History of Municipal Administration
Municipal Administration has a long history in Tamil Nadu. In South India, the celebrated "Kudavolai" system of imperial Cholas, points to the existence of well-organised representative institutions. They were basic grass root democratic bodies. The History of local self-governance in urban areas can be grouped into five periods:
The Municipal Government was first introduced in the city of Madras in the days of the East India Company. Study of towns and cities has been always a fascinating topic. We do not intend to detail the historical perspective of Madras City but want to highlight the genesis and growth of Madras (now Chennai ) Municipal Corporation. Year 1688 marked the formal birth of the Madras Corporation which presided over the development of Madras so far as the social services, maintenance of law and order and the protection of citizens were concerned. Municipal life in Madras thus saw its beginning in making arrangements for keeping the town clean and getting the control over the markets and places of public entertainments and regulating them. Josiah Child who was Governor of Court of Directors was instrumental in preparing a Plan for the declaration of a Charter by East India Company as agreed to by British King on 30-9-1687. We quote from the Charter "We, the said Governor and Company, having found by experience and the practice of other European Nations in India that the making and establishing of Corporation in Cities and Towns that are grown exceedingly populous tends more to the well governing of such populous places, ordain and constitute our Town of Fort St. George, commonly called the Christian Town and City of Madrassapatanam upon the coast of Choromandel and all the territories thereto belonging, not exceeding the distance of ten miles from Fort St. George, to be a Corporation under us by the name and Title of the Mayou." The Charter was proclaimed at Fort St. George on the 29th September, 1688 and Mr. Nathaniel Higginson become first Mayor of Madras.
A Parliamentary Act of 1792 finally gave the Company the power to levy municipal taxes in the city. It was then that the town cleaning duties were entrusted to the officers known as Surveyors and Collectors under whom conservancy work was to be done by contract. This Act further empowered the Justices of the Peace to make arrangements for the care of the streets, to collect the assessment and to license the sale of spurious liquors. This is the commencement of the Madras Municipality proper, differing from the Mayor and the Corporation who were almost purely judicial functionaries. A subsequent Act of 1836 of the Government of India imposed the condition that the Municipal assessment should have the approval of the Governor in Council. The Act of 1841 sought to give a greater latitude of action and reality of Local Self-Government to the City. In 1856 another Act passed for the conservancy and improvement of the Presidency cities, abolished the Bench of Justices and appointed three Commissioners who formed a body corporate with the title of "Municipal Commissioners". The Madras Act IX of 1863 gave power to tax trades and professions and to collect tolls on carriages, carts and animals on their entering the Municipal limits. The Madras Act IX of 1867 introduced a radical alteration in the constitution of the Municipality. It divided the City into 8 wards each of which was represented by four Commissioners nominated by Government from among the residents.
By supplementary Act, (Act V of 1871) the Corporation included among its purposes, the training and appointment of vaccinators. The Act of 1867 was superseded by Act V of 1878 which contained the most outstanding provision, namely, that sixteen out of the thirty-two Commissioners should be elected by the rate-payers. Municipal administration was subsequently established in the Presidency Towns and empowered with the appointment of Justice of the Peace, who were authorised to levy taxes on houses and lands to meet the cost of scavenging, police and maintenance of the roads. The Municipal administration in the districts formally commenced with the legislation of the "Improvements in Towns Act" which authorised the Provincial Government to introduce in any town, whose inhabitants were desirous of making better provisions for constructing, repairing, cleaning, lighting or watering of any public street, road-drains or tanks or for the prevention of nuisances or for improving the town, a system of administration by Councillors on these matters. The councillors were authorised to frame bye-laws for the day to day administration.
The Town Improvement Act, 1865 created Municipalities. The body was presided over by the District Magistrate, and he appointed Vice-Presidents of all the Municipalities lying in his district. District Magistrates,Local Magistrates and the Range Officers of the P.W.D. were the ex-officio Councillors. These bodies could raise funds under the Act, by way of levying Property tax, Profession tax, Vehicle tax, Tolls Licence fees etc. for being utilised to maintain law and order in the town, as the first charge and the remainder on other municipal functions like construction of roads, tanks and such other things as may be necessary, towards the preservation of public health. The Government also extended financial assistance by way of fixed grants. The term of office of the bodies was one year only.
