The general rule for contesting in a local civic body election is that the person should be more than 21 years of age and should be a resident of Mumbai. Section 14 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 stipulates that the contesting candidate in the BMC elections must be enrolled as a voter in the jurisdiction of Mumbai.
Since 1995, when the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships (Second Amendment) Act, 1995 came into force, a corporator cannot have more than two children. Gulshan Chouhan, a corporator from South Mumbai, was disqualified in 2011 for having four children. While a corporator cannot have more than two biological children, there is no cap on adopted children. Gulshan’s husband had argued in court that two of their four children had been adopted by the candidate’s sister, thus making her a parent of just two children.
Conditions to satisfy
Convicted criminals, especially those convicted on charges of inciting religious disharmony in society, through statements or actions, are barred from contesting elections for six years from the date of their conviction.
A corporator cannot be a direct employee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, nor indirectly employed as a contractor or registered plumber. The corporator cannot, by themselves or through a firm where they are a partner, have stakes in the BMC, where their firm is an interested entity. They should have no direct or indirect share or interest in any contract or employment with, by or on behalf of the BMC. However, being a pensioner would not be considered as having a stake with the BMC.
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These restrictions, however, do not apply to family members, who are free to work with the BMC.
A corporator cannot be a judge of the Small Causes court or acting in such a capacity.
A person with pending dues to the BMC, which are not paid within three months of receiving notice, either in personal capacity or by a trust under them, can be barred from being a corporator. Someone adjudged as an insolvent cannot contest in an election, if debarred under that provision.
A person could be debarred from contesting for any local authority office or holding a post under Section 103 (A) of The Presidency-Towns Insolvency Act,1909, either for fraudulent misconduct regarding payments or for not paying. The ban on contesting would be valid till an order of discharge or annulment is obtained from the courts on this matter.
A corporator could be barred for being involved directly or indirectly in the sale/purchase/lease including leave or licence agreement of any land deal with or on behalf of the BMC either in his individual capacity or as a partner in a firm or have any share or interest in such a firm.
He could also be debarred if he continues to engage his professional services with any own firm or as a partner in a firm, for any cause or proceedings, where the corporation is an interested or concerned entity. Essentially, he is supposed to avoid any conflict of interest.
However, he is free to render free service for fighting legitimate public grievances or taking up issues of civic rights.
A corporator is also expected to resign if he becomes a member of the State Legislature or Parliament.
The state government can intervene and disqualify a corporator if he or his family is found to be involved in building unauthorised or illegal constructions or stopping an official from discharging their duty. The state government can also intervene to sack a corporator if he is found guilty of any misconduct in discharging their duties or involved in any disgraceful conduct. These conduct could be either in their current term of office or in their immediate preceding term as a corporator.
Anil Galgali, a Right To Information (RTI) activist, however found that the BMC had never bothered to act against disqualified corporators for submitting fraudulent documents to become corporators. He demanded that the BMC initiate criminal action against frauds to deter corporators from submitting fake documents in future elections.
About 23 elected corporators of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been disqualified after getting elected in the past three terms. While 12 corporators were disqualified in the 2007 elections, four corporators were disqualified in 2012 election, seven corporators were disqualified in 2017 election, according to information received from an RTI filed by Anil Galgali. Most of these disqualifications are caused by invalid or fraudulent documents submitted, like the caste certificate.
Seven corporators who had won the 2017 election were disqualified. These include Rajpati Yadav (ward no. 28), husband-wife duo of Murji Patel (ward no. 81) and Kesharben Patel (ward no. 76), Steffi Keni (ward no. 32), Changez Multani (ward no. 62) Sagun Naik (ward no. 91) and Naziya Abdul Safi (ward no. 78). They were all replaced by the runners-up in their elections. However, Safi’s disqualification was particularly late, and has come in time for the 2022 BMC election.
Currently, of the 227 seats in the BMC, 61 seats are reserved for candidates from Other Backward Class (OBC), 15 for Scheduled Caste (SC) and two seats for Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates.
Political parties are taking cues from this. “We have already asked aspiring candidates in our party to get their caste documents validated in advance to avoid hassles like these. We make our candidates give a self-declaration that they are filing valid documents, when they submit them while filing nominations,” Ravi Raja, Congress’s leader of the opposition in the BMC, says.
“Almost all political parties including ours now take care to verify documents of aspiring candidates to ensure that corporators don’t end up getting disqualified and cause inconvenience later. We have a legal team which looks into all the legal aspects of the candidates chosen by our party chief,” Sunil Prabhu, spokesperson of the Shiv Sena and chief whip of the party in Vidhan Sabha, says.
This explainer is part of a series on ‘Explainers and Information Resources for Mumbaikars’ supported by a grant from the A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.