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Plea in Supreme Court against Upcoming Panchayat Polls 2021 in State of Uttar Pradesh

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A Special Leave Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court wherein the Court had directed the State Government and State Election Commission to hold upcoming Panchayat Elections 2021, in the State of Uttar Pradesh, taking 2015 as base year for reservation of seats. 

The present SLP before the Supreme Court has been filed by one Dilip Kumar against the Ajay Kumar, who had filed PIL before the Lucknow High Court and against the State of Uttar Pradesh, Director Panchayat Raj and State Election Commission Uttar Pradesh. 

On March 15, 2021, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court headed by Justice Manish Mathur and Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi had quashed the UP Government order dated 11.02.2021, wherein it had taken 1995 as base year for the reservation of seats in the State upcoming Panchayat Elections. The Lucknow High Court had directed the State Government to finalise the entire exercise for providing reservation in the Panchayat Elections taking 2015 as the base year by 27.03.2021 and hold the elections by 10.05.2021, on the submissions made by the Advocate General. Indirect elections would be completed by 25.05.2021, the High Court had said. 

The petitioner Ajay Kumar through a PIL before the High Court had challenged an order of the state government issued on February 11, 2021, regarding reservation in elections. 

The petitioner in PIL Ajay Kumar had submitted before the High Court that the State Government in its previous Order dated 16.09.2015, had indicated that due to substantial demographic change in the Districts of the State in the Gram Panchayat and Khetra Panchayat territories in view of the census of 2001 and 2011, it was no longer conducive to have 1995 as the base year for purposes of applying reservation as per Rule 4 of Rules of 1994. As such, the base year in view of the changed demographic situation was required to be taken as 2015. 

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The Counsel for the Petitioner before the High Court had submitted that provisions for reservations in the elections are to be determined as per the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Reservation and Allotment of Seats and Offices) Rules, 1994 with Rule 4 providing allotment of seats for reservation on rotational basis. 

The Counsel further informed that ignoring the Government Order dated September 16, 2015; the opposite parties are proceeding to reserve the seats in terms of Rule 4 of Rules of 1994 by taking 1995 as the base year instead of 2015. He had submitted that order dated 16.09.2015 is still in existence and the previous elections were held in the year 2015 were also in accordance with the aforesaid Government Order. He had further submitted that even otherwise in view of the changed demographic situation as noticed by the State Government itself in the Government Order dated 16.09.2015, it does not stand reason that the base year for purposes of reserving seats in terms of Rule 4 of Rules of 1994 should be taken as 1995. 

He had further submitted that even otherwise the provisions for reservation as contemplated by the Government Order of February 11, 2021, would result in more than 60 per cent seats in a district being reserved, which would be violative of various judgments of the Supreme Court and that it would also violate the maximum cap fixed with respect to reservation of Backward Class of 27 per cent. 

The Counsel for Petitioner had stated that similarly worded provisions in Clause 12(2)(c) of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchyat Samitis Act, 1961 was held to be non est by a recent judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Vikas Kishanrao Gawali vs. State of Maharashtra and others; 2021 SCC OnLine SC 170. 

He had submitted that the Supreme Court while following the Constitution Bench judgment in the case of K. Krishna Murthy (Dr.) vs. Union of India; (2010) 7 SCC 202 had held that the quantum of reservation ought to be local bodies specific and be so provisioned to ensure that it does not exceed the quantitative limit of 50 per cent (aggregate) of vertical reservation of seats for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together. 

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The Advocate General too, had submitted before the High Court that the State Government had no objection to implementing the reservation and allotment of seats of constituencies in Panchayats elections taking 2015 as the base year. 

After considering the submissions of the Advocate General, and of the petitioner, the order dated 11th February 2021, was quashed by the Lucknow High Court and the PIL filed by Ajay Kumar was allowed.

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