Viceroy Lord Ripon was pioneer in the promotion of Local Self Government in India. He made these institutions as "instruments of political and popular education". Acts were passed changing the constitution and powers of these bodies and the main functions were declared to be (i) Construction, up-keep and lighting of streets and roads and the provision and maintenance of public, municipal buildings, (ii) Public health, medical relief, vaccination, sanitation, drainage and water supply and measures against the outbreak of epidemics, and (iii) education. The enactment of the District Municipalities Act 1884 is the next important step forward. Each Municipal Council consisted of not less than twelve Councillors. The concerned Revenue Divisional Officer was one of the Councillors in ex-officio capacity. Few Councillors were elected by the rate payers. The Chairman was either appointed by the Government or elected by the Councillors with the permission of the Government. He was discharging the executive functions also. There was an increasing awareness of the role of these institutions. During 1907 and 1908, the Royal Commission on Decentralisation recommended the classification of all Municipalities on population basis, devolution of more power over taxation and budget, increasing the strength of membership and also the elected proportion of the Council. The Montagu-Chelmsford report, 1918 suggested that, " there should be as far as possible, complete popular control in the local bodies and longest possible independence for them of outside control".
The Government of India Act 1919 provided for clear demarcation of powers to the organisation of local bodies. The Madras District Municipalities Act 1920 is the most important enactment governing municipal administration. The salient features of this Act were – (1) the abolition of the system of nominating Government officials as the Ex-officio councillors, (2) the creation of posts of Municipal Engineer and Health Officer; (3) the grant of larger powers to the Councils to levy locan taxes; (4) to open schools and dispensaries and to fix the strength of the staff; and (5) the introduction of a new audit system with the power to the auditor to surcharge any illegal expenditure. All streets, Public water sources, wells, tanks, etc., were vested with the Municipality. The main functions of Municipalities were (a) lighting of public streets, (b) drainage, (c) scavenging, (d) maintenance and repair of streets, (e) control of building activities, (g) maintenance of vital statistics, (h) prevention of epidemic diseases, vaccination; and (i) elementary education.
The Madras District Municipalities (Amendment) Act, of 1930 did away, with the system of nomination of Councillors and introduced reservation of seats for minority communities and for women. The office of Chairman and Vice-Chairman were made elective. The said Act provided the system of appointment of Municipal Commissioners. Subsequent amendment were confined to details in procedure within the ambit of the main frame work, without any radical change or innovation in the Act. In the early years of their functioning, local bodies evinced interest in managing their affairs. Many Municipalities went ahead with costly schemes of education, medical relief, road, buildings, etc. which later caused financial difficulties.
The Government of India Act 1935, which further improved the status of Local Self Governments, did not, however, bring about any major changes so far as Tamil Nadu is concerned. The Municipalities continued to suffer for want of adequate financial resources. Even after independence, not much head-way was made excepting for certain recommendations by the local Finance Enquiry committee set up in 1949 and the Taxation Enquiry Committee set up by the Government of India. Though these Committees made some useful recommendations suggesting certain new avenues for resource generation, nothing was implemented. The report of the Committee set up in 1950 under the Chairmanship of Thiru C.S. Rathnasabapathy Mudaliar to study the provisions of the existing Law and to suggest amendments to improve the finances of Municipalities, also could not achieve the desired results for various reasons. Thereafter no serious action was pursued to bring any comprehensive legislation. For the smaller cities and towns, Municipalities were formed, while big cities were governed by Municipal Corporations. The Corporations were headed by a Mayor and the Municipality by a Chairman. In Tamil Nadu the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919 was enacted and the Municipal Corporation started functioning with effect from 1919 in the very same building named after Lord Ripon. Thus after the Madras Disctrict Municipalities Act, 1920 (now the Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Act, 1920) which laid the statutory framework for the organisation and structure of Municipal Bodies in the State, there have been no major changes since then.
