The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government and State Election Commission (SEC) to renotify the 27 per cent seats reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the local body polls and hold elections to them along with the polls to the remaining 73 per cent.
On December 6, the SC had stayed the elections to the 27 per cent reserved seats, stating that the decision to earmark the quota was done without following the mandatory triple-test laid down by it to determine and address backwardness.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said there is no reason to modify the December 6 order but added “the hiatus cannot continue for an indefinite period”.
The court, in past judgments, laid out a triple test to be followed before provisioning reservation for OBC category. These are: set up a commission to conduct rigorous empirical inquiry into nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies; specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body wise in light of recommendations of the Commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth; and in any case such reservation shall not exceed 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
“In other words, the SEC must issue fresh notification for the remaining 27 per cent seats reserved for OBC as general category and commence election process for them along with remaining 73 percent which is on its way…,” ordered the bench, also comprising Justice C T Ravikumar.
It said the SEC must declare results of both polls simultaneously. “Counting and final results of both… must be together and declared on one day local body-wise,” it said, adding that “these directions would apply to by-elections”. The court also transferred to itself any plea pending before the High Court on the same matter. It said if any direction has been passed by the High Court, it shall also stand modified.
Though the Maharashtra government proposed that the entire election process be stayed and the Commission appointed by it be given three months to complete the process of data collection to fulfill the triple test, the court did not agree.
Staying the polls in the 27 per cent category on December 6. the court noted that though the state government had constituted a Commission through a notification dated June 29, “however, without waiting for its report and opinion, the state government hastened the process by issuing Ordinance which clearly impinges upon the legal position expounded by the Constitution Bench of this court and restated in subsequent… decision…”