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SC stays OBC quota in local body polls in Maharashtra

Context:

The Supreme Court stayed the local body election in seats reserved for Other Backward Class (OBC) in Maharashtra.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About OBC reservation in local bodies
  2. What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?
  3. What do OBC leaders say now?
  4. About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

About OBC reservation in local bodies

  • The Maharashtra government set up a 27 percent quota in local bodies for OBCs in 1994.
  • The 27 percent reservation was applicable to all urban (Municipal Corporations, Councils and Nagar Panchayat) and rural bodies (Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat) across the state.
  • In Maharashtra, the OBCs include the Denotified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category.
  • This quota for OBCs increased their representation in rural and urban local bodies.

What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?

  • As per the Mandal Commission report, the last caste-wise census was conducted in 1931 and it was later discontinued.
  • Based on the data from the 1931 census, the Mandal commission worked out the OBC population to be 52 per cent and recommended a 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in view of the SC judgment limiting reservation up to 50 per cent.
  • There was already a 22.5 per cent reservation for SC and ST categories.
  • The Mandal Commission report recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs and promotions along with others.
  • The report gave momentum to OBC leaders and the community’s demand for a caste-wise census of OBC.

What do OBC leaders say now?

  • There has been a mixed response from the OBC leaders to the SC verdict, with some welcoming it while others lamenting on losing reservation.
  • Some say it will pave the way for conducting the OBC census in the state.
  • So far, there was no data about the OBC population and our demand for the OBC census for the last 30 years have fallen on deaf ears.
  • With this SC order, the state has to conduct the census now.
  • Else, there will be no OBC reservation in the local bodies polls and the ruling parties will have to pay a huge price for it.

About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

  • The SC said that even in other future elections to Maharashtra’s local bodies, be it mid-term or general elections, the State Election Commission has to “desist from notifying reserved seats for OBC category” until further orders of the Supreme Court.
  • The seemingly indefinite stay was ordered after the court came to know that the 27% reservation was introduced through the ordinance without any empirical data to substantiate the claim for or extent of reservation.
  • The court said a “triple test” has to be followed before deciding on the extent of quota to a category:
    1. Firstly, a dedicated Commission needs to be set up to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness as regards local bodies within the State;
    2. Secondly, there is a need to 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
    3. Thirdly, reservation should not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
  • Though Maharashtra had set up a Commission in June 2021 to collect empirical data, the court noticed that the State did not wait for the panel to come up with a report.
  • The court noted in its order that setting up the Commission and collating contemporaneous empirical data to ascertain the extent of reservation required to be provided local body-wise were both mandatory.

-Source: The Hindu

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December 2022
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