No OBC quota in panchayat election, rules Orissa high court

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There will be no reservation for backward classes in the forthcoming three-tier panchayat elections to comply with the recent directions of the Supreme Court and the Orissa high court.

Citing two recent Supreme Court orders issued on December 6 and 17, the Orissa high court on Wednesday said, “There can be no reservation yet provided for BCCs (backward class citizens) in the post of sarpanches in Odisha in the elections to be held. It is inevitable, therefore, for the government of Odisha to re-work the draft notification for holding of elections to the panchayats, panchayat samitis and Zilla Parishads in 2022.”

The SC had stayed other backward class (OBC) reservations in local bodies elections in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh stating that “triple test” have to be followed for OBC quota – set up a dedicated commission to conduct rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness, specify proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the commission and ensure reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.

“Without setting up the commission and collating contemporaneous empirical data to ascertain the extent of reservation required to be provided local body-wise, it is not open for the State Election Commission to provide reservation for OBC category despite the statutory provision in that regard,” the Supreme Court had said on December 6 while hearing a case (Rahul Ramesh Wagh vs The State of Maharashtra & others).

“Though Odisha had formed an OBC commission (in February 2020), the second test of the commission, making recommendations specifying the percentage of reservations to be made after collecting data, has not been fulfilled till date,” the high court bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice A K Mohapatra observed.
A government officer said the state will go ahead with the panchayat elections without OBC quota by reworking the ward-wise and post-wise reservations by January 7.

“The poll notification as well as the polling may get delayed by around one week to 10 days from its original schedule,” a state election commission official said.
To accommodate quotas for OBCs in the elections for panchayat and urban local bodies, the state has passed the Odisha Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and Odisha Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, while keeping the overall quota in local body elections within 50%.

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