Supreme Court on Wednesday, 4 January, stayed the Allahabad High Court's order that had asked the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government to hold civic polls without reservations for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
The apex court granted time till 31 March to the Yogi Adityanath-led government to file a report on the political backwardness of the OBCs.
What was the Allahabad High Court's order? The high court, on 27 December 2022, had quashed the UP government order from 5 December stipulating quotas for the OBCs in the local body elections. The court's objection was that the government had not fulfilled the 'Triple Test' and therefore the OBCs could not be given reservations. It had further said that the elections should be held "immediately".
What is the Triple Test? The Triple Test is a step-by-step procedure that a state government has to carry out before the OBCs can be granted quotas in the civic polls.
These three steps are:
Set up a dedicated commission to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the state.
Specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body wise in light of recommendations of the commission, so as not to fall foul of over-breadth.
In any case such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50 percent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
When was the Triple Test laid down? The Triple Test was formulated by the bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari in the case Vikas Kishanrao Gawali v The State of Maharashtra on 4 March 2021.
Has the OBC quota issue come up in other states? The Supreme Court had withheld reservations for OBCs in local bodies in states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as well.
After these states fulfilled the conditions of the Triple Test, the court allowed OBC quota in Madhya Pradesh in May 2022 and in Maharashtra in July 2022.
But aren't OBCs already a reserved category? At the state and national level, OBCs get reservations in government jobs and higher educational institutions. However, unlike Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, they do not get reservations in parliament and state assemblies.
It seems that the courts, in the recent past, have been treating political reservation for OBCs separately from the reservation in employment and educational institutions and hence are following a separate procedure in this regard.
What does today's judgment mean for UP? Today's order has come as a relief for the Bharatiya Janata Party government as the opposition parties had mounted an attack on the government on this issue. The order gives time to the government to form a commission in order to fulfil the Triple Test while postponing the civic polls in the meantime.
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