March 21, 2023

SC’s ‘triple test’ criteria may identify new set of OBCs for political quotas | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The outcome of the impasse over OBC reservation in local bodies may cut very deep, to the extent that the ‘triple test’ criteria laid down by the Supreme Court to decide backward quota in politics may result in the identification of a new set of backward communities eligible for political quotas, different from those availing the Mandal quotas for education and employment.
The judicial red flag to the OBC quota in local bodies elections, first raised in Maharashtra and then extended to Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, lays down that states have to set up a commission to collect “contemporaneous data” on the nature and patterns of backwardness, among other things.
The SC’s orders are based on the Krishna Murthy judgment delivered in 2010 by a five-judge Constitution bench, which dwelt on the issue of quotas in local bodies. At the heart of its prescription of “contemporaneous data” was its conclusion that “barriers to political participation are not of the same character as barriers that limit access to education and employment”.
It stressed, “Social and economic backwardness does not necessarily coincide with political backwardness. In this respect, the state governments are well advised to reconfigure their reservation policies, wherein the beneficiaries under Articles 243-(D6) and 243-T(6) (dealing with OBC quotas) need not necessarily be co-terminus with the SEBCs for Articles 15(4) and 16(4).”
It added, “…not all of the groups which have been given reservation benefits in the domain of education and employment need reservations in the sphere of local self government.”
The apparent implication of the judgment is that backward communities in local bodies can be different from the “state lists” of OBCs used for jobs and education quotas. As Shashank Ratnoo, an advocate specialising on OBC issues, says, “The repeated Supreme Court judgements imply that communities that are educationally and socially backward may be politically empowered. The contemporaneous data can lead to a separate list of OBCs for political quotas, with possible weeding out of the existing state lists.”
The possibility of some OBC communities not being eligible for political quotas in future can be a sensitive issue for the political class, given the numerical clout and the aspirations of the stronger Mandal groups.

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