Press Trust of india

Bill to provide OBC quota in J&K local bodies introduced in Lok Sabha

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New Delhi:  The Centre on Monday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes in local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir.

Currently, there is no provision for reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in panchayats and municipalities in the Union territory.

The aim of the Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 is to “uphold principles of fairness and inclusivity in local governance, thereby addressing long-standing disparities and ensuring justice for OBC citizens”.

“With this,…justice will be ensured to the citizens of Other Backward Classes of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time after 75 years of independence,” according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

The bill says that in future all local body polls will be conducted by a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner, instead of the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir.

The bill says the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of a high court and the conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 seeks to amend certain provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Act, 2000 and the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act, 2000 in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution,” according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

Clause (6) of articles 243D and 243T of the Constitution empowers the legislature of a state to make provision for reservation of seats in any panchayat and municipality in favour of backward classes of citizens.

However, the Acts of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir have no provision for reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes in panchayats and municipalities.

According to articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for and the conduct of all elections to panchayats and municipalities are vested in a State Election Commission.

The similar provision was incorporated in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.

However, as per municipal laws of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the conduct of all elections to municipalities and municipal corporations lies with the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir.

The provisions pertaining to State Election Commissioner in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 are at variance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Section 36B of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 provides that the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except by an order made by the Lieutenant Governor on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after an inquiry conducted by a sitting or a retired judge of the High Court, on a reference made to him by the Lieutenant Governor.

“In order to provide reservation to the “Other Backward Classes” in the Panchayats and the Municipalities in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and to bring consistency in the local bodies laws of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with the provisions of the Constitution, it has become necessary to amend certain provisions of the Acts and to introduce a Bill in Parliament, namely, the Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024,” according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

Officials said for the first time, a survey was conducted in 2019 through district census official on OBCs. Initially 27 castes were included in the list and another 15 cases were added to the list last year. The State Election Commission will also decide on the number of OBCs.

Revision of panchayat electoral rolls started in January this year and now the delimitation of constituencies is being done and for the first time which will also include rotation of reserved seats.

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