Poll for 367 local bodies in Maharashtra sans OBC reservation, contempt if orders breached: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India
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Supreme Court of India

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The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) for re-scheduling the poll for 367 local bodies to grant OBC reservation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) for re-scheduling the poll for 367 local bodies to grant OBC reservation, and also cautioned its chief and other officials of contempt of court, if its orders are breached.

A bench, headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said the poll schedule was already notified when it allowed OBC reservation and the polls for those bodies must be held without the OBC reservation.

It said the SEC cannot interfere with the election, which has already been notified and only the dates can be re-aligned.

The bench, also comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and J.B. Pardiwala, did not appreciate that despite clarifying the issue several times, the SEC had taken a decision to re-schedule the poll. The bench made it clear that the SEC and the officials concerned would be liable for contempt of court for breaching its order.

"This is not acceptable. You (SEC) are trying to misread our order for your convenience and maybe under dictation of someone... Do you want us to issue contempt notice?...."

The bench said the election for 367 local bodies were to be notified according to the May order, and this position had been re-stated in multiple orders. The top court was informed that as per SEC affidavit, the election was deferred for two municipalities.

It said the SEC cannot interfere with the election that has already been notified, and directed that SEC cannot re-notify the election programme to these 367 local bodies.

On July 20, the Supreme Court accepted the recommendations of the Banthia commission to apply 27 per cent OBC reservations in local body elections in Maharashtra, and directed that election for local bodies in the state be notified in the next two weeks.

In December last year, the top court had directed that reservation for OBCs in local bodies will not be permitted unless they fulfil the triple test, and until the triple test is fulfilled, the OBC seats would be re-notified as general category seats.

The Supreme Court, in its order in March last year, while reading down the OBC reservation in local bodies, asked the Maharashtra government to comply with three conditions - to set up a dedicated commission for collecting empirical data on the OBC population, specify the proportion of reservation, and ensuring cumulative share of reserved seats doesn't breach 50 per cent of total seats.

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