OBC Reservation in Local Body Elections

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Supreme Court allowed 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in all the upcoming local body elections in Maharashtra.

    More about the news

    • About:
      • Supreme Court bench accepted the report by the five-member Banthia commission and allowed reservation for OBCs in the Nagar Panchayat, Nagar Parishad and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections.  
        • Banthia Commission report recommended that OBCs should be given 27 percent reservation in local bodies.
      • Maharashtra state government cleared the triple test formula by conducting door to door survey, as mandated by the apex court in the context of providing reservation for OBCs in local body polls.
      • In Maharashtra, OBCs include denotified tribes, nomadic tribes and the Special Backward Category.
    • Background:
      • In 1992, in one of its landmark judgments – Indra Sawhney vs Union of India – the SC had ruled that the 50% ceiling must not be breached for reservation in any State.
      • In 2010, the SC had laid down the ‘triple test’. These triple conditions are:
        • Setting up a dedicated commission to conduct “rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the state”.
        • Making of recommendations by the commission on the number of seats to be reserved for OBCs “local body wise”.
        • Ensuring that, cumulatively, seats reserved for SCs, STs and OBCs do not exceed 50 percent.
      • Recently, the Supreme Court also permitted Madhya Pradesh to provide reservations to Other Backward Classes (OBC) in Local Body Elections.

    Significance

    • The Supreme Court has emphasised since 2010 that the OBC quota in elections should be backed by empirical data, unlike reservation for OBCs, (along with SCs and STs) in education and employment. 
    • Local body elections in at least three states, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh had been stalled in the absence of updated empirical data on OBC groups.
    • The five-year term of around 2,486 local bodies in Maharashtra had expired and elections were required to be conducted under the provisions of the Constitution as well as the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act.

    Challenges

    • For gathering the empirical data for providing OBC quota, the door-to-door survey did not seem feasible, as it could lead to a slew of societal issues in the future in the state. 
    • When the Karnataka government’s data on the caste census was leaked, the dominant communities questioned the findings and opposed the state government’s move of making it public. 
    • So, the same could happen in our state and the communities could be pitted against each other for no reason. It may disturb the social fabric of the state.
    • The union government has the authority to conduct a caste census but it has refused to do so.

    Reservation of Seats in Local Body Elections

    • Reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes:
      • The 73rd & 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 provides for the reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in every panchayat/municipality (i.e., at all three levels) in the proportion of their population to the total population in the panchayat area/municipal area. 
    • Reservation of offices of chairperson:
      • Further, the state legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of chairperson in the panchayat/municipality at any other level for the SCs and STs.
    • Reservations for women:
      • The act provides for the reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging the SCs and STs). 
      • Further, not less than one-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the panchayats/municipality at each level shall be reserved for women.
    • Reservations for Backward Classes:
      • The act also authorises the legislature of a state to make any provision for reservation of seats in any panchayat/municipality or offices of chairperson in the panchayat/municipalities at any level in favour of backward classes.

     

    Reservation provisions in India for OBC

    • The Kalelkar Commission, set up in 1953, was the first to identify backward classes other than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) at the national level.
    • The Mandal Commission Report, 1980 estimated the OBC population at 52% and classified 1,257 communities as backward.
      • It recommended increasing the existing quotas, which were only for SC/ST, from 22.5% to 49.5% to include the OBCs.
    • The central government reserved 27% of seats in union civil posts and services for OBCs [Article 16(4)].
      • The Constitution refers to the term ‘backward classes’ in Articles 15(4), 16(4) and 340(1)
      • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) empower the State to make special provisions for any socially and educationally backward class of citizens
    • In 2008, the Supreme Court directed the central government to exclude the creamy layer (advanced sections) among the OBCs.
    • The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provided constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), which was previously a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.