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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Delay in BBMP, local polls: SC order forces Karnataka to reconsider

The term of the 198-member BBMP ended in September 2020, while that of 1,098 zila panchayat members and 3,903 taluk panchayat members across the state ended in March 2021.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 11, 2022 9:30:02 am
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, bbmp, basavaraj bommai, Bengaluru news, Bengaluru, Indian express, Indian express news, Karnataka newsKarnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai (File)

An order by the Supreme Court Tuesday directing state election commissions to hold polls for local bodies whose terms have come to an end is set to have a bearing on long delayed polls for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), taluk, and zila panchayat polls in Karnataka.

The term of the 198-member BBMP ended in September 2020, while that of 1,098 zila panchayat members and 3,903 taluk panchayat members across the state ended in March 2021.

The term of the 198-member BBMP ended in September 2020, while that of 1,098 zila panchayat members and 3,903 taluk panchayat members across the state ended in March 2021.

The BJP government has not cleared the elections for these local bodies, citing a Supreme Court order mandating the fixing of quota for Other Backward Castes in local bodies only on the basis of an empirical study of the backwardness of communities in the OBC category.

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“I have heard the Supreme Court has issued directions to the state election commissions. We have to see what decision is taken by the election commission. The SC order applies to all states and local bodies and we will discuss with the state election commission and do as it says,” said Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai.

“We will study the issue thoroughly. We have already informed the law department. The AG is out of town and will return soon and he will also be asked to study the matter,” Bommai said, adding: “We are ready for the elections.”

However, the Congress party in Karnataka has accused the ruling BJP of causing an injustice to backward castes in the state by delaying local body elections for over a year and creating a situation where polls have to now be held without seats reserved for the nearly 33 per cent OBC category. “OBC candidates will now contest as general category candidates. This injustice has been caused by the BJP decision to delay local polls in Karnataka,” Congress working president Ramalinga Reddy said.

The Karnataka government issued an order on May 8 for creation of a commission headed by a retired HC judge to conduct a study on suitable political representation for backward classes.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that “the declaration of election program cannot be delayed by the Election Commission” by citing studies to obtain empirical data on backward castes or on account of delimitation exercises.

Delays in holding elections “would inevitably result in creating hiatus situation upon expiry of 5 (five) years term of the outgoing elected body. Such an eventuality needs to be eschewed by all the duty holders. A priori, it is not only a constitutional obligation of the State Election Commission but also of the State Government including of the constitutional Courts,” the SC said.

“We also make it clear that this order and directions given are not limited to the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission/State of Madhya Pradesh; and Maharashtra State Election Commission/State of Maharashtra in terms of a similar order passed on 04.05.2022, but to all the States/Union Territories and the respective Election Commission to abide by the same without fail to uphold the constitutional mandate,” said a three judge bench of the top court.

On January 19, 2022, the Supreme Court had ordered that all states in the country must follow the triple test condition laid down by the court in a March 2021 order to facilitate OBC reservations.

“In case, the State or the Union Territory is not in a position to fulfil the triple test requirement and the election to any of its local body cannot be postponed beyond the statutory period, the concerned (State) Election Commission ought to notify proportionate seats as open category seats, and proceed with the elections of the local bodies,” the Supreme Court said in its January order.

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