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

The Question of OBC Reservation in Local Bodies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various articles mentioned in news

Mains level : Reservations for OBCs

The latest order in Rahul Ramesh Wagh v. State of Maharashtra &Ors makes it mandatory that the principles laid down by the Supreme Court for providing reservation to OBCs in local bodies shall be followed across the country.

Let us understand the Case

  • Maharashtra had constituted a Commission to ascertain the backwardness of OBCs in June 2021.
  • But without waiting for an empirical report, an ordinance was promulgated to amend the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads Act, Panchayat Samitis Act and the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act.
  • They were aimed to conduct local body elections with OBC reservation.
  • This was struck down by the Supreme Court.

The latest case arose out of the challenge made to the ordinance promulgated on the teeth of the Supreme Court judgments by the Governor of Maharashtra to conduct the local body elections by providing 27% reservation to OBCs.

What did the SC 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.

Which principles is the apex court talking about?

  • 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.
  • Though reservation to local bodies is permissible, the top court declared that the same is subject to three conditions:
  1. to set up a dedicated Commission to conduct empirical inquiry into the nature of the backwardness in local bodies
  2. to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise
  3. such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50% cap of the total seats reserved for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together
  • This is famously referred as ‘Triplet Test’.

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 can be concluded from the aspirant’s perspective?

  • Maharashtra Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to stall the local body elections in the wake of the judicial interference.
  • Elections, undoubtedly, must be held on time.
  • Since Judiciary does not usually interfere into Elections, States often seek to bypass the OBC reservation issues.

Conclusion

  • Had the governments stuck to the law as mandated by Article 141 of the Constitution, this quandary wouldn’t have arisen.
  • Much of the judiciary’s time could have been saved.
  • Rule of law is not just a set of letters, but it has to be followed in spirit.

Back2Basics: Article 141 of the Constitution

  • It stipulates that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all Courts within the territory of India.
  • Thus, the general principles laid down, by the Supreme Court are binding on each individual including those who are not a party to an order.

 

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