Maharashtra Backward Caste Quota In Local Polls On Hold By Supreme Court

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In a setback for the Maharashtra government, the Supreme Court has put on hold the 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in state’s local body elections. The court has directed the state election commission not to proceed with election process on the 27 per cent reserved seats for the OBC candidates.

The court was hearing a plea challenging the Maharashtra Ordinance which introduced 27 per cent OBC quota in the local body elections and the consequent notifications issued by the State Election Commission to give effect to the same.

The top court has said the quota cannot be implemented without setting up a commission and collecting data regarding inadequacy of representation in the local government. Rest of the election program can proceed for other reserved seats, including general category, it added.

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided in its cabinet meeting that it would bring an ordinance to grant OBC quota in the upcoming by-elections to a set of local governing bodies without crossing the Supreme Court-mandated 50 per cent cap on reservation.

The court pointed out that the Maharashtra government brought the ordinance without following the triple tests.

The triple tests are – 1. Establish a Commission to conduct rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the state; 2. 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. In any case such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

The Supreme Court in March this year had read down the OBC quota in some local governing bodies in the state citing non-availability of empirical data to substantiate the reservation percentage. It had observed that total reservation should not exceed 50 per cent.

OBCs used to get 27 per cent reservation in electoral wards of municipal bodies and zilla parishads (district councils).

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