Fit case to discuss Panchayat Raj amendment in legislature: Bhardwaj

"I find that it is a fit case where the Government should discuss the amendment on the floor of the legislature rather than impressing upon the Governor to commit a serious constitutional impropriety by means of promulgating an Ordinance under Article 213(1) of the Constitution," Bhardwaj said in a statement here. He reminded the Government that the state has to secure the welfare of weaker sections of society, but without violating the law laid down by the apex court.

"In my view the Government cannot be allowed to function arbitrarily in discharging its constitutional functions by showing disregard to Supreme Court decisions quoted on the subject," he said.

"In my earlier note dated November 11, I drew the government's attention to the earlier Supreme Court ruling in 1994 in Dr K Krishnamurthy and others vs Union of India and sought their response there to," Bhardwaj said. The Governor said no advice or opinion from the Advocate General had been placed on record. Even the opinion of the Law Secretary was not recorded in the submission note.

"I have no dispute in so far as the commitment expressed by the Government to empower weaker sections of society as recorded by the cabinet, but the same could not go against the Supreme Court order."

The apex court in an order in May held that the upper ceiling of 50 per cent vertical reservations in favour of SC/ST/OBCs should not be breached in the context of local self-government. Exceptions can only be made in order to safeguard the interests of ST in the matter of their representation in the panchayats located in Scheduled areas, it said.
Prior to this law, the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993 provided for reservations for SCs and STs in proportion to their population and about one-third of the total number of seats in panchayats for persons belonging to Backward Classes.

In many panchayats, the total number of seats reserved for SCs, STs and Backward Classes had gone far beyond 50 per cent of the total seats, he pointed out.

Bhardwaj said the state Government, in order to bring the provisions of state Panchayat Raj Act in conformity with the Apex Court law, proposed an Ordinance to apply the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations in panchayats in favour of SC/ST/OBCs. He approved this ordinance and it was promulgated on Oct 4.

Subsequently, on Nov 10, the government proposed another ordinance to omit portions relating to this ceiling. Since the earlier one was promulgated for the express purpose of bringing provisions of the Act in harmony with the Apex court law, the legal implications of promulgating another ordinance to delete those provisions was required to be examined.

Therefore, he said he asked the Government to examine the implications of the proposed Ordinance and bring the material on record before seeking approval. He also expressed serious apprehensions about the proposed Ordinance leading to creation of legal hurdles and delay in the conduct of elections to the Panchayats.

The government had yesterday resubmitted the proposed Ordinance stating that imposing the ceiling of 50 per cent has resulted in significant reduction in seats for BC's and is against its policy to empower weaker sections. The Government did not place on record any legal opinion despite specific directions from the Governor.

"I have carefully gone through the background note from the State Election Commission office which bears out that out of the total of 30 districts, at least in 25 of these, the reservation will go beyond 50 per cent- the ceiling prescribed in law laid down by the Supreme Court of India", he said.

"Having regard to the above,I do not find any justification for promulgating an ordinance as proposed," he said.

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