Delhi mayoral polls postponed, LG says not appropriate to appoint presiding officer when CM in jail

VK Saxena
VK Saxena

New Delhi | Elections to the posts of mayor and deputy mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi that were slated for April 26 were postponed on Thursday, with Lt Governor V K Saxena citing "unprecedented" circumstances where the chief minister is under judicial custody and cannot discharge his constitutionally obligated functions.

The civic body postponed the mayoral polls after the Raj Niwas issued a letter on behalf of Saxena, stating that the appointment of a presiding officer could not be made in the absence of inputs from the chief minister, who is lodged in Tihar Jail in connection with a money laundering-linked excise policy case.

AAP minister Atishi alleged that the election was cancelled at the BJP's behest.

The LG in his letter to the chief secretary said, "These are peculiar and unprecedented circumstances where the serving chief minister is under judicial custody as an under trial prisoner involving a corruption case and therefore cannot discharge his constitutionally obligated functions."

It also stated that after thoughtful consideration of the matter and for upholding the sanctity of law and Constitution, "there is no scintilla of doubt that taking a decision regarding the appointment of the presiding officer in the circumstances, when the inputs of the chief minister are not available coupled with the factum that the minister is making wild and baseless allegations, would be grossly inappropriate both in terms of law and propriety".

In a separate letter issued to the municipal secretary, Special Secretary (Urban) Sonalika Jiwani said, "I am directed to convey the directions given by the Lt. Governor of NCT Delhi... I do not deem it appropriate to exercise his power as administrator to appoint the presiding officer in the absence of the inputs from the chief minister".

It also stated that the incumbent Mayor and Deputy Mayor will continue to hold their positions till the time the elections can be held in terms of legal provisions.

"In the given situation, it is important to ensure that the functioning of the Municipal corporation, which has major public service responsibilities, is not impacted by these developments.

"According to Section 36[1] of the Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor shall hold office from the time of his election until the election of his successor in office, the letter stated.

"Therefore, in the larger public interest, it would be in the fitness of things that the proposed elections be deferred and the incumbent Mayor and Deputy Mayor continue to hold their positions in terms of section 36[1] of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957, till such time that the elections can be held in terms of the legal provisions in this regard," it said.

A letter by the MCD which was followed by the Lt Governor's communication stated that the mayoral polls had to be postponed since the appointment of the presiding officer had not taken place.

The letter said the MCD had received the Election Commission's nod to conduct the polls.

AAP minister Atishi alleged that the mayoral polls was cancelled as the BJP did not want a Dalit candidate to be the mayor.

"According to the DMC Act, in the third year of the MCD, the post of mayor is reserved for a councillor from the Dalit community. This time by cancelling the mayor's elections, the BJP has shown its anti-Dalit mentality. Babasaheb's Constitution has given rights to the Dalits of this country, but BJP wants to snatch their rights," she alleged on X.

Earlier in the day, AAP leader and Urban Development Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj alleged that the BJP-led central government was hatching a conspiracy to halt the mayoral polls and oust AAP from the MCD.

The minister also accused Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar of flouting the rules for nominating a presiding officer to hold the mayoral polls by bypassing him.

Bharadwaj had written to the LG on Tuesday requesting him to return a file that he claimed was sent to Saxena for nominating the presiding officer without passing it through him.

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