Voting in the BBMP Council

October 13, 2011

The Mayor of the BBMP Council Mrs. Sharadamma has routinely not referred matters in the Municipal Council to a vote in the House. This has become controversial as members of the opposition and others allege that her actions are illegal as they violate the provisions of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976.

In the present circumstances, the Mayor seeks to arrive at the decisions without following the mandatory voting requirements under Rule 65. It may well be that the Ruling party has an overwhelming majority, but this only makes a division of votes unnecessary. Irrespective of the voting preferences of the members of the council, the applicable law makes it abundantly clear that voting in the House is the only mode of collective decision making. This note reviews the applicable law on the issue and concludes that the Mayor is violating the law as all decisions of the Council need to be mandatorily decided by a vote.

Applicable Law:

The Constitution of India is silent on the matter of the Conduct of Business in a Municipal Corporation. Part IX-A relates to the Municipalities was introduced by the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992 in order to introduce a third tier of government in the form of Municipal Corporations. This Part empowers the State Government to make laws that decide how and in what manner such functions are to be carried out by these bodies.

The Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 which was enacted prior to the 74th Constitutional Amendment continues to govern the working of the Municipal Corporations in Karnataka. The relevant rules, i.e., Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Procedure for the Conduct of Business of the Corporation and Committee) Rules, 1998 set out in Schedule I of the Act were framed by the State Government under section 71 of the Act.

Business of the House:

The List of Business to be conducted is prepared on a daily basis. The ‘Business’ of the House may take the form of Questions, Resolutions or Motions. The procedure that applies to each form of Business is set out in the Rules.

Questions are asked during the first hour of the sitting. Members of the Corporation may ask questions addressed to the Chairman of the Concerned Standing Committee regarding any matter of general and public importance. [Rule 19 – 35]

Resolutions are moved by members regarding any particular matter or and general matter. It can be in the form of a declaration of opinion, a recommendation, a policy, or even a command. Any member may move a resolutions but the Mayor has the exclusive discretion to decide on the admissibility of the resolution. Resolutions once moved are voted upon and are either passed or dismissed. [Rule 37 – 51]

‘Motions’ refer to the decision taking process of the Council. Resolutions are also passed through a ‘motion’ although not all motions concern the passing of resolutions. These other kinds of motions are not listed or described by the Act or by the rules under the Act. As per the Rules, motions are made only by voting in a Council meeting. Rule 63 provides that when a motion is made, the Mayor shall propose the question and put it for the decision of the House. Rule 65(7) clearly stipulates that all questions shall be decided by a majority of votes.

Rule 62 under the part title ‘Motions’ states that only a matter requiring the decision of the House can be decided by a vote. There is however no provision stating what matters require the decision of a House. Hence it is ambiguous as to what motions need the vote of the Council although the Rules also provide under Rule 65(7) that the voting procedure is mandatory for all decisions

Voting and Divisions:

All members, i.e. Councillors of the concerned corporation are allowed to vote unless they have a pecuniary or personal interest in the matter. The Mayor puts forth the Motion in the form of a question and invites the members who are in favour of the motion to say ‘Aye’ and the members who are against it to say ‘No’. The Mayor decides which side has a majority and makes a declaration accordingly. If this decision of the Mayor is challenged, the Mayor is to call for a vote again during which the members who are for ‘Aye’ and those members who are for ‘No’ are asked to rise in their places. A count of the respective votes is made and a determination is accordingly declared. [Rule 65]

In the present circumstances, the Mayor seeks to arrive at the decisions without following the mandatory voting requirements under Rule 65. It may well be that the Ruling party has an overwhelming majority, but this only makes a division of votes unnecessary. Irrespective of the voting preferences of the members of the council, the applicable law makes it abundantly clear that voting in the House is the only mode of collective decision making.