The Supreme Court Thursday directed the Maharashtra State Election Commission to ensure that the general elections to constitute the Panchayat Samiti, Shrirampur in Ahmednagar district, are conducted in ”right earnest” and in accordance with the triple test laid down by it.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari was hearing an appeal filed against the Bombay High Court order which declined to interfere in the petition challenging the election of a man as Chairperson of the Panchayat Samiti as reserved OBC category candidate despite the decision of this Court in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali case.
The apex court said that as the term of the Panchayat Samiti is only up to February 23, 2022, it does not wish to precipitate the matter any further and accept the explanation offered by the Collector as a plausible error committed by him.
”However, while disposing of this petition, we direct continuance of the interim order to the effect that the respondent No.7, who has been elected as Chairperson of the Panchayat Samiti, Shrirampur, shall not take any policy decision in connection with the Panchayat Samiti, until the general body elections of the said Samiti are conducted and the newly constituted Samiti takes over its affairs,” the bench said.
The apex court said it was not approving the action of the Collector, but it does not wish to issue directions to unseat respondent No. 7 owing to the short tenure left for conduct of general election for constitution of the Panchayat Samiti.
”We direct the Maharashtra State Election Commission to ensure that the general elections to constitute the Panchayat Samiti, Shrirampur, are conducted in right earnest to ensure that the newly elected body takes over around the same time when the term of the incumbent Samiti expires.
”Needless to observe that the general elections will be conducted strictly as per the decision of this Court in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali (supra),” the bench said.
In March last year, a three-judge bench of the apex court had said the reservation in favour of the OBCs in the local bodies in Maharashtra cannot exceed 50 per cent of the total seats reserved for the SCs, STs and OBCs taken together.
The top court on December 17, 2021 had directed the state election commissions of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to re-notify the seats reserved for the OBCs in the local bodies under the general category.
The order referred to the Constitution bench verdict of 2010 that had mentioned three conditions, including the setting up of a dedicated commission to conduct a contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua the local bodies in the states, which are required to be followed before provisioning such reservation for the OBC category.
It had referred to the three conditions noted in the constitution bench verdict of 2010.
The conditions included specifying the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of the recommendations of the commission so as not to fall foul of overbreadth and in any case, such reservation shall not exceed an aggregate of 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of the SCs, STs and OBCs taken together.