June 22, 2021 11:29:55 pm
The State Election Commission on Tuesday announced the dates for by-elections in five Zilla Parishads and 33 Panchayat Samitis, seats in which were rendered vacant following the Supreme Court’s March 4 order quashing OBC reservation in local bodies.
The development comes three weeks after the top court quashed the review petition the state government had filed urging it to cancel its March order, following which the OBC (Other Backward Class) seats in these local bodies were cancelled and converted into general category seats.
Now, the voting for the vacant 70 seats in five Zilla Parishads — Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim and Nagpur — and 130 seats in the 33 Panchayat Samitis in their jurisdiction will be held on July 19 and the counting will take place on July 20. The by-elections in Palghar Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samitis under it will be held at a later date, after improvement in the Covid situation there.
State election commissioner UPS Madan said elections for six Zilla Parishads and 44 Panchayat Samitis under their jurisdiction were held in January 2020. “The elections for the OBC seats were held conditional to the outcome of the SC decision. So, the apex court had also ordered the immediate cancellation of elections for OBC seats in 85 seats in these 6 Zilla Parishads and 144 seats in 37 Panchayat Samitis and (directed) to start the election process within two weeks to fill the vacancies from the general category,” said Madan.
He further said that after the OBC seats were converted into general following the SC order, a draw was held to keep 50 percent of seats reserved for women. However, the elections could not be held at that time in view of the Covid situation in the state.
“Based on the occupancy of the oxygen beds and Covid positivity rate, the Maharashtra government has made five levels of unlock plan for the state. Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim and Nagpur districts fall in the Level-1 category while Palghar is still in the Level-3 category. So, except for the election of vacancies in Palghar Zilla Parishad and its Panchayat Samitis, the Commission has announced the programme for by-elections in the rest of the local bodies concerned,” Madan added.
Notably, the announcement comes a day after OBC minister Vijay Wadettiwar said local body elections would not be held till the issue of OBC reservation is resolved. He had also claimed that his discussion with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in the regard had been positive.
In its order on March 4, the top court had asked the state government to comply with the triple conditions before notifying the seats reserved for OBC category. These included setting up “a dedicated Commission to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the State” to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the commission. It also stated that such reservation, in any case, shall not exceed the aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and OBC categories taken together.
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