OBC quota: SC to hear on Jan 4 UP's plea against HC order quashing urban local body poll notification
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on January 4 the Uttar Pradesh government's appeal challenging an Allahabad High Court order quashing its draft notification on urban local body elections and directing it to hold the polls without reservation for other backward classes.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, saying the matter needed an urgent hearing.
The law officer said the Allahabad High Court has ordered the authorities to conduct elections without the OBC reservation and sought it to be heard urgently. "We will take it the day after tomorrow," the bench said.
Earlier, the state government had moved the top court with its appeal against the December 27 order of the high court. The plea said the high court cannot quash the December 5 draft notification which provided for reservation of seats in the urban civic body polls for other backward classes (OBCs) apart from those for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women.
The appeal, filed through advocate on record Ruchira Goel, said the OBCs are a constitutionally protected section and the high court erred in quashing the draft notification.
The Uttar Pradesh government recently appointed a five-member commission for going into the entire gamut of issues for providing reservation to the OBCs in the urban local body polls.
The panel will be headed by Justice (Retd) Ram Avtar Singh. The four other members are retired Indian Administrative Service officers Chaub Singh Verma and Mahendra Kumar, and former legal advisors to the state Santosh Kumar Viskarma and Brajesh Kumar Soni.
The Lucknow bench of the high court had ordered that the state government notify the polls "immediately" as the term of several municipalities would end by January 31, while annulling the December 5 draft notification.
The court had directed the state election commission to hold the elections by January 31 after transferring the OBC seats in the draft notification to the general category.
The HC order had come on the pleas challenging the preparation of the OBC reservation draft without following the "triple test" formula prescribed by the Supreme Court.
The triple test requires setting up a commission to hold a "rigorous empirical inquiry" into the nature of the "backwardness" in the context of the local bodies, specifying the proportion of reservation based on the commission's recommendations, and ensuring that it does not exceed the overall 50 per cent quota limit.
The high court had held the triple test condition formulated by the Supreme Court 11 years ago mandatory.
"Until the triple test is completed in all respects by the state government, no reservation for Backward Class of citizens shall be provided," the order said.
It had said the term of the municipal bodies in the state has either ended or shall end by January 31, 2023.
Since the process of meeting the triple test is "arduous and is likely to take considerable time", it had directed the state government and the state election Commission to notify the elections "immediately" without the OBC quota.
On the reason for immediate notification of the elections, it cited Article 243U of the Constitution on holding elections before the term of a municipality expires.
"Thus to fortify the democratic character of governance of society, it is essential that the elections are held at the earliest which cannot wait,” the order said.
In its order, the HC had also set aside the state government's December 12 notification that mentioned appointing a committee to administer municipalities whose terms were ending by January 31.
Instead, the court said the affairs of such municipal bodies shall be conducted by three-member committees headed by district magistrates till the elected municipalities come into being.
The committees will only carry out day-to-day functions and not take any major policy decision, the court added.
Earlier this month, the state government issued a provisional list of reserved seats for mayors of 17 municipal corporations, chairpersons of 200 municipal councils and 545 nagar panchayats for the three-tier urban elections.
It had sought suggestions and objections to this draft within seven days.
According to the draft notification, four mayoral seats -- Aligarh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Meerut and Prayagraj -- were reserved for OBC candidates. Of these, the mayor's posts in Aligarh and Mathura-Vrindavan were reserved for OBC women.
In addition, 54 seats for chairpersons in the 200 municipal councils were reserved for OBCs, including 18 for OBC women.
Among the seats for chairpersons in 545 nagar panchayats, 147 were reserved for OBC candidates, including 49 for OBC women.
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