SC directs EC to notify polls for 23,263 local bodies in MP without OBC reservation

NEW DELHI: Holding that constitutional mandate of holding election before expiry of five year tenure is inviolable, the Supreme Court directed initiation of poll process for 23,263 local bodies in Madhya Pradesh which has been due since 2019, and rejected state government’s contention for more time to fulfill the triple test criteria to introduce OBC reservation in local self governed bodies and to complete the delimitation process.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Abhay S Oka and C T Ravikumar said that election process could not be delayed to grant OBC reservation and directed the state election commission to issue notification within two weeks. “As and when the formalities of the triple test are completed, that can be reckoned for future elections to be held thereafter. However, elections which are already due need not and cannot be delayed on that count in view of the constitutional mandate, it said.
Responding to the argument that OBC constitutes around 50 percent of the population and not granting them reservation in local bodies would be injustice to them, the bench said that cannot be the basis to disregard the constitutional mandate of holding elections on time. “The political parties who claim to be the protagonist of participation of OBC in the governance of local bodies, are free to nominate candidates belonging to OBC category in the concerned constituencies and even against all the General seats available after reserving for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” the bench said.
The court said that failure of the state governemnt and the election commission in not holding local bodies election since 2019 is violation of constitutional provision and no further delay could be brooked.
“Despite such a constitutional mandate, the reality in the State of Madhya Pradesh as of now, is that, more than 23,263 local bodies are functioning without the elected representatives for over two years and more. This is bordering on break down of rule of law and more so, palpable infraction of the constitutional mandate qua the existence and functioning of such local self government, which cannot be countenanced,” the bench said.
“To put it differently, completion of delimitation exercise or be it triple test formality, as the case may be, can wait if not completed well before the expiry of five years term of the outgoing elected body, including giving enough time to the Election Commission to complete the election process within such time. Thus, the declaration of the election programme cannot be delayed by the Election Commission on that account. For, it would inevitably result in creating a hiatus situation upon expiry of five years term of the outgoing elected body. Such an eventuality needs to be eschewed by all the duty holders,” the bench said.
The court said that its order is not only confined to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra but would be applicable to all states where the local bodies elections are due. It said that the election commission should not wait any further and notify the election programme without any further delay.
“This constitutional mandate is inviolable. Neither the State Election Commission nor the State Government or for that matter the State Legislature, including this Court in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India can countenance dispensation to the contrary,” it said.