Elections to Belgaum City Corporation Council, if at all held, will take place only a few months from now

Belgaum, unlike the other seven municipal corporations in the State where an elected body governs the jurisdiction of the municipality, will continue under the rule of an Administrator with the State government unlikely to change its stance.

Sources in the government told The Hindu that there is no change and if at all elections are held for the municipal corporation, they will come only a few months later.

A session of the two houses of the State Legislature just concluded in Belgaum and what brings to focus at this point of time in the border city is the lack of a democratically elected body to govern the jurisdiction of the city municipal corporation.

The council of the Belgaum City Municipal Corporation, which has 58 members, has been in a limbo for well over a year and the matter concerning administration has been a thorny issue for both the government and the local population. It is another matter that elections to the municipal corporation are due to be held in about two months thanks to the intervention of the Karnataka High Court with the State Election Commission seeking directions to the government to announce the list of reservations for wards of all municipalities.

The sources confirmed that the final list of reservations will be notified at the earliest. About a year ago, the government superseded the MES-controlled Belgaum City Corporation raising tempers across the border in Maharashtra.

Surprisingly, the government superseded the corporation for a second time on the same grounds it cited earlier, though the first order was set aside by the Circuit Bench of the High Court in Dharwad. The government has since appointed the Belgaum deputy commissioner as administrator who is now managing the affairs of the fledgling municipal jurisdiction.

On December 15, 2011, the government superseded the council body citing 20 irregularities invoking powers vested in it under the Section 99(1) of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act. But on June 9, 2012, the High Court Circuit Bench quashed the order after some councillors challenged the government order. Justice Shantanagoudar, who passed the order, said that the government cannot abuse democratic norms.

The Under Secretary to the Government, Department of Urban Development, issued a fresh order, which was only a reiteration of the previous order issued on December 15, 2011, on dissolving the civic body and appointing deputy commissioner as administrator. The latest order, however, was taken after hearing the members of the dissolved council as per the direction of the Circuit Bench.

The provisions of Article 243(U) of the Constitution states that corporators of an urban local body are elected by the people for a term of five years, and the government cannot seize their powers before the completion of their term.

The judge also observed that the corporators had not been given an opportunity to give an explanation to the government. The argument of the government now is that an ample opportunity has been given to the councillors with the Secretary (Urban Development) himself chairing a meeting.

In its fresh order, the government has stated that corporation had not carried out its function as per the Act, and ignored advisories issued to it from time to time to make amends for its acts of omission and commission. The controversy first erupted in 2011 when Mayor Manda Balekundri and Deputy Mayor Renu Killekar participated in a “Black Day” programme organised by the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) on Rajyotsava Day (November 1) in virtual support of the MES demand for inclusion of Belgaum in Maharashtra.

  • Council, with 58 members, in limbo after being superseded

  • Controversy erupted after a ‘Black Day’ programme by MES