Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: SC move to quash OBC quota in Maharashtra Local Bodies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Debate over 50% cap of reservations

The Supreme Court last month quashed Maharashtra’s review petition challenging its earlier verdict that scrapped a quota for OBCs in the state’s local bodies, triggering a war of words between the ruling and opposition parties.

What is the OBC reservation in local bodies?

  • The Maharashtra government set up a 27 percent quota in local bodies for OBCs in 1994.
  • The 27 percent reservation was applicable to all urban (Municipal Corporations, Councils and Nagar Panchayat) and rural bodies (Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat) across the state.
  • In Maharashtra, the OBCs include the Denotified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category.
  • This quota for OBCs increased their representation in rural and urban local bodies.

What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?

  • As per the Mandal Commission report, the last caste-wise census was conducted in 1931 and it was later discontinued.
  • Based on the data from the 1931 census, the Mandal commission worked out the OBC population to be 52 per cent and recommended a 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in view of the SC judgment limiting reservation up to 50 per cent.
  • There was already a 22.5 per cent reservation for SC and ST categories.
  • The Mandal Commission report recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs and promotions along with others.
  • The report gave momentum to OBC leaders and the community’s demand for a caste-wise census of OBC.

Need for a caste-wise census

  • The 2011 census included data about the socio-economic caste census but has not released the data citing the errors in it.
  • In 2018, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls the following year, the Centre announced that OBC enumeration will be done in the 2021 census.
  • But this promise could not be tested with the onset of the pandemic and the indefinite delay in population enumeration.
  • OBC leaders fear the OBC enumeration may never actually happen.

How did the matter reach the SC?

  • The quota was exceeding the 50 per cent limit which is contrary to SC 2010 judgment of K Krishna Murthy (Dr.) and Ors. vs. Union of India and others.
  • The court granted the status quo and the elections were delayed.
  • On March 4 this year, The SC read it down in stating that it may be invoked only upon complying with the triple conditions before notifying the seats reserved for OBC category in the concerned local bodies.
  • The triple conditions included setting up “a dedicated Commission to conduct a contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the State”.
  • This was to specify the proportion of reservations required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the commission.
  • It also stated that such reservation, in any case, shall not exceed the aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs, STs and OBCs taken together.
  • The apex court observed the reservation for OBCs is only “statutory”, to be provided by the state legislations, unlike the “constitutional” reservation regarding SCs/STs which is linked to the proportion of the population.

What do OBC leaders say now?

  • There has been a mixed response from the OBC leaders to the SC verdict, with some welcoming it while others lamenting on losing reservation.
  • Some say it will pave the way for conducting the OBC census in the state.
  • So far, there was no data about the OBC population and our demand for the OBC census for the last 30 years have fallen on deaf ears.
  • With this SC order, the state has to conduct the census now.
  • Else, there will be no OBC reservation in the local bodies polls and the ruling parties will have to pay a huge price for it.

What lies ahead?

  • The SC judgment is applicable to the elections of all local bodies — rural and urban.
  • As per a statement from the CM’s office, the SC verdict is likely to impact around 56,000 seats in all local bodies in the state.
  • This includes polls pending due to Covid and the upcoming elections.
  • So, the state election commission will consult with the state government whenever the local bodies’ polls are held and will decide on the OBC reservation as per the SC order.

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