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Reservation of seats for SC/STs, OBCs in local bodies cannot exceed 50 percent: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that total seats reserved in favour of Scheduled Castes s/Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in local bodies should not exceed 50 percent of the total seats (Vikas Kishanrao Gawali v. State of Maharashtra).

A three-judge Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi, therefore, read down Section 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 which mandated that the State should provide 27 percent reservation for OBCs.

“The provision is being read down to mean that reservation in favour of OBCs in the concerned local bodies can be notified to the extent that it does not exceed aggregate 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together,” the Court said.

Thus, expression “shall be” preceding 27 per cent occurring in Section 12(2)(c), be construed as “may be” including to mean that reservation for OBCs may be up to 27 per cent but subject to the outer limit of 50 per cent aggregate in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together, the Court clarified.

Consequently, the Court also quashed the election of candidates against the reserved OBC seats in the concerned local bodies held in December 2019 and January 2020 in five districts of Maharashtra and ordered fresh elections.

The issue arose from the exposition of the 2010 Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court this Court in K Krishna Murthy (Dr.) & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr.

Relying on the dictum in the said decision, the petitioners had urged that it is no more open to the respondents to reserve more than 50 per cent aggregate seats in the concerned local bodies by providing reservation for SC/ST/OBCs.

The State of Maharashtra urged that the stated decision recognises that it is permissible to reserve seats for OBCs to the extent permissible in the 1961 Act.

Further, in exceptional situation, the reservation for SCs/STs/OBCs in the concerned local bodies (Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis) could exceed even 50 per cent of the total seats, it was argued.

The Court ruled in favour of the petitioner holding that reservation for OBCs is only a “statutory” dispensation to be provided by the State legislations unlike the “constitutional” reservation regarding SCs/STs which is linked to the proportion of population.

“As regards the State legislations providing for reservation of seats in respect of OBCs, it must ensure that in no case the aggregate vertical reservation in respect of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together should exceed 50 per cent of the seats in the concerned local bodies,” the judgment said.

In case, constitutional reservation provided for SCs and STs were to consume the entire 50 per cent of seats in the concerned local bodies, the question of providing further reservation to OBCs would not arise at all, the Court explained.

“To put it differently, the quantum of reservation for OBCs ought to be local body specific and be so provisioned to ensure that it does not exceed the quantitative limitation of 50 per cent (aggregate) of vertical reservation of seats for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together,” the Court concluded.

It, therefore, set aside the notifications issued by Election Commission which had mentioned that elections to the concerned local bodies were being held subject to the outcome of the petitions before the top court.


Via Bar & Bench
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