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

Why courts keep striking down OBC reservation in local polls?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Triple Test

Mains level: OBC quota in local body polls

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court quashed the state government’s draft notification on urban local body elections and ordered that the polls be held without reservation for OBCs.

Precursor to the news

  • The Uttar Pradesh government had issued a draft notification for the reservation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in urban local body elections.

Why did the HC strike the draft down?

  • The verdict comes on the back of PILs challenging the state’s OBC reservation draft.
  • It was alleged that it was prepared without following the “triple test” formula prescribed by the Supreme Court.
  • The Court said that OBC reservation in local body polls cannot be provided until conditions mandated in the “triple test” are complied with.

What’s the Triple Test formula?

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench in the K. Krishnamurthy (Dr.) v. Union of India (2010) judgment said that barriers to political participation are not the same as barriers to education and employment.
  • While deciding on the legality of OBC reservations in Maharashtra local body elections in March 2021, the Supreme Court set out a three-layered test – also called triple test.
  • This is something that State governments have to follow to provide reservations-
  1. Step 1: States must set up a dedicated commission to examine backwardness in local bodies.
  2. Step 2: they must determine the size of the quota for communities on the basis of data collected by the commission.
  3. Step 3: These reservations, combined with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes quotas, cannot exceed 50% of the total seats in the local body.

What did the court observe now?

  • Reservation to OBCs in local body elections without empirical base can no more be sustainable in law.
  • The latest order in RR Wagh v. State of Maharashtra & others makes it mandatory that the principles laid down by the Supreme Court for providing reservation to OBCs in local bodies shall be scrupulously followed across the country.

Major takeaways of K. Krishnamurthy Case

In this case, the Supreme Court had interpreted Article 243D(6) and Article 243T(6), which permit reservation by enactment of law for backward classes in local bodies respectively.

  • It held that barriers to political participation are not the same as that of the barriers that limit access to education and employment.
  • However, for creating a level playing field, reservation may be desirable as mandated by the aforementioned conditions.
  • Above articles provide a separate constitutional basis for reservation, as distinct from what are conceived under Article 15 (4) and Article 16 (4) which form the basis for reservation in education and employment.

Reception of the Krishnamurthy Judgment

  • The Indian political class usually displays apathy to the law declared by the courts as contrary to the enacted law.
  • The 2010 judgment was not acted upon and the constitutionality of the enacted reservation was challenged.
  • This resulted in the 2021 judgment of a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court.

What about other states?

  • In 2021, OBC reservations in local bodies were set aside in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh too on similar grounds by courts.
  • Earlier this year, the Karnataka and Patna high courts have set aside notifications reserving seats for OBCs in municipal elections in Bengaluru and Bihar.
  • In May this year, the top court, however, allowed local body polls with OBC reservation in Madhya Pradesh after it proved compliance to the triple test formula.


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