Supreme Court paves way for conducting UP civic polls with OBC quota
The Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for holding urban local body polls in Uttar Pradesh with reservation for the other backward classes, after it was convinced that the state followed the mandatory triple test criteria.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for holding urban local body polls in Uttar Pradesh with reservation for the other backward classes (OBCs), after it was convinced that the state followed the mandatory triple test criteria.
The court allowed the state election commission (SEC) to issue a notification in this regard in two days. Uttar Pradesh joins a string of states such as Madhya Pradesh in instituting backward quota in local polls.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud WENT through a report of the UP State Local Bodies Dedicated Backward Classes Commission, set aside the Allahabad high court’s decision of December 27 that stayed the state’s decision to issue a notification for the civic polls with OBC quotas.
The commission submitted its report to the state government on March 9.
“…The process of notifying the local body elections is going on and will be done in two days. The plea is disposed of. The direction in this order is not to be used as precedent,”
said the bench, also comprising justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala.
“This court, in an order dated January 4, 2023, noted that in view of the decisions of this court, the government of Uttar Pradesh issued a notification for setting up the Uttar Pradesh Backward Classes Commission in December 2022. Though the tenure of the commission was six months, it was to complete its task by March 31, 2023.”
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, informed the court that in its report running into 3,000 pages, the state panel had done a comprehensive exercise by gathering empirical data for quantifying the extent of backwardness local body-wise.
The state fulfilled the triple test laid down by a 2010 Constitution bench of the top court that mandated three essential steps to be fulfilled before allowing OBC reservation, Mehta added.
The triple test requires setting up a panel to hold a “rigorous empirical inquiry” into the nature of the “backwardness” in the context of the local bodies, specifying the proportion of reservation based on the commission’s recommendations, and ensuring that it does not exceed the overall 50% quota limit set by the top court.
“Accepting the report of the OBC Commission by the Honorable Supreme Court, the order to conduct urban body elections with OBC reservation is welcome,” Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath tweeted. “Following the rules of reservation in a lawful manner, the Government of Uttar Pradesh is committed to conduct urban body elections in a time-bound manner.”
On December 29 last year, the UP government moved the top court challenging an order passed by the Allahabad high court, quashing the government’s December 5 draft notification which provided for reservation of seats for OBCs apart from those for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women. The state said OBCs are a constitutionally protected section and the high court erred in quashing the draft notification.
The Lucknow bench of the high court had also ordered that the state government should notify the polls “immediately” as the term of several municipalities would end by January 31.
On January 4, the Supreme Court partially stayed the high court decision. “The direction of the high court, which mandates the holding of elections to local bodies in Uttar Pradesh without reserving seats for Backward Classes of citizens will result in a violation of the constitutional and statutory requirements of reservation for the OBCs...Prima facie, the high court is not correct in prioritising one over the other and directing the holding of elections without the provision of representation for the Backward Classes,” the apex court had said.
A day after the HC order, the UP government constituted a five-member backward classes commission to overcome the hurdle posed by the verdict. The panel was headed by Justice (retd) Ram Avtar Singh, a former Allahabad high court judge.
Not convinced by the “constitutional vacuum” created as a result of the high court’s order, the Supreme Court in its January 4 order added, “Democratising the municipalities and true representation in the composition of the municipalities under Article 243T are both constitutional mandates. When a constitutional court is called upon to review the decisions of the state in this context, it must ensure that both these values are given full effect so that truly representative and vibrant local bodies contemplated under Part IXA of the Constitution are realised.”