Demonstrators with saffron flags ride a motorcycle during a silent protest organized by Marathas. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Order On Reservation To Marathas

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine the constitutional validity of a Maharashtra law granting reservation for Marathas in education and jobs, but refused to stay the Bombay High Court order upholding the statute with some modifications.

The apex court said however that the aspect of the High Court verdict allowing the quota with a retrospective effect, from 2014, would not be made operational. “We make it clear that the order of the High Court on reservation will not have retrospective effect,” said the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, when one of the lawyers alleged that the state government has passed an order applying the quota to nearly 70,000 vacancies with effect from 2014.

The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018 was enacted to grant reservation to the Maratha community people in jobs and admissions. The high court held that 16 percent reservation was not justifiable and ruled that quota should not exceed 12 percent in employment and 13 percent in admissions.

The bench was hearing five petitions including those filed by J Laxman Rao Patil and lawyer Sanjeet Shukla challenging the high court order which upheld the constitutional validity of the quota.

The Bombay High Court, in its June 27 order, had said the 50-percent cap on total reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances. It had also accepted the Maharashtra government’s argument that the Maratha community was socially and educationally backward, and it was duty-bound to take steps for its progress.

The high court had said that though the reservation was valid, its quantum -- 16 percent -- was not justifiable and it should be reduced to 12 percent and 13 percent, as recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission.

Shukla, a representative of “Youth for Equality”, in his petition, said the SEBC Act breached the 50-percent ceiling on reservation fixed by the apex court in its landmark judgment in the Indira Sahwney case, also known as the “Mandal verdict”.

The framing of the SEBC Act for Marathas was done under “political pressure” and in “full defiance” of the constitutional principles of equality and rule of law, the plea said. “The high court erred in concluding that the mere fact that other OBCs would have to share their reservation quotas with the Marathas (if the Marathas were simply included in the existing OBC category) constitutes an exceptional circumstance warranting a breach of the 50 percent ceiling limit set by Indira Sawhney,” it said.

It said the high court’s order upheld a 65 percent reservation in Maharashtra (there being no community hailing from far-flung or remote areas), which was contrary to the nine-judge bench decision of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case. According to the 102nd amendment to the Constitution, reservation can be granted only if a particular community is named in the list prepared by the president.

On Nov. 30, 2018, the Maharashtra legislature passed a bill granting the 16-percent reservation to Marathas. The community, which accounts for roughly a third of Maharashtra's population, is politically dominant. The report submitted by the State Backward Classes Commission was based on quantifiable and contemporaneous data and was correct in classifying the Maratha community as socially and educationally backward, the high court had said in its verdict.

Bloomberg Quint

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