What is the SC’s Observation?

  • The Additional Solicitor General, representing LG argued that there is a distinction between the powers of the L-G under Article 239AA of the Constitution and their role as an Administrator of the national capital. He claimed that the L-G has an active role in the nomination of aldermen based on the law.
  • However, the SC stated that by giving this power to the L-G, it could potentially destabilize the democratically elected MCD, as they would have voting power.
  • The SC has clarified that the L-G does not have extensive executive powers in the national capital, which operates under a unique "Asymmetric Federal Model" of governance.
    • The term "Asymmetric Federal Model" refers to a system of governance in which different regions or components within a federation possess varying degrees of autonomy and powers.
  • The court specified that the L-G can exercise executive power at their discretion only in three specific areas, under Article 239AA(3)(a).
    • Public order
    • Police
    • Land in Delhi.
  • The court also stated that if the L-G disagrees with the Council of Ministers of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, they should follow the procedure outlined in the Transaction of Business (ToB) Rules 1961.
    • The ToB rules emerge from Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which provides a framework for the allocation of work and responsibilities among various departments and ministries of the government. They outline the procedures for the formulation, approval, and implementation of government policies, decisions, and actions.

What is the Tussle between Delhi Government and Centre?

  • Background:
    • Due to the co-existence of Article 239 and 239AA, there is a jurisdictional conflict between the government of NCT and the Union Government and its representative, the LG.
    • According to the Union government, New Delhi being a Union Territory Article 239 empowers the LG to act independently of its Council of Ministers.
    • However, the state government of Delhi held that Article 239AA of the Constitution bestows special status to Delhi of having its own legislatively elected government.
    • This creates a tussle around the administrative powers of the LG and state government of NCT of Delhi.
  • Centre and State Governments Arguments:
    • The central government believes that as Delhi is the national capital and represents the country, it should have authority over administrative services, including appointments and transfers.
    • However, the Delhi government argues that in the spirit of Federalism, elected representatives should have the power to decide on transfers and postings.
  • Legal Issues:
    • The first issue emerged from a two-judge Bench in February 2019 when deciding on the allocation of powers between the Delhi government and the center.
    • They left the question of administrative service control to be decided by a larger Bench.
      • In May 2022, a three-judge Bench had referred this case to a larger Bench on the Central government’s plea.
      • The three-judge Bench had decided that the question of control over administrative services required “further examination”.
    • The second issue involves the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act 2021, passed by Parliament.
      • The Act states that the term "government" mentioned in any law made by the Delhi Legislative Assembly will refer to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G).

Source: TH

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