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Explained: Supreme Court’s OBC data order and its impact on Maharashtra local body polls

What directions has the Supreme Court given to the Maharashtra government regarding OBC data? What does this mean for the MVA government and the upcoming local bodies polls?

Written by Vishwas Waghmode , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: January 20, 2022 1:41:49 pm
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray along with NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar, File)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to submit data on Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to the Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Classes (MSCBC) to examine its correctness and make recommendations on their representation in elections for the local bodies.

What does this mean for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the OBC community and for the upcoming local bodies polls?

What are the directions given by the Supreme Court to Maharashtra?

The Supreme Court directed the Maharashtra government to submit data on OBCs to the MSCBC to examine its correctness and make recommendations on their representation in elections for the local bodies. The apex court also directed the MSCBC to submit the interim report to the authorities concerned in two weeks of receiving information from the state government.

What does this mean for MVA govt and upcoming local bodies polls?

The SC’s order on Wednesday has come as a relief to the MVA government which has been fighting to restore the OBC quota in the local bodies after the apex court read it down on March 4 last year. Experts said that the SC’s order on Wednesday has increased the chances of restoring the OBC quota in the upcoming local bodies polls.

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Stating that the SC has given some relief to the government, Chhagan Bhujbal, NCP minister and senior OBC leader said, “The SC has sought a report on our data, which was submitted before the SC, through the commission. The commission will examine the data and will give us a report which will be submitted before the SC. Certainly, there is a ray of hope for us.”

Sources in the government said that this is for the first time that SC has not outrightly rejected the state’s plea and has directed the state to submit data to the MSCBC commission. “After the SC read down the OBC quota on March 4 asking the state to comply with triple tests, it also rejected the state’s review petition in June last year and also gave a stay on the government’s ordinance to give up to 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs. This is for the first time the SC asked the state to give data to the commission that will give a report in two weeks,” said a senior leader of the Maha Vikas Aghadi.

The elections to the 14 municipal corporations including Mumbai and 26 Zila Parishads in the state are likely to be held in the next few months.

What is the way ahead now?

Bhujbal said that the government would now make a request to the MSCBC after the SC order. “We will provide all the data and the information available with the previous commissions to the commission. We will request them to give us an interim report. We are making efforts to avoid the loss of the OBC community in the upcoming elections,” he added.

Sources said that the government data includes the various surveys of the state’s rural development department and urban development department carried out in the local bodies for poverty alleviation, health and education sectors. The government is likely to refer to the data of the previous backward classes commission and the census 2011 data as well, said sources.

Hari Narke, a former member of MSCBC said that the Supreme Court has given a huge relief to the OBC community and the state government. “Though Wednesday’s SC decision is temporary, it has increased the possibility of restoring the OBC reservation in the upcoming local bodies polls. I am sure that the MSCBC will give its interim report in two weeks as per SC order,” said Narke

He further said that the government should ensure proper coordination with the MSCBC and the SEC and should work together to restore the OBC quota in the local bodies.

Why did SC read down the OBC quota in local bodies?

In its order on March 4 last year, the Supreme Court, while reading down the OBC reservation in local bodies, asked the state government to comply with triple conditions — setting up a dedicated commission for collecting empirical data on the OBC population, specifying the proportion of reservation and ensuring that the cumulative share of reserved seats don’t breach 50 per cent of total seats.

Following the SC order, the government appointed the dedicated commission for empirical data of OBCs and also promulgated an ordinance to give up to 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs in local bodies without exceeding the 50 per cent ceiling limit of the reservation. However, the apex court stayed it in December, saying it cannot be implemented without the empirical data, and asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to convert the OBC seats into the general category and hold the elections.

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