Seat reservation for STs in UP: Supreme Court notice to Centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea challenging the decision to declare two Assembly seats in Sonebhadra district of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh as reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (STs).

“Issue notice. B K Prasad accepts notice on behalf of the Union of India,” a bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said.

The apex court granted two weeks time to the central government and the poll panel for filing their response after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appeared and sought time. Rohatgi said that the poll process has been set in motion in the state and judicial interference, at this juncture, is not warranted.

Besides the Centre and the poll panel, the court also issued notice to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, the Uttar Pradesh government and the state Chief Electoral Officer. The bench has now fixed for further hearing on March 22 the plea of Pankaj Kumar Mishra who has challenged the January 4 order of the Election Commission to declare Obra and Duddhi Assembly constituencies of Sonebhadra district as reserved.

Mishra has alleged that the decision was illegal as it lacked the order of the President mandated under Articles 82 (re-adjustment in constituencies after the census) and 170 (composition of Legislative Assemblies) of the Constitution.

“The Election Commission all of sudden on January 4 through a press note as well as corrigendum issued for conducting polls in UP Assembly constituencies and other four states declared the said two constituencies …as reserved Assembly constituencies for STs in place of general and SC seats.
“The said action of respondent No.2 (ECI) is challenged herein …as ultravires and against the mandate of the constitutional provisions in particular Articles 82 and 170 and as also in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The said action is also contrary to the various provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002,” the plea said. It has sought a declaration that the impugned press note and corrigendum of the poll panel related to Obra and Duddhi Assembly seats designating them as ST constituencies in the place of general category is “unconstitutional and illegal” and cannot be given effect to.