There is just a month left before the five-year term of municipal bodies in Bihar expires, but uncertainty looms over fresh elections since the state government has failed to initiate any steps to fulfil the “triple test criteria” laid down by Supreme Court last year for provisioning reservations for other backward classes (OBCs) in urban local bodies by forming a dedicated commission for the purpose.
Bihar’s urban development department (UDD), which is looking into the matter, still does not have a clear picture on how and when the triple test criteria would be met.
“We are taking legal view on the matter and take a decision based on that,” said special secretary (UDD) Satish Kumar Singh. Reminded that the term of majority of municipal bodies would come to an end by mid-June which will require fresh elections, Singh said there was still time.
During the budget session of the state legislature in March this year, deputy chief minister and urban development minister Tarkishore Prasad had said government was seeking a legal view on the SC order regarding triple test criteria and assured the House that municipal polls would be held timely.
On March 4, 2021, the top court had laid down the triple test criteria, which stipulated setting up a dedicated commission to “conduct rigourous empirical study to ascertain the nature and implications of backwardness of local bodies, recommend proportion of reservation for OBCs local body wise” and ensure the total reservation does not exceed 50%, including for scheduled castes and tribes.
The SC reiterated its position as late as on May 10, 2022, and said if the exercise cannot be completed before the issue of the election programme by the State Election Commission (SEC) , the seats (except reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes), have to be notified as for general category.
Meanwhile, SEC has started the exercise for delimitation of wards of newly constituted municipal bodies and upgraded municipal bodies and also preparation of voters’ list ward wise.
SEC officials said the delimitation exercise would be completed by June 2 while preparation of ward-wise voters’ list would be completed by June 23 when final draft would be published.
“There are a few municipal bodies where formalities of notification and re-notification are pending with the UDD. If that is delayed, it will take us more time to complete delimitation,” said an SEC official.
State election commissioner Deepak Prasad could not be contacted for his comment.