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Karnataka govt fixed OBC quota for Bengaluru civic polls with imaginary data, says high court

The government fixed the OBC quota for the Bengaluru city council at 33 per cent of the 243 seats based on a report submitted on July 21 by a commission headed by former Karnataka High Court judge Justice Bhaktavatsala.

Karnataka High Court. (File photo)

The Karnataka government reserved 33 per cent of seats for other backward classes (OBC) in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council based on “imaginary data” and not through a scientific exercise, Karnataka High Court ruled in the course of a decision last week to quash an August 16 notification of the civic body quota matrix.

The government fixed the OBC quota for the Bengaluru city council at 33 per cent of the 243 seats based on a report submitted on July 21 by a commission headed by former Karnataka High Court judge Justice Bhaktavatsala.

The BJP government formed the commission to adhere to Supreme Court prescribed ‘triple test’ norms to reserve constituencies for OBC. The commission provided a report on the quota requirement a day before a Supreme Court hearing on a nearly two-year delay in the BBMP polls and the issue of OBC reservations.

The Justice Bhaktavatsala commission report was placed in the Supreme Court amid political apprehensions that it may order the conduct of civic polls in Bengaluru without OBC reservations as done in Maharashtra local body polls last year.

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The Karnataka High Court in its order on September 30 in a bunch of petitions against the quota matrix prescribed for the Bengaluru civic polls by the BJP government on August 16 ruled that the 33 per cent quota fixed for OBC was not based on real data.

The Justice Bhaktavatsala commission referred to data for urban and local body elections held in 1996, 2001, 2010, and 2015 to conclude that a large number of castes and communities “who come under the Category- A and B of Other Backward Classes are still socially and politically backward” and that “providing reservation of 1/3 rd (33 per cent)” is necessary.

The commission recommended 33 per cent reservations for forthcoming urban and local body polls in favour of OBCs and “to consider providing reservation of office of the mayor and the deputy mayor in BBMP in favour of persons belonging to other backward classes”.

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The Karnataka High Court ruled that the “conclusion arrived at by the commission of enquiry that 44.40 per cent of the total population of the state of Karnataka (including minorities) belongs to other backward classes is not based on any empirical data”.

The commission was required to conduct a rigorous investigation into the pattern of backwardness that acts as a barrier to political participation which is indeed quite different from patterns of disadvantages in the matter of access to education or employment. Such an exercise is not forthcoming from the report submitted by the commission of enquiry nor any material is placed by the state government that the commission of enquiry had conducted such an enquiry or the report was based on the empirical data furnished by the state government,” Justice Hemant Chandangoudar said in his order on Friday.

“The commission was required to find out which of the communities are backward in the local bodies across the state of Karnataka on the basis of empirical data and thereafter opine that providing reservation of 33 per cent of total seats in favour of OBCs including the minorities in the local bodies is justifiable,” the high court said.

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“The conclusion that large numbers of castes and communities come under the category of A and B of other backward classes and that they are still socially and politically backward is alleged to be based on the data pertaining to urban and local body elections held in the state of Karnataka in the year 1996, 2001, 2010 and 2015,” the high court observed.

“The conclusion that 44% of the state population consists of backward classes including minorities is imaginary and the same is contrary to the triple test enumerated in the case of K Krishnamurthy (by the Supreme Court),” the HC said.

“Hence, I am of the view that the notification issued by the state government providing reservation for backward classes on the basis of the report submitted by the commission of enquiry is contrary to the triple test set down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” the high court said.

First published on: 03-10-2022 at 01:15:56 pm
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