General category women's quota in GPs to come down

The State Election Commission has been working overtime to give effect to amendments to the Karnataka Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, recently notified by the government.

As per the amendments, reservation for women in panchayat bodies – gram, taluk and zilla panchayats – will have to be limited to 50 per cent. Once it is done, number of seats reserved for women belonging to general category will come down.

But there will be no change in the number of reserved seats for women belonging SC, ST and backward classes, official sources in the SEC said. The Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, before the amendment, stated: “Not less than 50 per cent of the seats reserved for each category of persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes and those of non-reserved seats in the Zilla Panchayat shall be reserved by the State Election Commission for women.”

This had resulted in reservation for women exceeding more than 50 per cent in many panchayat bodies. In some panchayats, nearly 75 per cent of seats were reserved for women. The government, therefore, brought in an amendment and inserted the words “subject to an overall limit of one half of the total number rounding off to the next number.”

As the elections to gram panchayats are fast nearing, the SEC has been holding series of meetings with deputy commissioners of all districts to give effect to the amendment. Gram panchayat elections are likely to be held either in the last week of May or the first week of June, the sources said.

The latest amendment to the Act has also introduced compulsory voting in panchayat polls. But there is no penal provision in the Act. The SEC will be taking up a public campaign across the State to educate people about the compulsory voting.

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