New Delhi, Aug 22 – The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government and the state election commission (SEC) to maintain the status quo in connection with the poll process to the local bodies in the state.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said the matter needs a detailed hearing and a separate special bench would be set up for the final disposal. The bench, also comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and J.B. Pardiwala, was hearing a plea of the Maharashtra government seeking a recall of top court’s order, directing the SEC not to re-notify the poll process to 367 local bodies in order to provide reservation to OBCs.
The bench said, “The matter requires an elaborate hearing. In view of that we direct the parties to maintain the status quo. List the matter after five weeks.”
The Maharashtra government had sought recall or modification of July 28 order, and also a direction to the SEC to hold the elections for the 96 local bodies, out of 367 local bodies, namely 92 municipal councils and four nagar panchayats, allowing OBC reservation as per the report prepared by the Dedicated Commission for Reservation for Backward Class of Citizens in local bodies of the state.
On July 28, the top court had cautioned SEC of contempt action if it re-notifies the election process to 367 local bodies, where the process has already commenced, to provide reservation to OBCs.
The state government had contended that under the constitutional scheme, it was deemed fit to give political reservation to OBCs to ensure that they are duly represented inside the government and their voice is heard.
On July 20, the Supreme Court accepted the recommendations of the Banthia commission to apply 27 per cent OBC reservations in the local body elections in Maharashtra, and directed that election for the local bodies in the state be notified in the next two weeks.
On July 28, the apex court had 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 state election commission cannot interfere with the election, which has already been notified and only the dates can be re-aligned. The top court did not appreciate that despite clarifying the issue several times, the SEC had taken a decision to reschedule the poll. It made it clear SEC and the concerned officials would be liable for contempt of court for breaching its order.
The top court, in December 2021, had ruled that reservation for OBCs in local bodies will not be allowed unless the government fulfils the triple test laid down in the apex court’s 2010 order.