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Supreme Court Allows OBC Quota in Local Body Polls in Maharashtra

The Supreme Court directed authorities in Maharashtra to begin the process for local body polls within two weeks.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 20 July, directed the Maharashtra state election commission (SEC) and the state authorities to ensure the process for local bodies' election is commenced within two weeks.

The apex court, which was hearing the case related to OBC quota in Maharashtra local body elections and was apprised that the poll process for 367 local bodies has already started, observed the election cannot be deferred anymore.

"We want elections to be held and we are making it loud and clear to all of you. Let the election process commence. Let it be taken to the logical end," a bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar said, while directing that the poll process be commenced within two weeks.
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The Supreme Court's Earlier Order On Local Body Polls

The bench, also comprising justices AS Oka and JB Pardiwala, was hearing an application related to local bodies' elections in Maharashtra.

The top court noted that the counsel appearing for the SEC has pointed out that the election programme for 367 local bodies has already commenced and the same will be continued and taken to its logical end in due course.

"As regards the remaining local bodies referred to in the chart filed in the status report, we direct the election commission and all the state authorities to ensure that the election process in respect of each of those local bodies is immediately commenced and taken forward on the basis of the direction given by this court in an order dated May 4, 2022….," the bench said.

In its 4 May order, the apex court had directed the SEC to notify the programme for local bodies elections within two weeks.
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"Accordingly, the election programme of such local bodies must proceed and the State Election Commission is obliged to notify the election programme within two weeks from today in respect of such local bodies including to continue with the process from the stage as on March 10, 2022, on the basis of the delimitation done prior to coming into force of the amendment Act(s) with effect from March 11, 2022," it had said in its 4 May order.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the counsel appearing for the SEC said they have filed a compliance report and gave details about the status of the election process.

When an advocate, representing an intervener, raised the issue relating to delimitation, the bench observed, "We want elections to be conducted and that is all."

It observed that the ultimate effect of the prayer in the application filed by the intervener is to stall the election. "Whatever we have said in the order of 4 May, we will restate that position and ask the election commission and all authorities to act accordingly. These ifs and buts should stop," the apex court orally said.

"Sometimes the excuse is given of delimitation, sometimes of monsoon. It is going on and on. It cannot go on forever," the bench said, adding that the elections cannot be deferred indefinitely.
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'SEC to Face Brunt In Case of Mischief': Supreme Court

The apex court added that it has said what it wanted and the authority concerned has understood. "If they do any mischief, the election commission will face the brunt. You do not have to worry about that," the bench said.

The bench dealt with the application filed by Maharashtra which said that the poll panel should be permitted to proceed with the election process of the remaining local bodies on the basis of the report of the dedicated commission for reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in the local bodies that was submitted on 7 July after complying with necessary inquiries for arriving at a figure for providing reservation local body wise.

The top court expressed the hope that authorities will complete the election process in respect of the remaining local bodies in right earnest keeping in mind the spirit of the requirement under the Constitution in that regard. It observed that the election to the local bodies should not be delayed.

In its May 4 order, the apex court had cited Article 243-E and 243-U of the Constitution of India, including sections 6 and 6(B) read with section 452A(2) of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act and related provisions in other enactments governing elections of local bodies and said the election should have been conducted before the expiry of their term.

In December last year, the top court had directed the SEC to notify 27 per cent of seats in the local body, which were reserved for the OBCs, as general seats so that the poll process can be taken forward.

The top court had in January directed the state government to submit data on OBCs to the commission to examine its correctness and make recommendations on their representation in elections for the local bodies.

Last year, the SC had set aside the OBC quota in local bodies in Maharashtra for want of empirical data about backward classes.

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