UP Urban Local Body Elections 2023: SC Paves Way For Holding Nagar Nikay Chunav With OBC Quota
In January, Supreme Court stayed an Allahabad High Court order directing the holding of the urban local body polls without any reservation for the OBCs.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for holding the urban local body polls in Uttar Pradesh as it allowed the State Election Commission to issue a notification in this regard in two days with an OBC quota in terms of a report of the Uttar Pradesh Backward Classes Commission.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said, "This court, in an order dated January 4, 2023, noted that in view of the decisions of this court, the government of Uttar Pradesh issued a notification for setting up the Uttar Pradesh Backward Classes Commission in December 2022. Though the tenure of the commission was six months, it was to complete its task by March 31, 2023."
It further said, "The solicitor general informs that the report has been submitted on March 9, 2023 to the cabinet. The process of notifying the local body elections is going on and will be done in two days. The plea is disposed of. The direction in this order is not to be used as precedent."
On January 4, the top court stayed an Allahabad High Court order directing the holding of the urban local body polls without any reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
It had also ordered that the panel appointed by the state government to decide on issues related to the grant of the OBC quota for the local body polls will have to conclude its exercise within three months (by March 31), instead of six months as stipulated earlier.
The top court had taken note of the submissions made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared in the matter on behalf of the state government, that one of the directions issued by the high court with regard to the functioning of the local bodies under administrators after the expiry of the terms of the elected representatives can be allowed to operate.
The top court allowed the state government to appoint administrators to run the affairs of the local bodies after the expiry of the tenures of the elected representatives, but said they will not be empowered to take major policy decisions.
"The high court by impugned judgment dated ... Has directed (to hold the elections without the OBC reservation).... Pending further orders of this court, the operation of the above direction shall remain stayed," the apex court had said in its order.
The state government had said it had set up the Uttar Pradesh State Local Bodies Dedicated Backward Classes Commission in pursuance of the top court's judgments to decide on the issue of quota, keeping in mind the political representation of different backward castes in the local bodies.
The top court had taken note of the submission of the state government that though the tenure of the newly-appointed commission is six months, an effort will be made to ensure that the exercise gets over as expeditiously as possible, on or before March 31.
It had issued notices to those who had moved the high court against the state government's notification.
Earlier, the state government had moved the apex court with its appeal against a December 27, 2022 order of the high court, saying the latter cannot quash the draft notification issued on December 5 last year, which provided for reservation of seats in the urban civic body polls for the OBCs, apart from those for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and women.
The appeal said the OBCs are a constitutionally-protected section and the high court erred in quashing the draft notification.
After the high court's order, the Uttar Pradesh government 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 was headed by Justice (retired) Ram Avtar Singh.
The four other members of the panel were retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers Chob Singh Verma and Mahendra Kumar, and former legal advisors to the state government 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 was going to expire by January 31, while annulling the December 5, 2022 draft notification.
The high 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 high court's order had come on 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 that the triple test condition formulated by the Supreme Court 11 years ago was mandatory.
"Until the triple test is completed in all respects by the state government, no reservation for a backward class of citizens shall be provided," the order had said.
In December last year, the state government issued a provisional list of reserved seats for the 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 the draft within seven days.
According to the draft notification, four mayoral seats -- Aligarh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Meerut and Prayagraj -- were reserved for OBC candidates. Of those, 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 women.
Among the seats for chairpersons in the 545 nagar panchayats, 147 were reserved for OBC candidates, including 49 for women.