Judgement by High Court favours MCC Civic Group to form Ward Committees & Area Sabhas
Mangaluru: Good news for citizens of Mangaluru! MCC Civic Group, a public forum which is actively involved in creating awareness and taking up civic issues that require attention, had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 27 November 2018, represented by their advocate-Rajashekar of the “Black Coats” law firm in Bengaluru, against the Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) for not forming the much-needed ward committees. It should be noted that Ward committees are a pre-requisite for cities, which have a population over three lakhs, and the cities which come under the Smart City project. But unfortunately, Mangalore City Corporation has failed to form ward committees in its 60 wards, in spite of many past reminders and protests from various activists of many organizations. And the good news is that in less than a year, the High Court has given the judgement favouring MCC Civic Group to form Ward Committee and Area Sabha.
Petitioner Nigel Albuquerque, the lead member of MCC Civic Group
Kudos to lead members of the MCC Civic Group Nigel Albuquerque and Ajoy D’silva, and other two petitioners Ms Kathyayini Chamaraj ( CIVIC group, Bengaluru) and Narendra Kumar ( Nagarika Shakti-Bengaluru), from Bengaluru, who had filed the case, and to their advocate Rajashekar S for winning the case. Three Cheers to MCC Civic Group! Going in details, the reason MCC was not forming Ward Committees is because the Corporators were hand in hand with politicians so that they can pocket some extra money out of the crores of rupees sanctioned by the Central government under the Smart City project. The State of Karnataka mandated by Article 243 S of the Constitution of India (Section 13 H )of Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 clearly states that every municipal corporation has to form ward committees before they take up any project on their own decision. But for that matter, Mangaluru City Corporation had ignored it. Without a Ward Committee, the involvement of public is locked. Even after repeated requests made by members of MCC Civic Group to MCC to have Ward Committees, but all their efforts were in vain. Having fed up with constant complaints and requests to MCC, the Group decided to file a PIL against MCC, thereby starting their legal battle for justice- and the outcome was SUCCESS!
Two petitioners Kathyayini Chamaraj and Narendra Kumar from Bengaluru
It is learnt that MCC Commissioner had received a circular on 19 February 2017 from The Directorate of Municipal Administration, Karnataka requesting him to submit a report on KMC Act 1976. Reluctantly the commissioner has ignored the circular by not taking any action in forming ward committees. It should be noted that forming ward committees will lead to the active involvement of the public in governance, and also to check into the transparency and accountability in local government offices. This is one of the main reasons why the corporators and the administration are reluctant in forming ward committees. Now that Ward Committee and Area Sabha will be formed after the MCC elections, the citizens have the right of information over the corporators in any work that is taken up or planned.
Petitioner Ajoy D’silva of MCC Civic Group seen Second from Right
As per 243 S Constitution and Composition of Wards Committees it clearly states that- There shall be constituted wards Committees, consisting of one or more wards, within the territorial area of a Municipality having a population of three lakhs or more; The legislature of a State, by law, make provision with respect to-a) the composition and the territorial of a Wards Committee; b) the manner in which the seats in the Wards Committee shall be filled; A member of a Municipality representing a ward within the territorial area of the Wards Committee shall be a member of that Committee.
Where ward Committees consists of -a) one Ward, the member representing that ward in the Municipality; or b) two or more wards, one of the members representing such wards in the Municipality elected by the members of the Wards Committee, shall be the Chairperson of that Committee; Nothing in this article shall be deemed to prevent the Legislature of a state from making any provision for the Constitution of Committees in addition to the Wards Committee.
Petitioner Kathyayini Chamaraj from Bengaluru
Speaking to Team Mangalorean, one of the petitioner’s Kathyayini Chamaraj said, “Writ Petition No 53244 was filed before the High Court of Karnataka in Bengaluru on 27th November 2018. The Petitioners were -1.) Nigel Albuquerque, 2.) Ajoy D’silva, 3.) Kathyayini Chamaraj, and 4.) Narendra Kumar. At the 4th and final hearing yesterday, 8th August 2019, Hon’ble Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka passed orders for Ward Committees and Area Sabhas in Mangaluru City Corporation”
She further said, “Indeed, Yesterday was a great day at the Karnataka High Court for all those hankering for greater citizen participation at the local level. In a PIL filed by the MCC Civic Group, along with CIVIC and Nagarika Shakti, (WP 53244/2018), Chief Justice Oka gave a very clear ruling that as soon as the municipal council is elected and constituted, Area Sabhas and Ward Committees should be formed immediately. He was not willing to give a specific time-frame for their formation, either. He stressed the word ‘immediately’! “
“The Commissioner of Mangaluru Mahanagara Palike, who had been issued a notice to respond to the PIL, was lucky that no Council existed currently in Mangaluru as its term had ended in March 2019. But no election had been held for a fresh council and hence an administrator had been appointed. Elections are proposed only after the monsoons. The above judgement can be used to ask for Area Sabhas and Ward Committees in all municipal corporations of Karnataka. Notices have been issued to all eleven municipal corporation commissioners of Karnataka and to the State government in another State-wide petition on the same issue, filed by CIVIC, Nagarika Shakti and several other CSOs across the State. This too will be coming up for hearing soon,” added Ms Chamaraj.