Successive reservation to the offices of the Chairpersons and President of the local authorities is illegal, the Kerala High Court has held.
Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque directed the State Election Commission to recast the reservation of the office of the Presidents and Chairpersons of the local bodies in the State pursuant to the notification issued by it on 3rd November.
The court allowed a batch of writ petitions which challenged the legality of the consecutive or successive reservation for the office of Chairpersons and Presidents in the local bodies in the forthcoming election. Referring to the constitutional provisions and the provisions of Panchayat Raj Act, Kerala Municipality Act, the court noted that the statutory provisions are as such adhered to, that will render the third proviso to Article 243-D(4) as inoperative. The judge observed:
"I am of the view that successive reservation to the offices of the Chairpersons and President overlooking the constitutional directives is illegal and unsustainable. It is also arbitrary as it would deny aspirations of the candidates of non-reserved categories to occupy the offices of the Presidents or Chairpersons. By insisting on following the rotation, the Constitution intends to avoid reverse discrimination. Thus, the failure to follow rotation would deny equality of opportunity. Though one has no fundamental right to the offices of the Presidents or Chairpersons that will not render a discriminatory decision as to legal and valid. Thus, the petitioners have made out a case for interference."
The court further observed that the election of Chairpersons will take place only after the declaration of the result and thus it will in no way affect the ongoing election proceedings. While allowing the writ petitions, the court observed:
"As seen from Article 243-D, rotation of reservation to the different local authorities in the State is not a difficult task. The prescription of 'reservation' under the Constitution is not less than one-third of the total number of offices of the Chairpersons for women. As far as the Chairpersons reserved for SC/ST under the Constitution, the reserved seats shall bear the same proportion to the total number of such offices in the Panchayats at each level as the population of the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribes in the State bears to the population of the State."
Last week, the High Court had dismissed a batch of writ petitions challenging allocation of reserved seats to different wards/divisions of some of the local bodies in the State for the ensuing election. In another judgment, the Court had held that reserving a seat successively beyond two occasions, when reserved seats could be distributed in a manner that no seat would go reserved more than twice successively, is against the scheme of Articles 243D and 243T of the Constitution and also the relevant provisions contained in the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 and the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994.
CASE: ABOOBACKER KANNIYAN vs. KERALA STATE ELECTION COMMISSION [W.P.(C).Nos.24044/2020]CORAM: JUSTICE A.MUHAMED MUSTAQUE