No change in reservation for local body bypolls: Maharashtra SEC
Even as the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has decided to promulgate an ordinance to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBC) in local bodies without breaching the 50% cap mandated by the Supreme Court, it is unlikely to be applicable for the bypolls declared by the state election commission (SEC) in six zilla parishads on October 5. State election commissioner UPS Madan on Thursday said they are holding elections following the directives of the Apex court and that too under open category. He added that any change in the category can be made only by the Apex court only.
It means the trouble over OBC reservation of the MVA government is far from over and they will have to approach the Apex court in this regard.
“Any change in the bypolls has to be done at the directions of the Supreme Court because it has directed us to hold the bypolls based on open category candidates. If there is any change for whatever reason, the direction has to come from the SC. We are following their directives and cannot change it on our own,” Madan told HT, hinting that the state government needs to approach the SC if it wants reservation to be implemented.
He also clarified that for the local body elections due early next year, they will have to take a legal opinion to ascertain if the ordinance applies to them or not. “We have to check its legal validity. The ordinance is yet to be issued. Once we get it, we will take a legal view, but as far as the bypolls are concerned, the situation is very clear,” he said.
More than 15 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane; 29 of the 36 district councils; and over 90 municipal councils will go for polls over the next one year. The election bandwagon to these local bodies in such a huge number is considered as the “mini assembly polls”.
On Wednesday, the state government decided to promulgate an ordinance to make amendment in the legislations to provide reservation to the OBC community in local bodies without breaching the 50% reservation cap mandated by the SC. The state rural development department will issue an ordinance to bring amendment in two legislations — Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, and Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act for zilla parishads, panchayat samiti and gram panchayats.
After the amendments, Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities will continue to get the reservation quota based on their population in the local bodies while the OBC community will get the remaining percentage within the 50% ceiling.
Ulhas Bapat, a constitutional expert, said that the provisions of the ordinance cannot be implemented in the bypolls, and even the court cannot interfere during the election process. “In my view, the SEC will not accept it as they have already announced bypolls. It has all the rights and the state government cannot interfere. Even the court cannot interfere when the election process is declared. After the bypolls, its validity can be challenged in the court of law,” Bapat said.
He further said that the ordinance can also be challenged in the high court and there could be no future to it. “This ordinance can be challenged in the high court because all the other legal aspects for providing reservation to a community such as empirical data and approval by the state backward classes commission will have to be considered,” Bapat said.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said SEC should see the issue in the perspective of no injustice to any community. “SEC is an autonomous body and is free to take decisions on its own. They will have to see that no community is deprived of their rights, and if they work with this perspective then something good can be expected,” Pawar told reporters.
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unit chief Chandrakant Patil has slammed the Thackeray government and said if the ordinance could not stand in the court of law then the OBC community will feel cheated. “The MVA government has done nothing to follow the Apex court directives and restore OBC reservation. While scrapping the OBC quota in March, it had asked them to collect empirical data to determine the quota of the community. The ordinance should have been issued four months ago. If the ordinance could not stand in the SC then the move will be like throwing dust in the eyes of OBC community,” Patil said.
On March 4, the SC ruled that the reservation in favour of OBCs in local bodies should not result in exceeding the 50% cap in reservation quota mandated by it. It has directed the state government to appoint a dedicated commission for collecting empirical data, based on which the reservation quota of the community be fixed. The SC also allowed the SEC to hold local body polls without reservations for OBCs.
The state government has filed a writ petition in the Apex court seeking Socio Economic Caste Census, 2011 data from the Centre. The next hearing is going to be held on September 23.