Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

Supreme Court Stays 27% OBC Reservation In Maharashtra Local Body Elections

Shruti Kakkar
6 Dec 2021 10:24 AM GMT
Supreme Court Stays 27% OBC Reservation In Maharashtra Local Body Elections
x

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes in the local body elections until further orders.A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar passed the order in writ petitions filed challenging the Maharashtra Ordinance which introduced 27% OBC quota in the local body elections and the consequent notifications issued by the State...

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes in the local body elections until further orders.

A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar passed the order in writ petitions filed challenging the Maharashtra Ordinance which introduced 27% OBC quota in the local body elections and the consequent notifications issued by the State Election Commission to give effect to the same.

The bench observed that the 27% OBC Quota could not have been implemented without setting up a commission and without collecting data regarding inadequacy of representation local government wise.

"Without setting up of commission to collect data local government wise, it is not open to the State Election Commission to provide for reservation of OBC category. That is the 1st step which ought to have been done", the bench observed in the order.

The bench ordered that the State Election Commission cannot be permitted to proceed with the election program already notified in respect of OBC reservation category.  The rest of the election program can proceed for other reserved seats including general category, the bench clarified.

The bench also ordered that the SEC shall not notify the reserved seats in the OBC category for mid term or other general elections as the case be till further orders.

Tomorrow is the last date for filing nominations for the local body. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh appeared for the petitioner and Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade appeared for the State Government.

The Court noted in the order that the State Government brought the Ordinance without following the triple tests laid down in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali v State Of Maharashtra and Ors LL 2021 SC 13 regarding reservation in local bodies. The triple tests are (1) establish a Commission to conduct rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the State;  (2) 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 (3) in any case such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

It may be recalled that in the Vikas Kishanrao Gawali case, the Supreme Court in March this year had struck down the 27% OBC reservation given under the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 on the ground that it resulted in the breach of 50% cap.

"Reservation in favour of OBCs in the concerned local bodies can be notified to the extent that it does not exceed aggregate 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together", the bench had noted in that case. Incidentally, that judgment was also delivered by Justice Khanwilkar.

Later, in September this year, the State Government brought the Ordinance to amend the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 and Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act for Zilla Parishads, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayats.

"Considering the SC decision, it is clear that the reservation for OBC communities in local bodies no longer exists. To provide representation to the OBC community, it has decided to reserve 27% seats for the (OBC) community without exceeding the 50% total reservation quota in the local bodies' as an alternative solution, hence, proposed the amendments in Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 and Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act. Since the state legislature is not in session and the governor is convinced with the urgency of the matter, this ordinance is promulgated", the State Government said while notifying the Ordinance.

This Ordinance and the election notifications were challenged in the writ petitions filed by Kisanrao Kundalikrao Gawali (Ex MLA and past president of Akola Zilla Parishad)  and Rahul Chetan Ramesh Wagh.

Considering these petitions, the bench led by Justice Khanwilkar observed that the Ordinance was brought to overcome the decisions of the Supreme Court. The bench did not accept the argument that the 27% OBC reservation is in accordance with the judgments of the Supreme Court.

"There were steps that were to be followed -constituting Commission, collection of  data  for municipal wise to provide reservation. Your political compulsions cannot be the basis to undo the judgement.  You suffer the consequences. if you had constituted the Commission, you should have waited for the data to be submitted. We are staying the elections of the reserved category. We don't want to complicate the same", Justice Khanwilkar orally told the State's counsel.

"As a matter of fact, the State Government has constituted a Commission vide Notification dated 29.06.2021... without waiting for its report and opinion, the State Government hastened the process by issuing Ordinance which clearly impinges upon the legal position expounded by the Constitution Bench of this Court and restated in subsequent 3 Judges decision in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali (supra).

As a result, the State Election Commission shall desist from proceeding with the Election Programme already notified in respect of reserved seats for "OBC category only", in the concerned local bodies.

The Election Programme in respect of all the local bodies across the State in respect of reserved seats for category Other Backward Class, shall remain stayed until further orders.

Rest of the Election Programme(s) can proceed for other reserved seats (viz., other than OBC), including general seats. The State Election Commission shall desist from notifying reserved seats for OBC category even in case of future elections to any local bodies — either mid-term or general elections, as the case may be, until further orders of this Court"

Arguments in the petitions

Details Of Writ Petition By Kisanrao Kundalikrao Gawali (Ex MLA and past president of Akola Zilla Parishad)

The petitioner argued that the State Government proceeded with the 27% data without procuring the data regarding backwardness. The petitioners pointed out that the State of Maharashtra has in fact filed another writ petition seeking raw data of OBCs from the Centre as per the 2011 Census.

"Admittedly, the triple test as laid down by this Hon' ble Court in the case of Vikas Kishanrao Gawali supra has not been followed and though a commission has been entrusted the task of conducting the contemporaneous rigorous enquiry, the same has not yet been completed. In Fact the State Government through Writ Petition (Civil) No. 841 of 2021 has in fact sought the raw data from the Union of India and the said petition is pending adjudication before this Hon'ble Court," the petition stated.
 Contending that the prescription of reservation through the amendments introduced by the ordinance to the Statutory Dispensation is contrary to the law laid down by the Top Court, the petitioner has sought relief for setting aside the notifications dated November 9, 2021, November 24, 2021 and November 26, 2021 (notifying the schedule for elections to 15 Panchayat Samitis in the Districts of Bhandara & Gondia and 105 Nagar Panchayats throughout the State respectively) issued by the State Election Commission.

Relief has also been sought to direct the Backward Class Commission, Maharashtra to furnish the details of the contemporaneous and rigorous inquiry and collection of empirical data done by it under the reference to it in terms of the dated June 29, 2021 issued by Other Backward Bahujan Welfare Department before the Top Court.

Details Of The Special Leave Petition By Rahul Ramesh Wagh

Preferred by Rahul Chetan Ramesh Wagh, the petition assailed the Bombay High Court's Interlocutory Order dated October 22, 2021 wherein the petition assailing the ordinance was adjourned for November 22, 2021.

It was argued that the provisions in the State Statutes made it crystal clear that reservation was to be provided based on the population of the concerned area.

"As such in case the constitutional reservation provided for SCs and STs were to consume the entire 50 percent of seats in the local bodies concerned and in some cases in Scheduled Area even beyond 50 per cent, in respect of such local bodies, the question of providing further reservation to OBCs would not arise at all. To put it differently, the quantum of reservation for OBCs ought to be local body specific and be so provisioned to ensure that it does not exceed the quantitative limitation of 50 per cent (aggregate) of vertical reservation of seats for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together," the petition stated.

It was further averred that the State Authorities were obliged to fulfil other preconditions before reserving seats for OBCs in the local bodies.

The SLP also stated that the foremost requirement was to collate adequate materials or documents that could help in identification of Backward Classes for the purpose of reservation by conducting a contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness in the local bodies concerned through an independent dedicated Commission established for that purpose.

"Thus, the State legislations cannot simply provide uniform and rigid quantum of reservation of seats for OBCs in the local bodies across the State that too without a proper enquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness by an independent Commission about the imperativeness of such reservation. At the same time, the reservation cannot be by way of a static arrangement and must be reviewed from time to time so as not to violate the principle of overbreadth of such reservation," petition further stated.

The petition(s) have been filed through Advocate On Record Chandra Prakash.

Click here to read/download the order



Next Story