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OBC quota only statutory, can’t breach 50% ceiling in local bodies, says SC

The judgment came on petitions challenging Section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, which mandated that the State should provide 27 per cent reservation to OBCs.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 5, 2021 8:27:08 am
The top court also quashed the EC notifications to the extent they provide for reservation of seats for OBCs.

RESERVATION FOR Other Backward Classes is only “statutory”, unlike the “constitutional” reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and the extent of reservation given to the former in local bodies cannot be such that it will take the total reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs beyond the 50 per cent ceiling, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi said in its judgment: “…the reservation for OBCs is only a ‘statutory’ dispensation to be provided by the State legislation unlike the ‘constitutional’ reservation regarding SCs/STs, which is linked to the proportion of population. As regards the State legislation providing for reservation of seats in respect to OBCs, it must ensure that in no case the aggregate vertical reservation in respect of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together should exceed 50 per cent of the seats in the concerned local bodies.”

“In case, constitutional reservation provided for SCs and STs were to consume the entire 50 per cent of seats in the concerned local bodies and in some cases in scheduled area even beyond 50 per cent, in respect of such local bodies, the question of providing further reservation to OBCs would not arise at all,” the bench said.

“To put it differently, the quantum of reservation for OBCs ought to be local body specific and be so provisioned to ensure that it does not exceed the quantitative limitation of 50 per cent (aggregate) of vertical reservation of seats for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together,” it said.

The judgment came on petitions challenging Section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, which mandated that the State should provide 27 per cent reservation to OBCs. The plea also questioned the Maharashtra State Election Commission notification providing for reservation exceeding 50 per cent in respect of Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis of Washim, Akola, Nagpur and Bhandara districts.

The court ruled that Section 12(2)(c) is an enabling provision and needs to be read down to mean that it may be invoked only upon complying with three conditions before notifying the seats as reserved for OBC category in the concerned local bodies.

The three conditions are (1) setting up of a dedicated Commission to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the State; (2) specifying the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body wise in light of recommendations of the Commission; and (3) in any case such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

The top court also quashed the EC notifications to the extent they provide for reservation of seats for OBCs. As a consequence, the election results of OBC candidates which had been made subject to the outcome of the writ petitions “are declared as non est in law”, the judgment said, adding that “the vacancy of seat(s) caused on account of this declaration be forthwith filled up by the State Election Commission…”.

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