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OBC communities may lose political reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

This may turn into a major political crisis for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) as the Other Backward Classes (OBC) is on the verge of losing political reservations in the local bodies of Maharashtra comprising municipal corporations, municipal councils, zilla parishads, gram panchayats etc
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 29, 2021 10:50 PM IST

This may turn into a major political crisis for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) as the Other Backward Classes (OBC) is on the verge of losing political reservations in the local bodies of Maharashtra comprising municipal corporations, municipal councils, zilla parishads, gram panchayats etc. This is because the Supreme Court has rejected the state government’s review petition concerning reservation to the OBCs. It has ruled that the reservation in favour of the OBC in local bodies should not result in exceeding the 50% cap in reservation quota determined by it.

Moreover, the Apex court directed the state government to appoint a commission to determine the backwardness and population of the OBC communities, based on which, the reservation quota should be fixed for them. However, it won’t be allowed to breach the 50% cap on reservation quota. This simply means no seat is going to be reserved for the OBC community in the upcoming local bodies at least for this year or until the state government completes the entire process.

This has upset the community who have threatened that the state government will have to face its consequences.

The community leaders are preparing to meet in the next two days to deliberate and decide the next course of action. They will also be seeking the appointment of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The review petition of the state government was quashed by the Supreme Court on Friday. The Apex court gave its verdict on March 4 following which the state had approached it for a review.

This is the second setback to the MVA government this month as on May 5, the Apex court had quashed 12% and 13% reservation in government jobs and admissions to the Maratha community through the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act. The state government, which is yet to decide its next course of action against the verdict, is now facing another blow over reservation to the OBC communities.

While reading down section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, the court on March 4 also quashed notifications issued by the State Election Commission (SEC) in 2018 and 2020 to the extent of providing seat reservation in local bodies concerned for OBCs.

Section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, provides a 27% quota for persons belonging to backward classes, which was challenged in the court of law.

The legislation for the local bodies in Maharashtra provides reservation to the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) communities based on their population in those particular bodies, whereas in the case of OBC this data is not available as their last census was conducted in 1931.

Referring to a constitutional bench verdict passed in K Krishna Murthy versus Union of India in 2010, the Apex court has said, “It was imperative for the state to set up a dedicated commission to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness and on the basis of recommendations of that commission take follow up steps including to amend the existing dispensation such as to amend section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961.”

While doing so it further ordered that in any case, such reservation shall not exceed an aggregate of 50 per cent of the total reserved quota favouring SC, ST and OBC communities.

State election commissioner UPS Madan said that the Supreme Court verdict is going to be applicable for all the local bodies including urban and rural. “The only thing is they will become applicable only when fresh elections are to be conducted. It means the verdict would be applicable for the upcoming elections of local bodies. It also means no seat can be reserved for OBC communities until the state government completes the entire process of setting up a commission, who will go into details of OBC communities and then come up with recommendations on which local bodies should have how much OBC reservation,” the election commissioner said.

He further clarified even after that the combined reservation of SC, ST and OBC communities will not be allowed to exceed the 50% limit.

Five major municipal corporations are going to polls in 2021 and ten other corporations and 27 district councils are going to poll this year.

The Apex court in its March 4 order also observed that the reservation given to the OBC communities is not mandated by the Constitution unlike SC and ST and thus it should be reduced wherever the total reservation quota exceeds 50% limit. “This is the reason the OBC community will be at the receiving end as they were getting 27% reservation as per state legislation. Thus even after the entire process is completed the communities will not be able to get 27% reservation in all those local bodies where SC and ST have more population,” said an official from the state election commission.

“We are going to pay a big price for the mistakes of this government. If the state government had taken immediate measures soon after the March 4 verdict then this situation may not have arisen. We have requested them to get the case deferred unless the entire process of setting up the commission and its study is completed. However, they chose to ignore it and the political future of the community has been pushed into the darkness,” said Chandrakant Bavkar, president, OBC Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti.

“The state government will have to face the consequences as it is giving step-motherly treatment to the OBCs and preferential treatment to the Maratha community. All this is going to be discussed in a meeting to decide the next move in the next two days,” he alleged.

State Nationalist Congress Party minister and a prominent OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal said that they have to look into details of the verdict. “I have yet to read the order. The issue was related to the areas having a tribal population in the majority. We will look into the details and take necessary steps,” Bhujbal said.

He further said they have been demanding a census of the OBC community by the census commissioner to understand what is the population of their community and what are they getting in terms of reservation.

Meanwhile, leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis wrote a letter to the chief minister for appointing a commission to study backwardness of the OBC communities. He also said that the OBC communities have lost their political reservation owing to the incompetency of this government. “The state government showed no seriousness for OBC reservation. It sought to postpone the hearing eight times in the last 15 months. In one of the hearings, SC has clearly said about setting up a commission to justify the 27% OBC reservation but they did nothing except filing a review petition. With this decision in place, OBC communities will not get a single seat reserved in all the local bodies across the state,” Fadnavis said in his letter.

He pointed out raising the issue in a meeting with the chief minister on March 5 and later sending a reminder but the government took no action on the matter.

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