Political Rift? Bom HC decides on whether a “nominated councillor” of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai be inducted in Corporations’ Standing Committee? [Nominated Councillor v. Elected Councillor]

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and G.S. Kulkarni, J., noted that the trigger for the present petition involved a very interesting question of law that seemed to be a political rift. 

What was the question of law?

Whether a “nominated councillor” of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai having special knowledge or experience in municipal administration, can be inducted in the Corporation’s Standing Committee?

Bench noted that as per the provisions of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, there appeared no express bar for a “nominated councillor” of the Corporation to be inducted in its Standing Committee.

Section 3(c) of the Act suggests certain limitations imposed upon a “nominated councillor” that he/she shall have no right:

  • to vote at any meeting of the Corporation and Committee of the Corporation; and
  • to get elected as Mayor of the Corporation or as a Chairperson of any of the Committees of the Corporation.

A Court may iron out the creases in a statutory provision but not change the fabric of which the same is woven.

 It was further elaborated and expressed that literal reading of provisions points towards the legislative intent of not imposing any restriction, which does not appear to the Court to be absurd or preposterous, and thereby no strained interpretation of the Act to fit in with the interpretation on the law placed by the Corporation is required to be made.

High Court did not agree with the contention that with regard to the statutory scheme revealed from the provisions of Section 43(1) and Section 5(1)(b) of the Act read with Rule 3 of the said Rules 2007, only the elected councillors and not the subsequently “nominated councillors” can only be inducted in the Standing Committee.

If indeed a “nominated councillor” was to be left out of the fray for induction in the Standing Committee, such ineligibility ought to have been clearly stated or positively spelt out, which is not the case here.

Upshot of the above discussion

Bench held that the act of removal of the petitioner from the Standing Committee of the Corporation merely on the ground that he was a “nominated councillor” and not an “elected councillor” does not have statutory support and cannot be countenanced in law.

Therefore, the impugned order was set aside and the present petition was allowed. [Balchandra Shirsat v. Mayor, MCGM; 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 526, decided on 05-04-2021]

Advocates before the Court:

Mr Amogh Singh i/b. Mr Jeet Gandhi for the petitioner.

Mr. Aspi Chinoy-Senior Advocate with Mr. Joel Carlos, Ms. Oorja Dhond, Ms. S.M. Modle i/b.

Ms. Aruna Savla for respondent nos. 1 and 3.

Mr Ravi Kadam-Senior Advocate with Mr Rajiv Chavan-Senior Advocate and Ms Vandana Mahadik i/b. Ms. Aruna Savla for respondent no.2.

Mr A.Y. Sakhare- Senior Advocate with Mr Joel Carlos i/b. Ms. Aruna Savla for respondent no.4.

Mr Hemant Haryan -AGP for State.

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