2011 census basis for quota in Tamil Nadu local body polls: Supreme Court

Court shortens time for delimitation in nine districts from four to three months.

The Supreme Court on December 11 said the 2011 census should be the basis for reserving territorial wards and offices for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women in all impending elections to local bodies in Tamil Nadu.

Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde said this order would serve the ends of justice and the cause of free and fair elections. The apex court had on December 6 ordered the conduct of polls to rural local bodies in 27 districts.

It had given the State government four months to complete a fresh delimitation exercise in nine reconstituted districts. On Wednesday, it shortened the time to three months.

On December 11, the court said the 2011 census should be followed for reservations, irrespective of the number of seats the fresh delimitation exercise threw up in the nine districts. The court also shortened the time for completing the delimitation exercise in the nine districts from four to three months.

The Tamil Nadu government had countered an allegation made by the DMK and other Opposition parties in the Supreme Court that the election notification issued on December 7 defied the reservation requirements mandated under the law for women, SCs and STs. The DMK had moved the apex court alleging that the notification reserved wards and seats for women, SCs and STs as per a 2016 quota notification, which was issued on the basis of the 1991 population census. It had not taken into account a fresh delimitation exercise completed in 2018 as per the 2011 census, it said.

The State government, represented by Advocate General Vijay Narayanan and Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan, filed a counter affidavit on December 10, contending that reservation was provided in accordance with the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, and the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Reservation of Seats and Rotation of Reserved Seats) Rules, 1995, and on the basis of the 2011 census and not the one undertaken in 1991 as “wrongly” stated by the DMK.

“They do not want the elections to be held. We split the elections in compliance with your order. We are holding elections in three panchayat levels for 27 districts. We are not holding elections for the nine new districts. What more do they want… Not to hold the elections,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, leading the Tamil Nadu government side, asked the court.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the DMK, argued that the government had filed an affidavit on December 10. The affidavit “compounds a felony”. The December 7 notification was based on the 1991 census.

Senior advocate P. Chidambaram, appearing for an Opposition party that has filed a separate appeal, said the fresh delimitation exercise in the nine districts might lead to the creation of more seats and panchayat offices. If so, it would affect the elections in the 27 districts as well. Senior advocate P.S. Narasimha, for the T.N. Election Commission, objected to the DMK submission, saying the 2011 census was indeed followed.

“Had you done so, we would not be in court today,” Mr. Singhvi retorted.

Though the CJI initially asked Mr. Singhvi to specifically show the document which backed the DMK’s claim that the December 7 notification was based on the 1991 census, the court finally concluded, after hearing arguments, by insisting that the elections should be held as per the 2011 census.

No change

Later in the day, Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, in an official release, clarified that its notification of December 9 was based on the 2011 census. It insisted that the notification was in line with the apex court verdict and hence the election schedule announced earlier would be followed without change.

On the third day of filing of nominations, a total of 16,654 applications were received for various posts in rural local bodies across the State. According to TNSEC, a total of 21,655 nominations have been received across all 27 poll-bound districts since December 9.

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