Allahabad High Court annuls proposed OBC quota in urban local body polls; UP government to go in appeal

IN a huge setback to the Uttar Pradesh Government, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday annulled the proposed reservation to the Other Backrawd Classes (‘OBCs’) in urban local body polls. A division bench of Justices D.K. Upadhyay and Saurabh Lavania passed the order to this effect. As per reports, the UP Government is mulling over filing an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court’s verdict.

The bench held that the UP government did not comply with the requirements of the triple test as laid down by the Supreme Court in K. Krishna Murthy & Ors versus Union Of India & Anr. (2010) and Vikas Kishanrao Gawali versus The State Of Maharashtra (2021) which inter alia mandated the constitution of a dedicated commission to conduct an empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness in relation to local bodies, and providing the proportion of the reservation required in the light of recommendation of such a commission.

The bench also quashed the order issued by the state government on December 12 which provided for the operation of bank accounts of Municipalities under joint signatures of Executive Officers and the senior-most officer in the Uttar Pradesh Palika Centralized Service (Accounts Cadre).

It ordered the state government and the state election commission to immediately notify the election without providing any quota for OBCs.

“Until the triple test/conditions as mandated by Hon’ble Supreme Court in K. Krishna Murthy (supra) and Vikas Kishanrao Gawali (supra) is completed in all respects by the State Government, no reservation for Backward Class of citizens shall be provided and since the term of Municipalities has either ended or shall be coming to an end by 31.01.2023 and the process of completion of triple test/conditions being arduous, is likely to take considerable time, it is directed that the State Government/State Election Commission shall notify the elections immediately. While notifying the elections the seats and offices of Chairpersons, except those to be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, shall be notified as for general/open category.”, the bench directed.

Since there was a petition before the high court seeking reservations for transgender persons, the bench held that once the dedicated commission is constituted for undertaking the exercise of conducting an empirical study as to the nature and implications of backwardness for the purposes of providing reservation to OBCs, the claim of transgenders for their inclusion amongst backward class of citizens should also be considered.

The state government sought to justify its action by referring to an order issued by it on April 7, 2017, whereby it had directed all the District Magistrates to conduct a rapid survey for the purpose of determining the population of backward class of citizens in every ward of different municipal bodies.

Thus, the state sought to submit that the exercise being conducted by the state in terms of the Government Order of April 7, 2017 is the same as is to be conducted by the dedicated Commission mandated as per the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Rejecting the submissions, the bench held that such an exercise as contemplated and being conducted under the Government Order issued on April 7, 2017, missed a very crucial factor for the determination of backwardness or disadvantageous situation concerning a class or group of citizens who are inadequately represented in the municipal bodies in the state, and what was missed was that the Government Order did not provide for inquiry into the political representation of backward classses of citizens in municipal bodies.

“By treating the castes enumerated in Schedule-I of the [Uttar Pradesh Public Services (Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes) Act, 1994] as backward class of citizens for the purpose of providing reservation in the elections of the local bodies, what the State is doing that the State is treating the nature of backwardness requisite for providing reservation in admission to educational institutions and public employment as the requisite backwardness for providing reservation to seats and offices of the Chairpersons in the Municipal Bodies.”, the bench held.

Click here to view the Allahabad High Court’s full order.