MCD standing committee row: No prejudice in re-polling, Delhi Mayor tells HC

Mayor Shelly Oberoi Friday asserted no prejudice will be caused if re-polling is held for choosing the six members of the MCD standing committee, as the Delhi High Court reserved its verdict on BJP councillors’ challenge to the re-election.

The high court had on February 25 stayed the re-election on the petitions filed by BJP councillors Kamaljeet Sehrawat and Shikha Roy.

While the senior lawyers for the petitioners had earlier contended the Mayor, who is also the returning officer, acted in a malafide manner when she called for re-election upon finding the election results “politically unpalatable”, senior counsel representing Oberoi Friday underscored that the re-polling was essential to ensure free and fair elections following the “ruckus” in the House during the polls held on February 24.

“There is no prejudice in re-polling. Please test if it will cause prejudice to them (petitioners). They say the ballot is going to BJP then this will again happen,” senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for Oberoi, said.

“What was the mechanism left? Was it so blatantly unfair? They did not allow re-counting. BJP councillors created a ruckus. Ballot papers, calculation sheets exchanged hands,” Mehra added.

Senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao, also appearing for the Mayor, said no case for court’s interference was made out and the authority was only ensuring that the process is done as per law. He claimed that even the note of the Municipal Secretary noted “discrepancy in counting”.

Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav reserved order after conclusion of the submissions by the parties.

Senior lawyers appearing for the two councillors had earlier alleged the Mayor wrongly invalidated one of the votes and interdicted the election process.

The mayor had on February 24 announced fresh polling for electing six members of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) standing committee on February 27 at 11 am amid clashes between the councillors of the BJP and the AAP in the municipal House.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Sehrawat, has earlier stated that invalidity of a vote has to be endorsed before ascertaining the quota which determines the winner but in the present case the mayor wrongly invalidated a vote at a subsequent stage.

Jethmalani was referring to the quota of votes each candidate was allotted by their respective parties to ensure their victory in preferential voting.

Senior advocate Jayant Mehta, appearing for Roy, has emphasised that there is no enabling provision in law which empowers the mayor to call for a re-election or a re-counting. He also said the mayor has no power to nullify the election process which should be allowed to conclude as the ballot papers were still safe.

The Delhi Mayor had earlier clarified she had ordered a “re-poll” and not “re-election” in view of the commotion in the House and to ensure free and fair polls.

A re-poll involves fresh polling, while re-election entails start of the election process afresh right from the filing of nominations, her lawyer had said, adding that the petitions should not be entertained by the court at a stage when the election process is yet to be concluded.

On February 25, the high court had stayed the re-election of the six standing committee members scheduled for February 27, saying the mayor prima facie acted beyond her powers in ordering a fresh poll.

The MCD House had witnessed ruckus on February 22 with members of the BJP and the AAP exchanging blows and hurling plastic bottles at each other during the polling for the posts.

The House was again rocked by clashes after fresh elections were held on February 24, and mayor Oberoi, an AAP leader, subsequently alleged that a few members of the saffron party made a “life-threatening attack” on her.

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The petitioners have contended in the high court that the mayor ordered a fresh election for February 27 without declaring the result of the poll held on February 24 in violation of regulation 51 of Delhi Municipal Corporation (Procedure & Conduct of Business) Regulations, which contains the prescribed procedure.

Roy’s petition, filed through advocate Neeraj, has said the poll was conducted in a peaceful manner and there was no occasion for the mayor to recall the elections.

The high court had issued a notice to the RO, the Delhi government, Delhi Lieutenant Governor and MCD on the two pleas while observing that prima facie the decision to hold a re-election in the present case was in violation of the regulation.

The high court had said the governing norms do not reflect that the mayor has the authority to declare the earlier election null and void and conduct a re-election without announcing the results of the previous poll held on February 24.

The counsel for the mayor had told the court she had no other option left but to declare the earlier poll as null and void as the process was vitiated due to the unruly behaviour of the members.

The lawyer had also alleged the mayor did not get adequate cooperation from the member secretary and technical experts.

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