Express News Service
LUCKNOW: The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court on Monday asked the UP government to follow 2015 as the base year for deciding the reservation and rotation of seats for village panchayats, blocks and districts and complete the poll process by May 25.
After quashing the February 11 order, a Lucknow bench of the high court also asked the government to issue a fresh order providing for the reservation on the basis of the 2015 population.
A division bench, comprising Justice Rituraj Awasthi and Manish Mathur, also directed the state to complete the reservation process by March 27.
It passed the order after the state Advocate General Reghvendra Singh conceded the government’s mistake in providing for the reservation of seats on the 1995 population instead of the 2015’s.
Conceding the mistake, Singh told the court that the government itself was interested in reserving seats on the basis of the 2015 population.
While asking the government to issue a fresh order for the reservation for various category of candidates, including those belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes and other backward classes besides the women, the bench also extended the deadline for completing the panchayat elections by May 25.
The bench had on Saturday ordered interim stay on the reservation process while hearing a PIL filed by Ajay Kumar and had issued notices to the State Election Commission and the government to file their replies by March 15.
The state government counsel on Monday told the bench that it had no objection in taking 2015 as the base year for deciding the reservation of seats by rotation.
During the argument, law officer Raghvendra Singh told the bench that the Allahabad High Court had on February 4, 2021 directed for completing the whole election process by May 15, 2021 but in view of the fresh exercise to be taken up as per the Lucknow bench’s order, some more time would be required.
Allowing the government counsel’s plea, the bench extended gthe deadline for completing the Panchayat elections by 10 days, fixing May 25 as its deadline.
The bench passed its order on a public interest lawsuit by a Lucknow resident, Ajai Kumar, who had challenged the legality of the government’s February 11 order, which had provided for the reservation of seats for the panchayat elections as per the 1995 population.
The petitioner claimed that it was in violation of an earlier order dated September 15 which had fixed 2015 as the base year.
The petitioner’s lawyer Mohammad Altaf Mansoor had questioned the legality of the government’s decision, terming it against a September 2015 notification, which had provided 2015 as the base year, considering the changes in the demographic situation in UP.
Advocate Mansoor also argued that the February 11, 2021 notification provided reservation exceeding 50 per cent ceiling imposed by the apex court, rendering the order illegal.
The previous polls were held as per the September 2015 order, the petitioner said.
In an order in February, the Allahabad HC had expressed concern over the delay in holding panchayat polls and had directed the government to complete the rotation of reserved seats by March 17.
In his petition, Kumar had contended that the UP Panchayat Raj (Reservation and Allotment of Seats and Offices) Rules 1994 provided 1995 as the base year for providing reservation on seats.
But the government issued a notification on September 16, 2015 which set 2015 as the base year as per state’s demography then and, accordingly, the 2015 Panchayat elections were held on the basis of the 2015 population.
But, strangely, the government decided to follow 1995 as the base year in the 2021 election without any rhyme and reason, while September 16, 2015 order was still in existence, he said.
(With PTI Inputs)