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Bengaluru civic polls: Karnataka HC said women quota skewed, bulk of it in Opp seats

Court quashed reservation, sought new notification; Cong said meant to rob it of the chance to win wards in the corporation

The single-judge order quashed the notification on the grounds of it being “unscientific” on two fronts -- the quota fixed for OBCs and the seats set aside for women. (File)

The Karnataka High Court has held that the BJP government reserved seats for women in the Bengaluru city council in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner, with a skew towards more such seats in municipal wards under Assembly constituencies held by the Congress and fewer for those falling in BJP constituencies.

The court said the same in a September 30 order by it, quashing a notification issued by the Karnataka government on August 16 regarding reservation matrix for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

The single-judge order quashed the notification on the grounds of it being “unscientific” on two fronts — the quota fixed for OBCs and the seats set aside for women.

The quota matrix fixed by the Karnataka government had been challenged by as many as 17 petitions in court.

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In its order, the high court noted that the quota for women did not take into account local population data. “The ratio of wards reserved for general (category) and women in constituencies held by the ruling party is 1:1.9, and in constituencies held by Opposition, the ratio is 1:2.6,” the court said, holding the government order of August 16 “arbitrary” and “skewed”.

Of the total 28 Assembly constituencies in Bengaluru, 15 are held by the BJP and 13 by the Opposition (12 of these by the Congress and 1 by the JDS). The newly reconstituted BBMP has 243 wards, of which 145 fall in the 15 Assembly constituencies held by the BJP, and 98 in the Opposition-held seats. As per the August 16 notification, 50 wards in the 15 BJP constituencies were to be reserved for women, compared to 71 in Opposition seats.

“The aforesaid details clearly indicate that the reservation of wards for women is arbitrary,” the court said. It directed the BJP government “to redo the exercise of providing reservations (posts) to women for elections to the councillors of BBMP by allocating seats in the descending order with respect to the wards having a greater percentage of the population of women”.

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In his September 30 order, Justice Hemant Chandangoudar said: “The object of providing reservations to women is to encourage women to participate in political issues and have equal rights to contest the election to… BBMP… The reservation of a majority of the wards for women in particular constituencies will deprive the women of other constituencies having larger populations of women from participating in political issues.”

The judge also noted that the state government had not framed any guidelines for giving reservations to women in BBMP, although a March 10, 2021, notification had framed rules for a quota for SCs/STs in taluks and zilla panchayats on a rotational basis. As per the rules, seats are to be reserved for women on the basis of their population in a constituency.

The court said that a July 30, 2022, notification, further, framed rules for allotment of reservations to SCs/STs “in descending order with respect to wards having greater percentages of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.

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“However, there is no criteria fixed for providing horizontal reservation to women, and the government has stated that it has adopted randomization for allotment of seats to women and backward classes, since the elections to BBMP after it was constituted under the BBMP Act, 2020, are to be held for the first time.”

The government had put out the draft notification on the quota matrix for BBMP polls on August 3. This was done in view of the Supreme Court direction to the state on July 28 to declare ward-wise reservations for BBMP within a week to facilitate long-delayed polls to the corporation.

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The ground report

Of the total 28 constituencies, 15 are held by BJP and 13 by Opposition (12 of these by Congress and 1 by JDS). The newly reconstituted BBMP has 243 wards, of which 145 fall in 15 Assembly segments held by BJP, and 98 in Opposition-held seats. As per August 16 notification, 50 wards in the 15 BJP segments were to be reserved for women against 71 in Opposition seats.

The Supreme Court issued the order after the Karnataka government told the court that the process of delimitation of constituencies had been completed and that a commission to decide quotas for OBCs had provided its report on July 21.

Soon after the draft notification was out, the Congress had staged a protest at the Secretariat. “There seems to be an effort to rob Congress leaders of the opportunity to win city council polls. We will fight the move legally and democratically,” state Congress chief D K Shivakumar said.

Congress working president Ramalinga Reddy said: “The reservation matrix has been created without any established guidelines. There are guidelines on which constituencies should be reserved for women, backward classes, SCs and STs. They have carried out the reservation exercise as per their whims and fancies.”

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Defending the matrix, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the Congress protests were a case of the pot calling the kettle black. “The Congress also did the same when they were in power. They should introspect. We all know what happened in each constituency,” he said, suggesting that the Congress arranged a quota for civic polls with the interests of its leaders in mind too, rather than public interest.

The High Court has directed the state to come up with a final notification providing reservations to SC/STs, OBCs and women “on or before 30.11.2022”, and for “the Karnataka State Election Commission to complete the election process within 30 days from the date of publication of final notification”.

First published on: 03-10-2022 at 07:18:41 pm
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