Bombay HC sets aside quota in Goa municipal polls for constitutional breach
- The Bombay High Court at Goa directed the Director of Municipal Administration issue a fresh notification within 10 days ensuring reservation for women of not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved for direct elections to the Municipal Councils.
The Bombay High Court at Goa has quashed and set aside the notifications for reservations to five of the 11 municipal councils that are scheduled to go to polls later this month ruling that the reservations were arbitrary and without application of mind besides also violated the principles laid down in the constitution.
In a judgment pronounced on Monday while disposing a bunch of petitions which challenged various aspects of the notification issued by the State Director of Municipal Administration, the court ruled that the government erred in failing to ensure a minimum of 33% seats are reserved for women besides also pointed out to irregularities in reservations for other categories including for Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and other backward classes.
Instead the Court has directed that the Director of Municipal Administration issue a fresh notification within 10 days from Monday, thereby ensuring inter alia, reservation for women of not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved for direct elections to the Municipal Councils.
The elections which were scheduled for March 20 will have to be rescheduled for the five councils while the six others for which the order doesn't apply are expected to go ahead as scheduled. Municipal elections in Goa are not held on party lines.
The primary grouse of those who approached the High Court was that the Director of Municipal Administration failed to reserve ‘no less than’ 33% seats for women pointing out that the number of seats reserved for women was less than 33% largely because the state ‘rounded-off’ the fraction to the lower limit rather than the upper limit, which the court ruled could not be applicable.
“The expression used in the Constitution as well as in the Municipalities Act, being "not less than" or "no less than", make it clear that even a fraction cannot be ignored because by ignoring the same, the reservation would be minimized than 1/3rd and if it is done so, it would amount to infraction of the constitutional mandate,” the High Court bench of Justice M S Sonak and Bharati Dangre, ruled.
“The fraction even if it is created in calculating 1/3rd reservation cannot be permitted to be rounded off towards the earlier denomination and the normal principle for rounding off, which is based on logic and common sense; "if part is one half or more, its value shall be increased to one and if less than one half the value shall be ignored", cannot be made applicable here,” the High Court ruled.
“The Director after having admitted that there was no policy based on which the reservation has been made or rotation policy implemented, appears to have regarded the absence of such policy as a licence to make reservations based on his whims and caprices. Different yardsticks have been applied in respect of different Municipal Councils,” the High Court also said.
Opposition parties which had accused the government of malicious intent in the reservation policy have claimed that the verdict was a slap on the face of the Pramod Sawant-led government.
“With [the] High court striking down the Director of Municipal Administration Notification dated 4th February 2021 on Municipal Ward Reservations, It is [the] beginning of [the] End of @BJP4Goa Governments Jumla Raj with Manipulations in Electoral Polls. Let us all rise to Save Democracy,” Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat tweeted.
“Today all #Goans won the verdict of #truth. The BJP led government of @DrPramodPSawant has failed yet again to #cheat us #Goemkars. Today is a historic day. Today is a day of truth. Today marks another moment towards the end of @DrPramodPSawant oppressive reign. #SaveGoaNow,” Leader of the Goa Forward Party Vijai Sardesai tweeted soon after the verdict.