ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Backward Class Reservation in Local Bodies

The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments have failed on multiple fronts due to a combination of poor drafting and unclear intent. The current impasse over the implementation of reservations for “backward classes” in panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies is a result of poor drafting of these amendments and unclear policy objectives. The impasse threatens the future of grassroots democracy in India by putting on hold the local body elections for indefinite periods of time and can only be addressed through a constitutional amendment.

 

In the recently concluded budget session of Parliament, Rajya Sabha member P Wilson highlighted a “constitutional deadlock” that had taken place when it came to the reservations of seats for “backward classes” in local bodies. The states such as Karnataka and Mahara­shtra have not held elections for local bodies since they have not been able to comply with the “triple test” laid down by the Supreme Court for such reser­vations. This suggested that the caste data collected in the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 necessary for states to fulfil the criteria laid down by the Supreme Court, was available with the union government and should be released to break this constitutional deadlock (News Minute 2022).

While Wilson’s concern about the stalled elections is valid as the impasse dam­ages the grassroots democracy in India, the solution may not necessarily lie in the rel­ease of the SECC data. Rather, as I argue in this column, the constitutional provisions rel­a­ted to reservations for “backward cla­sses” in the local bodies are poorly draf­ted and need to be rectified by a constituti­onal amendment. While courts have atte­mpted to partially address the problem thr­o­ugh interpretation, they are trying to guess what the reservation provisi­ons were trying to do and do not offer ­suffi­cient clarity to states on how to implement reservations for the backward cla­sses.

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Updated On : 24th Apr, 2022
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