Apex court upholds validity of OBC quota in local bodies

Apex court upholds validity of OBC quota in local bodies

A Constitution Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justices R V Raveendran, D K Jain, P Sathasivam and J M Panchal said: “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 Scheduled Tribes in the matter of their representation in panchayats located in the Scheduled Areas.”

“The reservation of chairperson posts in the manner contemplated by Articles 243-D(4) and 243-T(4) is constitutionally valid. These chairperson posts cannot be equated with solitary posts in the context of public employment,” said Justice Balakrishnan reading the judgment.

“While access to higher education and public employment increases the likelihood of socio-economic upliftment of the individual beneficiaries, participation in local-self government is intended as a more immediate measure of empowerment for the community that the elected representative belongs to,” the Bench said.

The apex court passed the judgement on a bunch of petitions filed by various persons challenging the constitutional validity of Articles 243-D(6) and Article 243-T(6) which provided for reservation benefits to members of Backward Classes in local bodies and chairperson posts.

Rejecting the plea for excluding the creamy layer, it said reservation in local self-government are intended to directly benefit the community as a whole rather than just the elected representatives.

“It is for this very reason that there cannot be an exclusion of the creamy layer in the context of political representation. There are bound to be disparities in the socio-economic status of persons within the groups that are the intended beneficiaries of reservation policies. While the exclusion of the creamy layer may be feasible as well as desirable in the context of reservation for education and employment, the same principle cannot be extended to the context of local self-government,” the Bench said.

According to the apex court, at the panchayats’ level, the empowerment of the elected individual is only a means for pursuing the larger end of advancing the interests of weaker sections.

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