Municipal Finances were reviewed in Tamil Nadu by different Committees. In the year 1972 the Government constitued a High Power Committee of officials under the Chairmanship of Thiru S. Venkitaramanan, I.A.S., to go into the details of the ways and means position of the Corporations in Tamil Nadu and to suggest measures to tide over the financial crisis as well as to improve the financial position of the Corporations. Subsequently, the High Level committee headed by thiru A.N. Sattanathan went thorugh improvement of finance of the Corporation among other administrative reforms needed. Yet another Committee headed by Shanmuganathan and later on the Municipal Finance Enquiry Committee headed by Thiru T.V. Vasudevan, I.A.S., during the year 1980 made various recommendations for strengthening the finances and tax reforms. However, the Government of India, during the year 1992, took into consideration the suggestions and views expressed by the V.K. Rao Committee (1985) for devolution of powers to the Local Bodies and L.M. Singhvi Committee (1986) recommendations for allotment of adequate resources to the local bodies. Ultimate result was to amend the constitution of India in 1992 by introducing the 73rd and 74th Amendments
In the meanwhile rapid changes were going on in respect of rural local bodies, with the launching of a number of nation-wide rural development schemes. The Government of India wanted to revitalise these bodies and thought of giving them a Constitutional status (for a comprehensive understanding of the historical background of Rural Local Bodies). The Government of India felt that Urban Local Bodies also in many States have become weak and ineffective on account of a number of reasons including the failure to hold regular elections, prolonged suspensions and inadequate devolution of power and functions. As a result, the Urban Bodies also were not able to perform effectively as vibrant democratic units of local self-Government. The nature of problems and opportunities of Municipal Governance have also been highlighted by the Union Minister of State for Urban Affairs and Employment : "Local Government involves both Government responsibility for providing quality of life to the citizens and civic engagement in defining, managing and sustaining the quality of life through democratic and participation process". Further "Powerful interest groups in every city create bottlenecks for the purpose of gaining unfair advantage. Marginalised groups such as the poor, women, migrants, disabled and ethnic communities rarely get the opportunity to voice their needs provided in the Constitution regarding representation to open the gateway for articulating the voice of millions of such people who have been left out should have minimum provisions for these Urban Local Bodies also, like Rural Local Bodies, should be enshrined in the Constitution, so as to impart certainty , continuity and strength to them. They felt that the incorporation of the Urban Bodies in the Constitution, should (1) place on a firmer footing the relationship between the State Government and Urban Bodies with respect to (a) the function and taxation powers and (b) arrangements for revenue sharing; (2) to ensure regular elections, (3) ensure regular elections in the cases of suppression; and (4) provide adequate representation for the weaker sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribe and Women.
Accordingly they decided to add a new part relating to the Urban Local Bodies in the Constitution of India to provide for (i) Constitution of three types of municipalities: (a) Nagar Panchayat, for areas in transition from rural to urban area (Town Panchayats); (b) Municipal Council for smaller urban area; and (c) Municipal Corporation for larger urban area. (ii) Composition of Municipal Councils; (b) representation of Chairpersons of Committees, if any at the ward or other levels in the Municipalities; (c) representation of MLA/MP representing the constituency within which the ULB is situated. (iii) Election of Chairperson of a Municipality in the manner specified by the State Law, (iv) Constitution of Committees at ward level or other level within the Municipal area as may be provided in the State Law. (v) Reservation of seats in Municipal Councils both in the offices of Councillors and Chairman;- (a) for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; (b) for Women (c) in favour of Backward class of citizens. (vi) Fixed term of office for five years (viii) Leavy of taxes and duties by Municipalities, assigning of proceeds of tax and duties to Municipalities by the State Government and for making grants. (ix) Constitution of State Finance Commission to review the finances of Municipalities; (x) Audit of accounts (xi) Constitution of State Election Commission for the conduct of elections to all Local Bodies.
The proposal to amend the Constitution, by adding a separate Part, culminated in the passing of the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 . The amendments relating to Urban Bodies have been incorporated in the Constitution as Part IX-A of the Constitution. It contains 17 Articles, namely 243 P to 243 ZG. The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 as per the Articles 243-W endows the Municipalities such powers, authority and responsibilities of Municipalities, to function as institutions of self-government in relation to the matters listed below as in the Twelfth Schedule :-