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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SC to Maharashtra: Submit OBC data to commission

The court was hearing an application filed by Maharashtra in view of its order staying election to seats reserved for OBC category in local body polls in the state, and directing that they be renotified as general category seats.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2022 7:20:35 am
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Reiterating that the triple test laid down by it to provide quota to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) has to be followed, Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to submit data available with it on OBCs to the state-appointed commission.

This, the court said, is to enable the commission to assess correctness of the data and make recommendations for representation of members of these classes in the state’s local bodies.

The court was hearing an application filed by Maharashtra in view of its order staying election to seats reserved for OBC category in local body polls in the state, and directing that they be renotified as general category seats.

On Wednesday, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar ordered that the triple test will have to be followed by states and Union Territories if they intend to conduct local body polls providing reservation for OBC category.

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“In case, the State or Union Territory is not in a position to fulfill the triple test requirement and the election to any of its local body cannot be postponed beyond the statutory period, the (State) Election Commission (concerned) ought to notify proportionate seats as open category seats, and proceed with the elections of the local bodies,” the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, ruled.

In December 2021, the SC had stayed elections to 27 per cent seats reserved for OBC category in local bodies in Maharashtra, concluding that the state government had not followed the mandatory triple test laid down by it before deciding to earmark the quota.

The triple test requirement is a three-pronged criterion set up by the top court in previous judgments to mandate OBC reservation. It requires the state to first set up a commission to conduct rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness qua local bodies, within the State.

Second, to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned per local body in light of recommendations of the panel, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth; and, third, that such reservation should not exceed aggregate 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

On December 15 last year, the court asked Maharashtra government and State Election Commission (SEC) to renotify 27 per cent seats reserved for OBCs as general category and hold elections to them along with those for the remaining 73 per cent.

On Wednesday, the SEC submitted a compliance report to the court, indicating that pursuant to its directions, election programmes in respect of seats, which were earlier notified as OBC category, have since been conducted as open seats and the results are likely to be notified by Thursday.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra also moved an application urging the SC to permit it to conduct the remaining elections on the basis of information/data already available with it on OBC category.

Hearing it Wednesday, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said, “Instead of examining the correctness of the data furnished by the State along with the application, the appropriate course for the State is to produce this data and further information as may be available before the State-appointed dedicated Commission.” This panel, the court said, can in turn examine the “correctness thereof” and, if required, make recommendation to the State.

On the basis of this, the court said, further steps can be taken by the State or the SEC, “as the case may be”.

The court, however, cautioned that “this, by itself, would not entail in full compliance of the triple test exercise”, which “in any case will have to be completed in terms of the decision of this Court…before providing for reservation of seats in the local Government for OBC category (concerned)”.

The court said that “the Commission may submit interim report, if so advised, to the concerned authorities within two weeks from the receipt of information/data from the State Government”.

Stating that it had not expressed any opinion either way in regard to the correctness of the information/data referred to in the interim application filed by Maharashtra, the SC said “it is for the Commission to examine the same and take appropriate view of the matter, as may be advised”.

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