By Y Maheswara Reddy Ever wondered why the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) regularly fails to do some of its duties — clearing garbage, fixing broken footpaths, filling up deadly potholes etc? This despite the fact that the civic body has immense funds at its disposal (in February, the Palike had a budget outlay of over Rs 12,500 crore)? It’s because the Palike has learnt to turn a blind eye to irregularities; so much so that in certain cases, it does not even go by the Karnataka Municipal Act, 1977, which is supposed to be its holy scripture. A case in point is the head of the civic body’s legal cell – to be precise, the gentleman’s age. Keshav Deshpande, the legal cell chief, is over a month shy of 69. So why is that a problem? In order to understand the working of the Palike, allow us to get you up to speed with the background. When the Head of the Legal Cell of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is to be appointed, the civic body issues a notification, inviting applications from retired district and sessions judges or practicing advocates well versed with service matters, labour laws, land laws and revenue matters, with a minimum of 10 years practice in Karnataka. In its advertisement in The Times of India (Bangalore Mirror’s sister publication) on July 5, 2012, inviting applications for the post of head of legal cell, the BBMP had said that the age of the applicant should be ‘within 62 years’. The advertisement also stated that the tenure of the head of legal cell would be one year initially, extendable up to three years based on performance. Keshav Deshpande, head of legal cell of BBMP As per Deshpande’s voter ID card, his date of birth is August 7, 1950. That would have made him eminently eligible for the post in 2012. However, in 2019, his continuation as legal cell head has violated two rules – a) as per Rule 30 of KMC Act, the term of the head of legal cell should not exceed more than three years; b) as per that stipulation, applications should have been invited for the post in 2015. And at that time, Deshpande would have been ineligible only due to his age. There are now murmurs of protest from social activists against the continuation of Deshpande as the legal cell chief on account of his age. They allege that even the appointment of Deshpande in 2012 was against the rules, leave alone the extension he received in 2015. They say that although the notification inviting applications from suitable candidates was issued in July 2012 (which said that the candidate should be within 62 years of age), Deshpande was appointed as head of legal cell only on December 21, 2013 (he was 62 years, 4 months and 14 days old on that date). It again extended his term for another three years on December 20, 2016, when he was 66 years, say activists. In both cases, they allege, he did not meet the age specifications. S Amaresh, Managing Trustee, Right to Information Study Centre says, “Who will follow service rules if the head of the legal cell continues in the post illegally?” The Legal Cell of the BBMP plays a crucial role in vacating stays from various courts against the civic body and provides legal advice to the Palike. Sai Datta, a social activist, demanded that a retired High Court judge be appointed the head of legal cell of the BBMP given the crucial and numerous cases that the unit has to adjudicate upon. . Leader of Opposition in BBMP Council Padmanabha Reddy said that not many retired judges are inclined to become head of legal cell at the BBMP. Deshpande, however, says that no rule has been violated. “I can continue in this post as long as I am physically fit and mentally sound,” he said, adding that the conditions and specifications (mentioned in the notification) depend on the authorities concerned. BBMP commissioner Manjunatha Prasad concurred and said that no rule had been violated in the appointment of Deshpande. He said it’s a statutory post with a tenure. “There is no embargo in law preventing him on continuing in the post even after 62 or 65 years of age. Equally, there is no impediment in appointing him for the second term of three years provided he is mentally and physically fit,” he said.