HYDERABAD: The Telangana High Court has made it clear that the state government has violated the Constitution and statutory mandates by conducting the panchayat raj elections in 2019 without enumerating the Backward Classes population to provide reservations.
The high court directed the government to set up a dedicated commission to collect empirical data of the BC population ahead of the next local body elections due in 2024. The court also directed the government to file an affidavit informing when the commission will be constituted.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Vijaysen Reddy was dealing with a batch of petitions challenging the decrease of BC reservations for the gram panchayat elections from 34 to 23 per cent. The petitions also challenged Section 201 of the Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 2018 which allowed the Telangana BC cooperative finance corporation to conduct a survey of the BC population instead of a dedicated commission as mandated by the Supreme Court in the K Krishna Murthy case.
“The state government clearly violated the law and rules by considering the survey reports of the BC finance commission and others to fix the reservations, instead of appointing a dedicated commission. This is a clear breach of the Supreme Court judgment. As a result, the elections conducted in 2019 were prima facie illegal. Why don`t we set aside the entire election process that is already completed? We can do it and we have the powers to set (it) aside,” Chief Justice Kohli affirmed.
Observed the CJ: “How did the government choose to consider the data collected by its own departments? It was a violation of the law. Who gave such authority to the government? Are you thinking that you are the law yourself or consider yourself being above the law? We can take it as contempt of court?”
Additional advocate general J. Ramachandra Rao agreed that this was a clear violation. “In future, the government will follow the rules.” He also submitted that he was yet to get a word from the government as to when it would appoint the commission.
Petitioner’s counsel Dharmesh DK Jaiswal pointed out that on April 12, the additional advocate general had submitted before the court that the state government had relied upon surveys conducted by appropriate commissions before fixing the reservation quotas. Based on this, the bench had passed an order directing Ramachandra Rao to file the survey reports along with its counter-affidavits.
On Thursday, the additional AG took a completely different stand by stating that the government had relied on survey data conducted through respective district collectors.
The bench made an oral observation that the 2019 election was conducted illegally as it did not abide by the law. Most of the reliefs sought by the petitioners were covered by the Supreme Court order in March 2021, it noted.
The lone prayer is challenging the validity of Section 201 of the Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 2018 for allowing the BC finance corporation to conduct a survey instead of a dedicated commission. The bench directed the government to file an affidavit on why Section 201 should not be quashed for violating the constitutional mandate.