Wednesday, May 12, 2010

[ZESTCaste] SC upholds OBC quota in panchayat polls

SC upholds OBC quota in panchayat polls
TNN, May 12, 2010, 03.51am IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the validity of
reservation for SCs, STs, women and backward classes (OBCs) in
panchayat elections but said quota in local self-government should be
for a much shorter period than that for jobs and admissions to
educational institutions.

It also upheld reservation of the posts of chairperson of panchayats
in favour of SC, ST, women and OBC candidates in rotation.

However, in reserving seats in panchayat elections for SC, ST and OBC
candidates, the quantum of quota cannot breach the 50% limit, ruled a
five-judge constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice K G
Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran, D K Jain, P Sathasivam and J
M Panchal.

"The upper ceiling of 50% vertical reservation in favour of SC/ST/OBCs
should not be breached in the context of local self-government.
Exceptions can only be made in order to safeguard the interests of STs
in the matter of their representation in panchayats located in
scheduled areas," said the CJI, who authored the 70-page unanimous

Though the apex court upheld the reservation in local self-government,
it did sound a caution for the legislature. "The nature and purpose of
reservation in the context of local self-government is considerably
different from that of higher education and public employment," it

Holding it to be distinct from the reservation scheme practised in
jobs and educational institutions, the Bench said the same logic could
not be applied while furthering quota in local self-government.

"Even when made, they need not be for a period corresponding to the
period of reservation for the purposes of Articles 15(4) and (16(4),
but can be much shorter," the apex court said.

In the absence of empirical data about the OBC population, the
constitution Bench expressed its inability to decide whether the
quantum of reservation for backward classes in local self-government
was valid or not.

"The onus is on the executive to conduct a rigorous investigation into
the patterns of backwardness that act as barriers to political
participation which are indeed quite different from the patterns of
disadvantages in the matters of access to education and employment,"
the Bench said.

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