The government of Uttar Pradesh appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday against the Allahabad High Court’s ruling quashing its draught notification on the urban local body elections and instructing the state to hold the elections without quotas for the Other Backward Classes.
In its appeal against the December 27 order, the state government argued that the high court cannot quash the December 5 draught notification that provided for reservation of seats in urban body elections for Other Backward Classes in addition to those for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women.
The appeal, which was filed by counsel Ruchira Goel, argued that OBCs are a constitutionally protected group and that the high court erred in striking down the draught notification.
Wednesday, the government of Uttar Pradesh constituted a five-member commission to examine the entire spectrum of concerns pertaining to OBC quotas in urban local body elections.
The panel will be led by Retired Justice Ram Avtar Singh. Chaub Singh Verma, Mahendra Kumar, Santosh Kumar Viskarma, and Brajesh Kumar Soni are the other four members, all of whom are retired officers of the Indian Administrative Service.
The Lucknow bench of the high court had ordered the state government to notify the elections “soon” as the terms of many municipalities were to expire on January 31, while annulling the draught notification dated December 5.
After moving the OBC seats in the draught notification to the general category, the court had ordered the state electoral commission to hold polls by January 31.
The order was issued in response to petitions contesting the creation of the OBC reservation draught without adhering to the Supreme Court’s “triple test” criteria.
The triple test entails establishing a commission to conduct a “rigorous empirical inquiry” into the nature of “backwardness” in the context of local bodies, determining the proportion of reservation based on the commission’s recommendations, and ensuring that it does not exceed the overall quota limit of 50 percent.
The supreme court devised the triple test criterion 11 years ago, and the high court deemed it essential.
“Until the triple test is completed in every respect by the state government, no reservation shall be allowed for Backward Class persons,” the decision stated.
It stated that the terms of municipal bodies in the state have expired or would expire on January 31, 2023.
It has instructed the state government and the state election commission to announce the polls “immediately” without the OBC quota since the procedure of passing the triple test is “arduous and likely to take substantial time.”
It invoked Article 243U of the Constitution, which stipulates that elections must be held before a municipality’s term expires, to justify the prompt announcement of the polls.
“Therefore, to strengthen the democratic nature of society’s governance, it is imperative that elections be held as soon as possible,” the directive stated.
In its judgement, the High Court also voided the state government’s December 12 statement regarding the appointment of a committee to oversee municipalities whose tenure expired on January 31.
Instead, the court ruled that the affairs of these municipal entities will be managed by three-member committees led by district magistrates until the elected municipalities are created.
The committees will do routine tasks and will not make key policy decisions, the court added.
The state announced a tentative list of reserved seats for mayors of 17 municipal corporations, chairpersons of 200 municipal councils, and 545 nagar panchayats for the three-tier urban elections earlier this month.
Within seven days, suggestions and objections to this draught were solicited.
According to the draught announcement, four mayoral positions were allocated for OBC candidates: Aligarh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Meerut, and Prayagraj. In Aligarh and Mathura-Vrindavan, the positions of mayor were reserved for OBC women.
In addition, 54 of the 200 local council chairmanships were designated for OBCs, including 18 for OBC women. Chairperson positions in 545 nagar panchayats were allocated for 147 OBC candidates, including 49 OBC women.