Alderman

The term "alderman" refers to a member of a city council or municipal body, with specific responsibilities depending on the location of its usage.

  • The term has a long history, originally referring to elders of a clan or tribe, and eventually coming to be used for members of municipal bodies. Today, the role of an alderman varies depending on the location, with the term being used in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and the Netherlands.

Etymology:

  • The word "alderman" is derived from Old English, with "ald/eald" meaning "antique, of ancient origin, belonging to antiquity, primeval; long in existence or use; near the end of the normal span of life; elder, mature, experienced," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
  • The term "man" has a more contested origin, with similar root words found in languages such as Sanskrit and Russian. "Aldormonn" (Mercian) or "ealdormann" (West Saxon) originally referred to elders of a clan or tribe, but eventually became a title for a king's viceroys, regardless of age. The term eventually came to denote a specific role, that of the "chief magistrate of a county," with both civic and military duties.
  • As time passed, the term became particularly associated with guilds, with their leaders being referred to as aldormonn. In the 12th century, as guilds became increasingly linked to municipal governments, the term came to be used for officers of municipal bodies.

Different Usage:

  • In the United States, an alderman may serve in either a legislative or judicial role in local government. A "board of aldermen" refers to the governing executive or legislative body of many cities and towns in the country. In Canada, the term "alderman" was historically used for those elected to a municipal council to represent the wards.
  • As women began to be elected to municipal office, the term "councillor" gradually replaced "alderman," though the term "alderperson" was also sometimes used.
  • Today, the term is rarely used in Canada. In Australia and Ireland, the term and specific post of an alderman have been abolished. In South Africa, the term "alderman" refers to senior members of municipal councils. In the Netherlands, the term refers to members of the municipal executive, rather than the council.

Controversy in Delhi:

  • In Delhi, India, the appointment of 10 aldermen to the city's municipal corporation has recently caused controversy. According to the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act of 1957, ten individuals, over the age of 25, can be nominated to the corporation by the administrator (the Lieutenant Governor).
  • These individuals are expected to have special knowledge or experience in municipal administration and are meant to assist the council in making decisions of public importance.
  • The controversy surrounding the current appointment of aldermen has two main facets. The first issue is with regards to the individuals nominated. After the recommendations were sent to the Lieutenant Governor, it was discovered that two of the nominees were technically ineligible for the position, as they were not on the voter list.
  • This has caused embarrassment for the Bharatiya Janata Party, who had to retract the names of Mahesh Singh Tomar and Kamal Jit Singh. The second issue is with regards to the process of nomination itself.
  • The opposition parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress Party, have criticized the lack of transparency in the nomination process, with the opposition calling for a vote on the appointments.
  • The Delhi High Court has also issued a notice to the Lieutenant Governor on a plea challenging the appointment of the aldermen, seeking a response on the matter by January 14.

The term "alderman" has a long history, originally referring to elders of a clan or tribe, and eventually coming to be used for members of municipal bodies. Today, the role of an alderman varies depending on the location, with the term being used in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and the Netherlands. In Delhi, India, the appointment of 10 aldermen to the city's municipal corporation has recently caused controversy due to concerns about the eligibility of some of the nominees and the lack of transparency in the nomination process. The Delhi High Court has issued a notice on a plea challenging the appointment of the aldermen and is seeking a response on the matter by January 14.

Written by IAS POINT

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