NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Allahabad High Court's order directing the Uttar Pradesh government to conduct urban local bodies polls without reserving seats for Other Backward Classses, while saying democratising the municipalities and true representation in the composition of the municipalities under Article 243T are both constitutional mandates.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha issued notice to the original petitioners on a plea by the state government.
The court sought a reply from the petitioners before the High Court within three weeks.
In its order, the top court said, Democratization of municipalities under Article 243T and the duty to provide representation are not at competing values. Prima facie, the high court is not correct in prioritising one over the other and directing the holding of elections without the provision of representation for the Backward Classes. Democratising the municipalities and true representation in the composition of the municipalities under Article 243T are both constitutional mandates. When a constitutional court is called upon to review the decisions of the State in this context, it must ensure that both these values are given full effect so that truly representative and vibrant local bodies contemplated under Part IXA of the Constitution are realised."
The Uttar Pradesh government led by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that it has already set up a dedicated commission to collect data for representation of the OBCs.
Mehta said the term of the local bodies would come to end by January 31. He also said the commission can be asked to complete the exercise of collecting data to determine backwardness within three months, though the term of the panel is six months.
The court noted in view of the decision in Krishnamurthy judgement, the state government has issued notification constituting the UP State local bodies dedicated backward classes commission.
It also said though the tenure of the newly appointed commission is six months, an effort would be made to ensure that the process of completing the exercise would be done expeditiously before March 31, 2023.
The court also said the government will be at liberty to delegate the work and financial powers to ensure that administration of local bodies is not hampered.
Last month, the Uttar Pradesh government had set up the five-member commission for providing reservation to Other Backward Classes in urban local body elections.
This came a day after the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court quashed the state government’s draft notification on urban local body elections and ordered it to hold the polls without reservation for the Other Backward Classes.
According to the state government's order, the panel will be headed by Justice (Retd) Ram Avtar Singh. The four other members are retired Indian Administrative Service officers Chaub Singh Verma and Mahendra Kumar, and former legal advisors to the state Santosh Kumar Viswakarma and Brajesh Kumar Soni.
The high court's order had come on pleas challenging the preparation of the OBC reservation draft without following the triple test formula prescribed by the Supreme Court.
In May this year, the top court had referred to the Constitution Bench decision in 'K Krishna Murthy (Dr) and Ors v Union of India & Anr' (2010), to hold that "triple test conditions" have to be fulfilled before providing reservations for the OBCs.
The conditions are to set up a dedicated commission to collect empirical data on backwardness, specify the proportion of reservation required in local body in light of recommendations of the Commission, and such reservation not to exceed aggregate of 50 % of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together, it had said.