Nothing wrong with OBC Reservation for consecutive term for the office of Mayor; SC interprets Maharashtra Rules

Supreme Court: The bench of L. Nageswara Rao v. BR Gavai*, JJ has set aside the judgment of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court wherein it was held that the reservation of the Office of Mayor for the Dhule Municipal Corporation for Backward Class (OBC) for a second term, coupled with the fact that there has been no reservation for the Scheduled Caste category, amounted to violation of rotation policy.

Facts

  • The respondent No.1 though belongs to the Scheduled Caste category, was elected as a Councillor to the Dhule Municipal Corporation from the General category. By the Notification dated 27th November 2019, the Office of Mayor in the said Corporation was earmarked for Backward Class of Citizens for the next term of two and half years commencing from June, 2021.
  • Respondent number 1 challenged the aforementioned Notification on the ground that from the year 2003 onwards, the Office of Mayor in the said Corporation was reserved for Backward Class category on various occasions, but was not reserved for Scheduled Caste category.
  • Bombay High Court held that the reservation of the Office of Mayor for the Dhule Municipal Corporation for Backward Class (OBC) for a second term even without any reservation for Scheduled Caste category.
  • The said judgment was challenged on the ground that the import of Clauses (d) and (e) of sub­rule (2) of Rule 3 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations (Reservation of Offices of Mayors) Rules, 2006 was not considered by the High Court while deciding the matter.

Analysis

Interpreting a Statute

Explaining the rules for interpreting a Statute, the Court said,

“… the Court will have to prefer an interpretation which makes the Statute workable. The interpretation which gives effect to the intention of the legislature, will have to be preferred. The interpretation which brings about the effect of result, will have to be preferred than the one which defeats the purpose of the enactment.”

It is the duty of the Court to construe the Statute as a whole and that one provision of the Act has to be construed with reference to other provisions so as to make a consistent enactment of the whole Statute.

“It is the duty of the Court to avoid a head-on clash between two sections and construe the provisions which appear to be in conflict with each other in such a manner so as to harmonise them.”

Further, while interpreting a particular statutory provision, it should not result into making the other provision a “useless lumber” or a “dead letter”. While construing the provisions, the Court will have to ascertain the intention of the law¬making authority in the backdrop of dominant purpose and   the underlying intendment of the Statute

The Legislative Intent behind the Rules in question

The impugned Rules are mechanism for giving effect to the constitutional mandate under Article 243T of the Constitution of providing reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the   enabling provision for providing reservation for Backward Class of Citizens in proportion to their population.

The intent and the dominant purpose of Rule 3 of the said Rules is to provide reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Class of Citizens and Women and further to ensure that there is no  repetition  of reservation  of  a particular category  in a particular Corporation.

The intent of the said Rules is to give effect to the reservation policy while ensuring that reservations are not repeated in particular Corporations and at the same time in all the Corporations, there shall be reservation, at some point of time, for all the eligible categories by rotation.

The legislative intent is to exclude the Corporations which were earlier reserved for a particular category until all the categories are provided reservation.  However, while doing so, the Court will have to interpret Rule 3 of the said Rules in such a manner that this scheme is made workable and not frustrated.

True import of the Rules in question

The Court took note of the dominant purpose and the legislative intent of the said Rules which is to provide reservation in proportion of the population of such categories in the Municipal areas and also to ensure that while all the eligible Corporations get reservation at some point of time for the different categories, at the same time there would be no repetition of reservation until the rotation   is complete. However, while doing so, the number of seats reserved for a particular category also cannot be ignored.

“… the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes are 3 whereas for Backward Class of citizens, they are 7. Sub-rule (2) of Rule 3 of the said Rules prescribes the manner in which the seats are to be allotted to be reserved for various categories including women. Clause (a) thereof provides that it shall be done by notification in the Official Gazette by allotment of draw of lots. Clause (d) thereof provides that while drawing lots, the offices of Mayors reserved for such category in the earlier years shall be excluded from the draw of lots for those categories. Clause (e) thereof provides that the offices of Mayors to be reserved shall be rotated in   the subsequent terms of office of Mayor to such Corporation, in which no reservation has been made in the previous terms until such reservations are given by rotation to each category.”

