Bihar: Polls to urban local bodies postponed after Patna HC declares quotas for OBCs, EBCs illegal
The court directed that the elections should be held only after re-notifying the reserved seats and treating them as general category constituencies.
The Bihar State Election Commission on Tuesday postponed polls to urban local bodies hours after the Patna High Court held that seats reserved for Other Backward Classes and Extremely Backward Classes were illegal, The Times of India reported.
The High Court directed that elections to 224 urban local bodies should be held only after re-notifying the reserved seats and treating them as general category constituencies. The elections were to be held in two phases on October 10 and October 20.
Mukesh Kumar Sinha, the secretary of the State Election Commission, said in a letter to all district magistrates that some “necessary amendments” had to be carried out in the wake of the High Court’s order, due to which the elections were postponed. The new dates will be announced later, he said.
The High Court, in its order, asked the state government to consider enacting a comprehensive law on reservations in urban and rural local bodies polls to bring the state’s legal position in line with the Supreme Court directions, PTI reported.
Meanwhile, the ruling Janata Dal (United) on Wednesday asserted that fresh municipal polls will only be held in the state after reservations for Other Backward Classes and Extremely Backward Classes were restored, reported PTI. The party said that there was no illegality in quotas.
“These were introduced by the Nitish Kumar government for panchayats in 2006 and for urban local bodies a year later,” JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh said. “We suspect the Bharatiya Janata Party’s hand in the goof up. The party and its parent body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have always been opposed to quotas.”
In March 2021, the Supreme Court had ruled that if a state wanted to implement reservation for Other Backward Classes in local body polls, it had to fulfil three conditions. The government would have to constitute a dedicated OBC commission to collect data on the community’s backwardness, specify the extent of reservation required as per the panel’s findings, and ensure that the total reservation does not exceed 50% of the total seats.
The High Court also asked the State Election Commission to review its functioning and ensure that it is “not bound by the dictates” of the state government.
The Janata Dal (United)‘s parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha said that the court order was unfortunate and that it was the result of a “deep conspiracy” by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre. He said that his party will launch an agitation on the matter.
“If the Narendra Modi-led government had carried out a caste census and completed the necessary constitutional formalities, this situation would not have arisen,” he said.
State BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of betraying backwards and extremely backward classes. “Nitish ji must answer – whose responsibility was it to set up the commission?” he asked. “Why was the election process started without preparations? Why were facts not presented before the court?”