27% seats for OBC in local body polls: Maharashtra moves SC urging recall of direction

Court had passed order on finding that State had not complied with ‘triple test’ requirement before reserving local body seats for OBC

January 17, 2022 05:55 pm | Updated January 18, 2022 04:20 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Maharashtra government has moved the Supreme Court urging for a recall of its direction to the State Election Commission to revert 27% seats reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in local body elections to ‘general category’.

When the case was called, the State, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, informed a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar about their plea for recall of the order dated December 15 last. The court ordered the election commission to denotify the 27% seats as OBC and issue fresh notification declaring them as belonging to the general category within a week.

“Direct State authority and State Election Commission to treat the notification issued for OBC reservation as non est in every local body in which elections are already notified... In other words, the State Election Commission must immediately issue fresh notification for the 27% seats reserved for OBC as ‘general category’ and initiate election process for those along with the election process for the remaining 73% seats,” it stated.

Plea challenges ordinance

The order had come on a petition challenging a Maharashtra ordinance that introduced 27% reservation for OBC category in local elections.

The State Election Commission had subsequently issued notifications to give effect to the ordinance.

The court passed the order on finding that the State government had not complied with the ‘triple test’ requirement before reserving the local body seats for OBC.

“The triple test need to be complied by the State authorities and the State Election Commission as a pre-condition for reservation for OBC in local bodies. As a result, it is not possible to countenance the argument that without complying with the triple test requirement, a State authority or Election Commission can be permitted to notify the seats for OBC in any local body across the State,” it observed in the order.

The court said a ‘triple test’ need to be followed before deciding on the extent of quota to a category. Firstly, a dedicated commission need to be set up to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness as regards local bodies within the State; Secondly, there is a need to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the Commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth; and thirdly, reservation should not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

Though Maharashtra set up a commission in June 2021 to collect empirical data, the court had noticed that the State did not wait for the panel’s report. Instead, it had gone ahead and promulgated the ordinance.

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