Odisha Channel Bureau
Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in the State Assembly on September 7, thereby indicating that the uncertainty over Urban Local Body elections will end soon for holding elections to the urban local bodies in the State.
The State government introduced the Odisha Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the Assembly a day earlier to provide reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other backward classes within the 50% ceiling in urban local body elections. Among them, 50 percent of seats will be reserved for women. The same ceiling will apply to offices of Chairperson of Municipalities, the Bill stated.
The elections in Odisha’s urban local bodies had been delayed primarily due controversy over reservation of seats and delimitation of wards. The five-year term of a large number of urban local bodies in the State, including that of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, had ended three years ago.
After the Bill was passed, the State Housing & Urban Development Department said that Article 243T of the Constitution provides for the reservation of seats in municipalities. “As per the above provision, the State Government has the discretion of reserving seats for BCC to such extent as may be decided by the State Legislature. Accordingly, the Odisha Municipal Act, 1950 and the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 provide for reservation seats for election to the extent of 27% of in favour of the backward class citizens (BCC) in the State.
Similarly, for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes, as per provision of the Constitution, reservation of seats has been made in urban areas of Odisha in proportion to their population in the respective urban areas. In view of the above statutory provisions, in some of the ULBs, the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes exceeds 50%.
The High Court of Orissa has passed a common order in W.P.(C). No.4174/2013 and 21 similar W.P.(C).s filed in the year 2013 and observed that the upper ceiling limit of reservation of seats for the SC, ST and BCC shouldn’t exceed 50% in accordance with the judgment passed by Supreme Court in the K. Krishna Murthy case. Further, the State Government was directed to adhere to the principles laid down by the apex court in K. Krishna Murthy case in letter and spirit.
The State Government approached the Supreme Court through an SLP and subsequently through a Review Petition challenging the aforesaid orders of the High Court. Supreme Court heard the cases and upheld the decision of High Court of Orissa.
The aforesaid judgement of the courts and the Constitutional provisions relating to the subject do not demand any amendment in the Odisha Municipal Act, 1950 and the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 so far as it relates to reservation of seats in urban elections for SC and ST Citizens. But, in order to comply the decision of the High Court of Odisha, delivered on the basis of orders of the Supreme Court, it has become expedient to limit the total extent of reservation for election in ULBs to 50%.
In view of the above decisions of the courts, the State government is left with no other option but to amend the relevant provisions of the Odisha Municipal Act, 1950 and the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003. Therefore amendments of the Odisha Municipal Act, 1950 and the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 have been proposed to fix the upper ceiling of reservation of seats for SC, ST and BCC to 50% and the upper limit of reservation of seats for BCC not to exceed 27%, the Department said.