The Supreme Court on Monday directed status quo in a case regarding OBC reservations in local bodies elections in Maharashtra.
The status quo order by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana puts on hold a plea by Maharashtra to recall orders passed by the apex court restraining the State Election Commission from re-notifying the election process in 367 local bodies in order to implement the OBC quota there.
Chief Justice Ramana said he does not have enough time to hear and finally dispose the case before his retirement on August 26. The CJI said the case would be listed after four to six weeks before a Special Bench.
On July 28, the court had cautioned the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) against re-notifying the election process to 367 local bodies where it has already commenced in order to provide reservation to OBCs.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar (now retired) had made it clear in no uncertain terms that the SEC "cannot and shall not" renotify the election programme and even indicated that violation of its July 20 order would invite contempt proceedings.
The Supreme Court had on July 20 accepted the recommendations of the Banthia commission providing 27% OBC reservations in local body elections. It had directed elections to the local bodies to be notified within the next fortnight.
It had made it clear that the OBC reservation policy however would not apply to the 367 local bodies where the election process had already begun by then.
The apex court had quashed the SEC notification providing for 27% quota for OBCs in local bodies in early 2021.
In December 2021, it ruled that reservation for OBCs in local bodies will not be allowed unless the government fulfils the triple test laid down in the Supreme Court’s 2010 order. The top court had ruled that until the triple test criteria is fulfilled, the OBC seats will be re-notified as general category seats.
The triple test required the State government to set up a dedicated commission to gather data on the backwardness of OBCs in every local body, to specify the proportion of reservation in each local body in light of the commission’s recommendations, and ensure that such reservation does not exceed 50% of the total seats reserved for SC/ST/OBC together.
In response to the Supreme Court order, the then Maha Vikas Aghadi government had set up a commission led by former chief secretary Jayant Banthia and asked him to collate data as sought by the court.
After the commission submitted its report on July 7, the Eknath Shinde government had moved the court for permission to hold elections to local bodies introducing the OBC quota.