Applying the rules of interpretation, the Court noticed that at the first blush, an isolated reading of clause (e) is capable of being interpreted in a manner that until reservation is provided for each category by rotation, the said office cannot be reserved for a category for which it was already reserved. However, if the Rules along with Article 243T of the Constitution and Section 19(1A)[1] of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act, 1949 are read as a whole, then the dominant purpose behind the said Rules appears to be that the reservation as mandated in the Constitution, should be provided for offices of Mayors in the Corporations.

“While doing so, the reservation has to be provided by a draw of lots. It has to be ensured that at any given point of time, the number of offices of Mayors reserved for such categories should not be less than the number determined in accordance with the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 3 of the said Rules.”

Clause (d) of sub-rule (2) of Rule 3 of the said Rules also provides that while drawing lots, the offices of Mayors reserved for such category in the earlier years, shall be excluded from the draw of lots for those categories. The purpose appears to ensure that the reservation is not thrust upon a particular Corporation again and again and all the Corporations, at some point of time, will have the office of Mayor reserved for particular category in accordance with the said Rules.

The Court explained,

“The office of Mayor can be reserved for Scheduled Tribes in only 9 Corporations whereas all the Corporations are eligible for reservation for Scheduled Castes and Backward Class of Citizens.  However, taking into consideration the fact that the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes are 3 whereas for Backward Class of Citizens, they are 7 i.e. more than twice,  it is quite probable that the post of Mayor could be reserved for two earlier terms for Backward Class of Citizens and whereas no reservation is provided for Scheduled Castes.”

The Court noticed that a harmonious construction of the said Rules would not lead to a conclusion that the procedure as followed by the State Government in allotting the reservation by draw of lots, would be said to be inconsistent with the scheme of the said Rules.

The Court then took note of the following facts,

  • After excluding 12 Corporations which are already reserved for Scheduled Castes in the earlier years and the one which was reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the first draw of lots, there were 14 Corporations available including the Dhule Municipal Corporation.
  • The said Corporation was also included in the draw of lots for Scheduled Castes. However, in the draw of lots, it could not be reserved for Scheduled Castes.
  • However, insofar as Backward Class is concerned, out of 27 Corporations, 26 Corporations excluding newly created Panvel Corporation were already reserved for Backward Class in the earlier years.
  • As such, the State excluded the 7 Corporations which were immediately reserved for the Backward Class and also excluded the 4 Corporations which were reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the present draw of lots.
  • Coincidentally, in the draw of lots, Dhule Municipal Corporation was one of the 7 Corporations which got to be reserved for the Backward Class.

The Court, hence, held that such a situation is bound to occur in view of the difference in number of seats, reserved for Scheduled Castes and Backward Class of Citizens.

“If the interpretation as placed is to be accepted then unless the post of Mayor is reserved for Scheduled Tribes in all the Corporations to complete the rotation, it will not be possible to provide reservation for the categories which were already reserved earlier.  However, it could be seen that as per the Rules, only 9 Corporations could be reserved for Scheduled Tribes.”

[Sanjay Ramdas Patil v. Sanjay, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 650, decided on 01.09.2021]


[1] “19. Mayor and Deputy Mayor

(1) …

(1A) There shall be reservation for the office of the Mayor   in   the   Corporation,   by   rotation,   for   the Scheduled   Castes,   the   Scheduled   Tribes,   women and   the   Backward   Class   of   citizens,   in   the prescribed manner.”


Judgment by: Justice BR Gavai

Know Thy Judge| Justice B.R. Gavai

Appearances before the Court:

For appellants: Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora and Advocate Braj Kishore Mishra

For the State of Maharashtra: Advocate Sachin Patil

For Respondent: Advocate Nishant Ramakantrao Katneshwarkar

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