The Karnataka High Court asked the state government to redo the reservation list for wards for the BBMP elections and issue a new one before end of November 2022 so as to ensure conduct of elections by end of December this year.
The court is hearing petitions against the ward-wise reservations that various parties contested as being arbitrary and thereby putting all but the ruling party at a disadvantage.
It directed the state government to ensure listing of wards for reservation to SC/ST/backward classes and women in the descending order depending on the percentage of population.
It also quashed the government order of 16 August that had randomly reserved 120 for women and 81 for backward classes.
The state government had increased the wards from 198 to 243. Based on the report submitted by the Dr Justive K Bhaktavatsala Commission, that suggested one third reservation in local bodies to OBCs, the state had issued a notification that notified ward-wise reservation.
A writ petition was moved challenging the same.
The opposition party, Congress, criticised the ruling BJP government alleging flaws in the reservation of municipal wards ahead of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections.
Congress state president D K Shivakumar had taken objection to the list issued through a gazette notification and said that the reservation of wards should have been done according to the population.
Shivakumar had alleged that the “BJP government in Karnataka carried out the exercise in a way that the Congress should not win the BBMP election”, as reported by PTI.
The state had then made a submission in September that elections to the city civic body can be held only as per the recently announced ward-wise reservation list and that any objection or deficiency can be corrected by the next election but there was immediate need to elect new corporators now.
The state had also denied the allegations that the reservation list was politically motivated.
To this, the court said the ‘imminence of elections cannot be a ground to dispense with allocating seats to backward classes which is a statutory requirement’.
The Court observed, as reported by Bar and Bench, "that the Commission was required to find out which of the communities were backward in the local bodies across State of Karnataka on the basis of empirical data and, thereafter, opine on providing reservation of 33 per cent of total seats in favour of OBCs including the minorities in local bodies."
It directed the state to cooperate with the Commission in furnishing the empirical data so as to formulate a report and submit the same to state government for publication of final notification.
The court also said that the government’s action that led to majority of reservation of wards for women in constituencies held by the opposition parties was deliberate and would deprive the women of other constituencies having larger population of women from participating in political issues.
The court called this arbitrary and discriminatory as “the object of providing reservation to women is to encourage women to participate in political issues and have equal rights to contest the election to Councilors of BBMP”.
It asked the state to redo the exercise and allocate seats in the descending order with respect to wards having greater percentage of population of women.
The BBMP polls are due since September 2020.
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