The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the implementation of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in local body elections to be held in Madhya Pradesh.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar modified the court’s May 10 order directing the State Election Commission to notify the election programme for over 20,000 urban and panchayat local bodies in the State within two weeks, without waiting for the completion of the ‘triple test’ exercise and further delimitation prior to the polls.
However, an application to modify the court order was filed shortly thereafter. It said the Backward Classes Commission had submitted a revised report which satisfied the triple test for reservation for OBCs and gave a break-up of the reservation to be provided local body-wise. Permission was sought to implement the OBC quota for the elections. It said the delimitation exercise in the State had been completed even before the May 10 order. The application asserted that these crucial facts had not been placed before the court prior to the order.
The court noted in its order: “To reassure ourselves, we have gone through the two reports submitted by the dedicated commission concerning the determination of reservation to be provided for other backward classes in local bodies in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The second report focuses on the local body wise reservation for the other backward classes by keeping in mind the maximum reservation limit of 50% enunciated by this court. We may not be understood to have expressed any final opinion either way on the validity or correctness of this report and if some challenge is set up against this report, that may have to be considered on its own merits in accordance with law.”
The court permitted the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission to notify the programme for the local bodies keeping in mind the delimitation notification already issued as on date, that is, till Wednesday, and the report submitted by the Backward Classes Commission.
It directed the Election Commission of India (EC) to ensure that the election programme was issued for local bodies where the polls are already overdue without further loss of time and keeping in mind the feasibility of conducting elections.
The court said it would be open to the EC to later on modulate the schedule, as and when occasion arises.
“We permit the State of Madhya Pradesh to notify the reservation pattern local body wise to be adhered to by the State Election Commission within one week. The State Election Commission shall notify the election programme in respect of the concerned local bodies thereafter within one week,” the court ordered.
On May 10, the court had noted that years of delay in conducting elections to over 23,000 local bodies in Madhya Pradesh “borders on the breakdown of the rule of law”.
It had declared that State Election Commissions across the country could not skip their Constitutional obligation to conduct polls to local bodies every five years.
The Bench had laid down that the EC could not reel out grounds like ongoing delimitation or the formation of new wards to delay elections where it was due or even overdue.