The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued a notice to the Union Territory administration on change of women reservation roster for DDC chairpersons and directed it to file a response by or before the next date of hearing on January 27.
Soon after the government issued reservation rules for the posts of chairpersons of the District Development Council on January 11, the Congress took strong exception to the change of roster of reservation for women for the offices of DDC chairpersons and termed it an attempt to "defeat and distort" the mandate of the people and manipulate the results.
Passing an order on a writ petition filed by Congress DDC member Nadeem Sharief Niaz and other elected members of DDCs on Friday, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge justice Rajnesh Oswal issued a notice to the respondent UT government, besides State Election Commission (Election Authority) and directed them to file a response by or before, the next date, fixed on January 27.
The court also directed the registry to list the case in the first 10 cases in the cause list and said "subject to objections, any action taken by the respondent no 4 (State Election Commission) shall be subject to the further orders of the court".
The maiden DDC elections to 280 constituencies spread over 20 districts – 10 each in Kashmir and Jammu divisions – were held in November-December last year.
Formally issuing the reservation rules, the Union Territory administration accorded 33 per cent reservation to women while scheduled castes and scheduled tribes will get reservation based on their population.
For reservation to women, as per the rules, the districts will be arranged alphabetically and every third district will be reserved for them.
Allocation of seats of the chairpersons to be reserved for women shall be made on a three-point roster system after arranging them alphabetically.which means the districts falling alphabetically at numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 will be reserved for women.
The petitioners challenged the change of reservation roster of chairpersons of the DDCs for women, claiming that the arrangement is contrary to the statutory rules providing reservation from 1, 4, 7, 10 and so on.
The Congress has also been strongly advocating introduction of anti-defection norms and the system of open voting to check horse-trading in the upcoming elections to the DDC chairpersons.
"When the formula of roster of reservation had already been prescribed and notified in October 24, 2020 for DDC members and DDC chairpersons for women as well as SCs/ST, why the same is sought to be changed now, after the results when the eligible candidates are known," J-K Congress chief spokesperson Rvinder Sharma said.
He said the Panchayat Raj Act, as amended in 2014, provided for reservation of 1/3rd seats to be reserved for women, including women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and since it is first time that such a reservation is being provided for DDC chairpersons, the same has to be started from serial number one.
In the next round after the next election to the district bodies, the roaster point shall move further.
"How the government has arbitrarily started the reservation roster from serial number three, six, nine and so on," he questioned and raised the significant point of law, alleging it is an attempt to favour some like-minded candidates by the government.
Raising serious questions over the failure to introduce the anti-defection provisions in these important elections of the DDC, held on party basis, Sharma said the doors of horse-trading and corruption have been kept wide open, which is a flawed approach to such a significant democratic institution.