SC Nod To Quota For OBCs In Local Body Polls In Maharashtra
The Supreme Court (SC) of India has accepted the five-member Banthia commission – a dedicated panel looking into reservation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local bodies of Maharashtra. In March, the then tripartite government (Maha Vikas Aghadi) announced a committee led by former chief secretary Jayant Banthia for collating empirical data on the OBCs following the SC's denial of the state's backward class commission's interim report. In Maharashtra, OBCs include denotified tribes, nomadic tribes, & the Special Backward Category. With the help of the state rural development department, the commission, compiled the data, which is essential in ascertaining the population of OBCs & accordingly determining their quota in local bodies.
In 1992, in one of its landmark judgments - Indra Sawhney vs Union of India – the ruling of the SC was that the 50% ceiling must not be breached for reservation in any State. In 2010, the ‘triple test’ was laid down by the SC where an independent commission should be formed, empirical data collected & ensured that the number of quota seats don’t cross 50%. On December 6, 2021, the SC stayed the local body polls for OBC seats in Maharashtra. This was done as the MVA government was found in breach of the 50% ceiling rule.
The acceptance of a similar report from Madhya Pradesh by the SC to provide reservation to OBCs also helped Maharashtra’s bid. Taking a cue from MP, the commission used the data from the state’s Rural Development department & Urban Development department to reach the figure of OBCs. The number of scholarships extended to OBC students was also calculated by data from the education department. Apart from this, information from various other departments as well as welfare schemes was also inducted in the report to emphasis on the backwardness of the community. The commission also went through across the state to meet various institutions, organisations, & individuals in different parts of Maharashtra to include their inputs.
According to the most recent Maharashtra Economic Survey (2021-2022), there are 27 Municipal Corporations, 351 Panchayat Samitis, 34 Zilla Parishads, 128 Nagar Panchayats, 27,831 Gram Panchayats, & 351 Panchayat Samitis in the state. With the implementation of the 27 % OBC political quotas, the top posts like Mayor in Municipal Corporations, heads in municipal councils, chairpersons in Zilla Parishad & Panchayat Samitis will be alloted to peoples' representatives from the OBCs. There are 295 OBCs including various tribals & special backward category communities who are likely to get the fruits of the new political reservations, though certain districts where the SC/ST population is already 50% will not be applied. In Maharashtra, based on the Census data & the voters lists, an estimated 37 % of the population falls under the OBCs, as per the Banthia Commission Report, albeit the proportion fluctuates from place to another.
Maharashtra has started the process of holding the state's postponed local body elections after The J.K. Banthia Commission Report on Political Reservations for Other Backward Class was approved by the Supreme Court. According to sources at the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC), the programme for the elections in 367 local governments will proceed as scheduled, creating a type of "mini-general election." Over the course of the state, there are a total of 25 Zilla Parishads, 284 Panchayat Samitis, 220 Municipal Councils, and Nagar Panchayats. The court changed the order and permitted the quota in the polls within a week. The current MVA government was in a pickle as a result of the development