By: M.S.Yatnatti: Editor and Video Journalist Bengaluru: According to reports 25 years after the 74th Constitutional Amendment (Nagarapalika Act) prescribed effective citizen participation through ward committees, to bring in accountability of the local councillor to the community, an opportunity is at last being given to citizens to get into ward committees. Till now, if at all the ward committees were constituted; councillors were themselves nominating the individual members and registered associations who would sit on ward committees. It was not surprising that the ward committees used to be filled with the councillors' own party-men and cronies, defeating the purpose of the ward committees. The two seats for registered associations used to be filled by them with organisations which had no history of involvement in civic issues, such as Wrestlers' Associations, Ganesha Festival Committees, temple trusts, etc.
Reportedly Since ward committees had not been constituted after BBMP elections in 2015, despite several orders of the High Court, at a hearing of the Court on April 24th of the case (WP 24739/2012) related to garbage management and ward committees, the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka fixed a time-frame of one month within which the ward committees had to be constituted. Immediately, the Mayor asked the councillors of the 198 wards to give by May 10th eight names of individuals (2 SC/STs, 3 women and 3 belonging to general category) and two of registered associations from their wards to serve on the ward committees. But due to councillors' lack of interest in the constitution of ward committees which would reduce their powers, very few of them responded to the Mayor's direction. So much so that she had to extend the deadline to May 15. But this practice of councillors nominating the names was challenged by CIVIC in the High Court during a next hearing of the case. CIVIC brought to the attention of the Court that as per Section 13H(2)(b) of the KMC (Amdt.) Act of 2011, the Ward Committee members are to be "nominated by the Corporation”, which means the Commissioner, and that it does not say that councillors are to nominate the names, and that the purpose of the committees would not be fulfilled if councillors were to continue nominating the members. As a result, the Division Bench of Justice Ashok B. Hinchigeri and Justice K.S. Mudagal gave an oral order that not more than two or three names should be chosen from the list submitted by the councillors and that other suggestions by citizens should also be considered. Several citizens attempted to give their applications to councillors of their wards. But many councillors refused to take their applications saying that their lists had already been finalised. Based on the order of the High Court, citizens were advised by CIVIC to submit their applications to the BBMP Commissioner and not to the councillor. About 250 applications have thus been submitted by citizens to the BBMP Commissioner. A team comprising members of Lancha Mukta Karnataka Nirmana Vedike (LMKNV), Janasangrama Parishath & CIVIC met the Mayor on 16th May. She too accepted that 'nomination by the Corporation' meant 'nomination by the Commissioner' and that the councillor could only recommend names. LMKNV submitted copies of the 35 applications of honest social workers to her and secured an assurance from her that citizens' applications would also be considered before finalising the lists of ward committee members.