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AAP draft arms mohalla sabhas with sweeping powers

Swaraj Bill - Sabha can recall councillor, control land use, enjoy immunity from prosecution.

In line with its decentralisation policy, the Bill allows the sabhas “to make their own rules for proper functioning”. In line with its decentralisation policy, the Bill allows the sabhas “to make their own rules for proper functioning”.

From recalling a councillor to control over land use, even immunity from prosecution, the AAP’s draft of the Swaraj Bill gives Mohalla Sabhas wide-ranging powers.

In line with its decentralisation policy, the Bill allows the sabhas “to make their own rules for proper functioning”.

In its preamble, the Bill, the draft of which is yet to be sent to the Delhi government, is called an “Act to recognise and proclaim the inherent and inalienable sovereign nature of the people and demolish the myth and illusion of sovereign nature of the government”.

According to the draft, not only can mohalla sabhas and ward area committees “make their own rules but officials of the mohalla sabhas will also have legal protection”.

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One of the clauses reads, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against ward sewaks, mohalla sewaks, mohalla sabha representatives and their employees or any other authority or officer or employee exercising any power or performing any duty under this Act for anything, which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”

Further, clearances by a mohalla sabha or a ward committee shall be treated as administrative and financial approvals for such projects.

The draft envisages 69 “indicative functions” for the mohalla sabha ranging from cleaning of roads to public vaccination and inoculation, issuing of solvency certificates, preserving heritage and promoting compassion toward animals.

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Furthermore, police are required to register an FIR, if a case is referred to them by a mohalla sabha. Also, if police make any arrest in the mohalla, copies of the FIR have to be sent to the Mohalla Sewa Kendra within two hours, except in cases where the law requires the identity of the victim to remain confidential.

The Bill also gives a mohalla sabha the power to recall a ward councillor, as well as a mohalla sabha representatives.

“If more than 50 per cent of the mohalla sabhas in a ward express a loss of confidence, the State Election Commission (SEC) shall conduct a secret ballot to decide if the councillor should continue. If two thirds vote for the removal of the councillor, he will be removed,” an AAP source said.

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It is the SEC which will draft a proposal dividing each ward into mohallas and will conduct mohalla committee elections every five years. “The vote will be under the principle of a single transferable vote, but a candidate should get at least 50 per cent of the vote,” the source said.

The AAP also proposes to set up a five-member ombudsman that will “receive, enquire and act upon complaints of violation of any of the provisions of the Act”. The members of the ombudsman should have at least 15 years of experience “in public life” and the the body will have, for the purposes of any enquiry, the powers that “are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the code of criminal procedure.”

The Bill requires each municipal corporation and every department of the Delhi government to identify officers and employees who provide services under the jurisdiction of a mohalla and a ward.

“The annual appraisal of the employees in mohalla sabha and wards shall be done by the mohalla sabha or the ward area committee,” sources said. A mohalla sabha will also participate in the formation of the state budget.

Decentralising Power

* Each mohalla sabha will have a committee consisting of two mohalla sabha representatives directly elected by the mohalla sabha.

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* A quorum for any mohalla sabha will be 10 per cent of registered voters of the mohalla, of which at least 33 per cent are women, and 33 per cent are men. If the quorum is absent in any meeting, the meeting will be postponed for half an hour.

* Mohalla sabha meetings will be video-recorded and stored as public records open for the public to take copies and inspect.

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* The government will designate a department for conducting referendums and it will assist mohalla sabhas in preparing initiatives and “facilitate the exercise of the people’s legislative role.
Some of the powers of a mohalla sabha

* Powers to get any information from officials of the Delhi government or a municipal body

* Hire consultants to seek technical guidance on any issue

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* To impose penalties, or reward government officials who are directly under the control of the -Mohalla Sabha and with whose functioning the sabha is dissatisfied.

* No land use conversion will be allowed without consultation of the mohalla sabhas.

* To decide whether to allow acquisition of any land in the mohalla by any government agency.

* No liquor shop can be opened in any mohalla without the approval from the mohalla sabha.

First published on: 05-02-2014 at 12:47:16 am
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