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Municipal Governance be made responsible and accountable through Mayor in Council system

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  “Urban governance system in most countries are currently not fit for purpose and need critical reform to enable sustainable urban development “

  UN Habitat III-Urban governance, capacity and institutional development-2016

Shri Shashi Tharoor MP,has introduced a private bill to amend the constitution for strengthening local governments, It talks about the direct election of the Mayor, fixes the Mayor’s term to be coterminous with that of the municipality, and makes the Mayor the executive head of the municipality. Details of the introduced bill given below .Although a private bill stands a negligible or extremely low chance to become a law , but it has already served the purpose of  highlighting the much needed reform in the sphere of urban governance ,which has so far been neglected.

Amendment to constitution (bill) introduced by Dr. Shashi Tharoor in Monsoon Session of Parliament (2016-2017)                    THE CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016

1. (1) This Act may be called the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016.

(2) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.

2. In article 243Q of the Constitution, in clause (1), after sub-clause (c), the following sub-clause shall be inserted, namely—

"(d) a Metropolitan Authority for Metropolitan areas comprising one of more whole districts with a population of more than ten lakh,".

3. In article 243R of the Constitution,—

(a) in clause (2),—
"(i) in sub-clause (a), for existing proviso, the following proviso shall be

substituted, namely:—

"Provided that the persons, members and Chairpersons referred to in paragraphs (i) to (iv) shall not have the right to vote in the meetings of the Municipality.";

(ii) sub-clause (b) shall be omitted.
(b) after clause (2), the following clauses shall be inserted, namely:—

"(3) The Chairperson of a Municipality to be known as Mayor shall be chosen by direct election by electors of the territorial constituencies of a Municipal area, to be held in such manner as the Legislature of a State may, by
law, provide.

(4) The term of the office of the Mayor shall be co-terminus with the term of the Municipality.

(5) There shall be constituted by the Mayor, within a period of thirty days of entering into office, a Mayor-in-Council for a Municipal Corporation or Metropolitan Authority, as the case may be.

(6) The Mayor-in-Council shall consist of the Mayor and other members
to be nominated by the Mayor from amongst the directly elected members of the Municipal Corporation or the Metropolitan Authority, as the case may be.

(7) The members of the Mayor-in-Council (excluding the Mayor) shall not exceed fifteen per cent. of the total number of directly elected members of the Municipal Corporation or the Metropolitan Authority, as the case may be, or fifteen members, whichever is higher.

(8) The Mayor-in-Council shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be assigned to it by the Mayor.

(9) A member of the Mayor-in-Council shall hold office as long as he is a member of the Municipal Corporation or the Metropolitan Authority, as the case may be, unless he resigns or is removed from office by the Mayor by order in writing."…(

The  74th amendment has given constitutional status to local self government but fails to address the issue of governance i.e. it did not prescribe the manner of election, tenure or powers of the Mayors/Chairpersons of ULBs.

Article 243 R(2)(b) of the Constitution  provides that the legislature of a State may, by law, provide the manner of election of the Chairperson of a municipality.

The manner of election and term of office of the Mayor/Chairperson varies from State to State. At present, some states – Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have this system but recently Tamil Nadu assembly passed the bill, Tamil Nadu Municipal Corporation Laws (Amendment) Act, 2016, seeks to ensure election of mayors by councillors and not by the people as was the practice so far, some years back Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh had to scrap this direct elected Mayor system just after introducing it.

But mere direct election of Mayor is not going to serve the purpose unless it is supported by Mayor-in-Council system . The existing system is a British legacy, in which the State government-appointed Commissioner is the executive head of the city while the Mayor has a largely ceremonial status.(In foreign countries Mayors of city like New York , Paris, Buenos Aires, Rio de Jeneiro ,Tokyo, and London are major national figures, often holding national offices. In China, the Mayor of Shanghai is a powerful figure in the national ruling elite). It would be interesting to know that in 1924, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was appointed as the chief executive officer by Mayor and the elected council.

 However, in post independence era it is not envisaged that a municipal commissioner can be appointed by the Council, and the Chairperson/ Mayor would have real executive authority. This dilution of the role of the Mayor/Chairperson is clearly violative of the spirit of self-governance and local empowerment .

 Indian Cities have a weak and fragmented institutional architecture in which multiple agencies with different bosses pull the strings of city administration, in fact ULBs in the states have become a department of Government rather than an autonomous local self government as envisaged in constitution .State Government exercise enormous control over ULBs — politically, administratively and financially. This amounts to undermining the very spirit of local Self Government. It could be held that the current form and structure of municipal bodies is based on Lord Ripon's Resolution on local self-government adopted in 1882 with sole purpose of having complete control of British Government over this nascent democratic setup . Since then the structure of municipal bodies has essentially remained the same, even in post independence era.  

2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (Constituted by Govt.of India under the chairman ship of Shri Virappa Moily, 2005) has recommended that  the : (a) direct election of Mayor with a fixed tenure of 5 years  (b)Mayor/Chairperson should be the Chief Executive of a city or urban government, and the city government should have the power to appoint all officials including the Commissioner and to hold them to account.(c) In municipal corporations and metropolitan cities, the Mayor should appoint the Mayor’s ‘Cabinet’. The members of the Cabinet should be chosen by the Mayor from the elected corporators. The Mayor’s Cabinet shall not exceed 10 per cent of the strength of the elected Corporation or fifteen, whichever is higher. The Cabinet will exercise executive authority on matters entrusted to them by the Mayor, under his overall control and direction.

      Further Commission noted that “The whole logic of local government empowerment is to facilitate people’s participation and democratic governance as close to the people as possible. Only when the elected executive exercises real authority can people understand the link between their vote and the consequences of such a vote in terms of provision of public goods and services. Such a clear link also ensures fusion of authority and accountability. If the elected local government has no real authority and if executive powers are vested in an unelected official appointed by the State government, then local governance is reduced to mere symbolism”

Articles 243 G and 243 W of Constitution, are clear about endowing local governments “with such power and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of Self Government”

 Articles 243 D and 243 P where local government, whether  Panchayats or Municipalities,  are defined as institutions of self government. Hence, in tune with this an   empowered Mayor is sine qua non . In a democracy, executive power should vest with a person or a body that is democratically accountable.

NCRCW( National  Commission  to  Review   the  Working  of  the  Constitution)2000,has also echoed the similar view  “The local bodies should have full control over its staff including those transferred to them”.

In this Mayor-in-Council system Mayor should appoint the Mayor’s ‘Cabinet’. The members of the Council should be chosen by the Mayor from the elected .  The Council will exercise executive authority on matters entrusted to them by the Mayor, under his overall control and direction. The Mayor should be the Chief Executive of the municipal body while the Commissioner should perform the functions delegated to him/her. In Kolkata Mayor-in-Council system is working for past many years.

Given the rapid urbanisation and the complex challenges confronted by cities , a long-term vision and stability of empowered leadership are vital to promote good urban governance. Time to get rid of the bureaucratic dominance .  

Therefore the need of hour is to let the Local Self Government to function as Local self Government through empowering them by implementing the direct election of Mayor with fixed tenure and Mayor-in-Council system uniformly across the length and breadth of country

 My sincere request is to amend the constitutional provisions so that the Local self Government can become a local Self Government in real term.

 Manoj Kumar Pandey 

Expert-Municipal/Urban affairs 

+91 9608747680


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