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Madras High Court Strikes Down Women Reservation In Excess Of 50% For Chennai Corporation Polls

Sebin James
12 Jan 2022 7:51 AM GMT
Madras High Court Strikes Down Women Reservation In Excess Of 50% For Chennai Corporation Polls
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In a plea against reservation in excess of 50 per cent for women in Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation, Madras High Court has held that reservation can only be based on the total number of seats in the Municipality and not on Zonal wise demarcation. The bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D Audikesavalu has struck down the 2019 Government...

In a plea against reservation in excess of 50 per cent for women in Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation, Madras High Court has held that reservation can only be based on the total number of seats in the Municipality and not on Zonal wise demarcation.

The bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D Audikesavalu has struck down the 2019 Government Notification which reserved 89 wards out of 200 wards for Women Candidates and another 16 seats for the Scheduled Caste Women, bringing the total tally to 105.

The public interest litigation, calling reservations in excess of 50 per cent discrimination against men and violation of constitutional principles, was filed by Advocate R. Parthiban. The senior counsel appearing for the petitioner, S. Prabakaran, had argued that women are entitled to only 84 seats according to the Tamil Nadu Municipalities (Amendment) Act, 2016 and the Chennai City Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2016 mandates 'not less than fifty per cent reservation' for women.

Today, the court noted that the constitution permits reservation in favour of women beyond 1/3 rd of total seats. Thereafter, the 2016 amendments in Tamil Nadu fixed that cap at the constitutionally mandated 50 per cent. Once such a decision was taken to provide 50 per cent seats for women, respondents should not have violated the provisions of the Amendment Act.

Advocate General R Shumnugasundaram's submission about the object sought to be achieved by the measure of reservation via zones as in Central Chennai where the women's population is higher was not accepted by the court. The court observed that the respondents took a decision to apply zonal reservation (demarcated into 15 zones) even in areas where the proportional population of women was low. Earlier, Advocate General had informed the court that Supreme Court directed the notification of local body polls by January 27. As a result, Tamil Nadu State Election Commission has been anticipating the verdict in this case before notifying the elections.

The court observed that the object projected by the respondents is not within the framework of the Constitution that provides for reservation based on the total population of each category in a Municipal area in nearly the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality.

Terming the notification as unconstitutional, the bench directed TNSEC to conduct elections in accordance with Article 243 T of the Constitution since the amendment to provide 50 per cent reservation for women was not challenged by the petitioner in this writ petition. Therefore, the respondents have been directed to make reservations based on the total number of seats, ward-wise.

The 'not less than one-third' in the Chennai Municipal Corporation Act, 1919 has been substituted by 'not less than fifty per cent' in the 2016 amendments. According to the senior counsel, the tally of seats reserved for women should have been 84 seats in the General Category and 16 Seats for women from Scheduled Castes, which would have brought the total number of reserved seats to 100. He submitted 'not less than fifty per cent' in the amendments to the Act should not be construed as 'over 50 per cent'.

According to the counsel, the reservation was put into effect on the basis of zones for Chennai Corporation, and not on the basis of the total number of wards. In zones where the number of wards adds up to an odd number, as far as the additional seat is concerned, it will be allotted to the woman candidate since the Act strictly prescribes 'not less than 50 per cent'. As a result, it is quite possible that in some zones, the total number of seats reserved for women would exceed the mandated minimum 50 per cent.

Case Title: R. Parthiban v. The Chief Secretary & Ors.

Case No:  WP/25819/2021(Election)

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 18

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