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‘Can cause grave prejudice’ — govt seeks recall of SC order de-reserving OBC seats in MP

Govt proposes deferring MP local body polls by 4 months so it can collect data, as SC had cited lack of empirical information on quotas. Court likely to hear application on 3 Jan.

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New Delhi: The central government has sought a recall of the Supreme Court’s 17 December order de-reserving seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the Madhya Pradesh panchayat polls due to lack of empirical data. Seats reserved for OBCs have already been de-notified after the order.

In an application moved before the apex court over the weekend, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said the order will cause “grave prejudice to backward class citizens”. It has instead proposed suspension of the local body elections in the state for four months, within which time its backward classes commissions will collate the data and submit a report in line with previous rulings of the top court on quota.

The Centre wants the top court to hear it out on the issue as the court order “has pan-India ramifications and deprives OBCs of their constitutionally guaranteed rights of political representation”.

Its application comes close on the heels of the MP government also moving a plea seeking recall of the 17 December order.

A bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar is likely to hear the two applications on 3 January.

Also Read: Caste census, OBC ministry, pvt sector quota — Opposition demands during OBC bill debate

‘Passed order without hearing out govt’

The government has, in its application, said the Supreme Court passed its order without hearing it out. ThePrint has accessed the application.

“The upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes has been the utmost priority of the Union government and any inadequate representation of OBCs in local self government defeats the very object, intent, and purpose of the very idea of de-centralisation of power and taking governance to the grassroots level,” the government said in the application.

Given that the court’s order to de-reserve the seats came at a time when the election process in MP was going on, and allocation of seats for OBCs had been done, and any intervention by the court at this stage would deprive the OBC community of quota for five long years, it added.

The government said it would cause “grave prejudice to backward class citizens”.

Similar application for Maharashtra

ThePrint has learnt that the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has filed a similar application in the case of Maharashtra local body elections, over the weekend. One of the lawyers for the Maharashtra government told ThePrint that it had received the Centre’s application, but no date had been fixed for its hearing.

“We are expecting that the matter may be taken up along with that of MP on 3 January,” the lawyer said.

The SC had, on 6 December, rebuked the Maharashtra government for introducing 27 per cent reservation for OBCs through an ordinance without collecting data.

It had even turned down the state’s plea to defer the polls by three months and let the state Election Commission hold the polls only after receiving a report from the state backward commission.

‘Triple test’

In its 17 December order, the court had requested solicitor general Tushar Mehta to impress upon the MP State Election Commission to strictly conform to the ‘triple test’, as prescribed by the top court in two of its judgments — one in 2010 and the other in 2021.

The ‘triple test’ principle set out by the Supreme Court requires setting up of a dedicated commission to hold an empirical inquiry to ascertain implications of the backwardness as regards to local bodies in a state, specify the proportion of quota body-wise, according to the commission’s suggestions, and ensure that reservation does not exceed 50 per cent of seats reserved in favour of SCs, STs and OBCs together.

Informing the bench that it had already done the needful, the social justice ministry asserted that the court order “could lead to adverse impacts” on the OBC community.

“Such inadequate representation or non-representation deprives the voters belonging to the OBC community to elect one amongst them to the elected offices. It is humbly submitted that the same is strictly contrary to the object, intent, and purpose of the constitutional scheme,” read the plea.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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