Centre seeks recall of SC order de-notifying OBC seats

ByAbraham Thomas, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dec 28, 2021 04:03 AM IST

The Centre’s application for recall was filed on Sunday days after Madhya Pradesh moved a similar plea earlier last week

The Centre has sought recall of the Supreme Court’s December 17 order making empirical data a must for the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in local bodies. 

 (File photo)
(File photo)

It has requested the court to suspend the local body elections in Madhya Pradesh, where the reserved OBC seats were de-notified as per the order, for four months. 

The Centre has suggested the state’s backward classes commission will during the suspension period submit a report in line with the court’s previous orders for the quota. 

The process will involve setting up an independent commission, preparation of seat-wise data on the backwardness of OBCs, and allocation of quota in each assembly segment while ensuring the total reservation does not exceed the 50% cap.

The Centre’s application for recall was filed on Sunday days after Madhya Pradesh moved a similar plea earlier last week. It is expected to be heard after the court reopens on January 3.

In a separate application, the Union social justice and empowerment ministry also sought to be impleaded in the proceedings before the court. 

The ministry said the December 17 order has pan-India ramifications and it deprived OBCs of their constitutionally guaranteed rights of political representation.

The order under challenge was passed without hearing the Centre.

In its plea, the Centre said, “The upliftment of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes has been the utmost priority of the Union Government and any inadequate representation of OBCs in local self-government defeats the very object, intent, and purpose of the very idea of the de-centralisation of power and taking governance to the grassroots level.”

It added the issues raised in the present petition are of great public importance and have a pan-India ramification on the issue of implementation of OBC reservations in the elections throughout the country.

The court’s order came when the election process in Madhya Pradesh was going on with the allocation of seats for OBCs. The court directed these seats to be re-notified as general category seats.

The Centre argued any intervention at this stage would deprive the OBC community of the quota for five long years. It added five years is not a short period and will cause “grave prejudice to the backward class citizens.”

As a temporary solution, the Centre suggested the suspension of the election process while asking the commission to submit its report in three months. 

“Till such time, the administrator can function who can hand over the charge to the newly elected person/body who will be elected with the provision of OBC reservation,” the application said.

The Supreme Court judgments prescribed the triple test for the quota in the K Krishnamurthy case (2010) and Vikas Kishanrao Gawli case (2021).

In its plea, the state government cited the constitutional bar on the court from interfering in the reservation of seats in local bodies. 

“The conversion of seats reserved for OBC into general seats (in the Panchayat elections) when the electoral process had already begun is contrary to the constitutional mandate under Article 243O of the Constitution.”

OBCs account for around 51% of the state’s population.

“It would cause (a) grave miscarriage of justice if more than half of the total population of the state would have no reserved seats in the Panchayat elections,” the state government said.

In its December 17 order, the court requested Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to impress upon the state election commissions to strictly adhere to the triple test, the pre-condition before notifying reservation of seats for OBCs in the local bodies.

The Centre, in its plea, informed the court that a detailed advisory has been sent in this regard to all state governments requiring them to comply with the binding judicial pronouncements. 

At the same time, it said the order of the court could lead to adverse impacts, citing the aspirations of the OBC community.

“Such inadequate representation or non-representation deprives the voters belonging to OBC community to elect one amongst them to the elected offices. It is humbly submitted that the same is strictly contrary to the object, intent, and purpose of the constitutional scheme.”

The December 17 order was passed in the context of local body elections notified in Madhya Pradesh on December 4. 

Earlier, the court passed a similar order with regard to civic body elections in Maharashtra, where the triple test was applied and OBC seats were re-notified under the general category. 

A petition citing this order was filed in the Madhya Pradesh high court for staying the election process for OBC seats. 

The high court on December 9 declined to interfere pursuant. It prompted the petitioner Manmohan Nagar to move top court.

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