Mumbai: The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday, for re-scheduling polls to 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats, paving the way for the reservation of OBC seats in these bodies.
The court observed that the SEC, which is going ahead with conducting elections to the 271 gram panchayats without OBC quota slated for August 4, should do the same for the 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats, as it cannot interfere with polls that have been already notified. The apex court’s ruling was also a jolt to the Shinde-Fadnavis government, which had been taking credit for the SC’s July 19 judgment allowing OBC quota in rural and urban local bodies.
The apex court reprimanded the SEC for staying the elections to the 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats slated for August 18, saying that at the most, the dates could be realigned. The court said that the SEC, in spite of being repeatedly told not to reschedule, had done just that.
As per the Supreme Court order on July 12, the nomination process already in motion for the 271 gram panchayats would continue, as it has not been stayed. The polling for these bodies is slated for August 4.
On Thursday, however, the SC asked SEC to go ahead with holding polls to these bodies in line with those for the 271 gram panchayats, without OBC quota. The Supreme Court said that the SEC could not re-notify polls and if they did so, it would amount to contempt of court.
SEC sources told The Free Press Journal, “The poll process had only started in 271 gram panchayats and 92 plus four municipal councils and nagar panchayats’ notification of election had not been published at all by the collectors, as it was only to be published on July 20 and nominations were to start from July 22. Hence, as per the Supreme Court’s observations, where nomination had not started, no election notification was to begin; hence, we stayed 96 urban local bodies elections pending further orders.” Sources said that the SEC legal counsel brought this aspect to the notice of court but the court directed that the elections to 367 local bodies should be held as declared earlier.
Maha Govt to file a review petition: Fadnavis
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the state government would file a review petition in the Supreme Court against Thursday’s order. He said he was surprised by the court order asking the SEC to hold elections to 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats which were stayed.
“The Supreme Court recently had allowed 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in local bodies, including nagar parishads, nagar panchayats and gram panchayats. The government had approached the apex court, seeking its view on why the OBC quota was not applicable to the 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats but it rejected the government’s plea. Therefore, the state government will file a review petition.”
CM Eknath Shinde and Fadnavis, according credit to themselves for the restoration of the OBC quota in local bodies after the Banthia Commission report was accepted, had said that justice had been done to the OBC community. However, with the court order on Thursday, the BJP and Shinde camps have received a setback, as they now apprehend a backlash from the OBCs. The order also comes at a time when Shinde’s efforts to expand his fledgling cabinet have proved fruitless and legislators angling for cabinet berths are getting increasingly restive. The opposition has slammed the delay in cabinet expansion.