In a major ruling which could have a far-reaching impact on the societal aspects of the Marathas, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the Maratha community brought in by the Maharashtra government in 2018, saying it exceeded the 50% cap imposed earlier.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the top court, comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and Ravindra Bhat pronounced its judgment today. The Supreme Court said that that people from the Maratha community cannot be declared as educationally and socially backward community to bring them within the reserved category.
Justice Bhushan, leading the bench of the Apex Court, while pronouncing the judgment, said, “With respect to Article 342 A, we have up held the Constitutional Amendment and it does not violate any Constitutional provision and therefore, we have dismissed the writ petition challenging the Maratha reservation.”
The Supreme Court in its judgment said that there was no valid ground to breach 50% reservation while granting Maratha reservation.
The bench was hearing a batch of appeals filed challenging the Bombay High Court order that upheld reservations to Marathas in jobs and education under Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
The Bombay High Court, while upholding the Maratha quota, held that 16% reservation is not justifiable and ruled that reservation should not exceed 12% in employment and 13% in education as recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission.
The Bombay High Court on 27 June 2019 had said the 50% cap on total reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances. The apex court had reserved its verdict in March last week, this year. Justice Bhushan, reading out the judgment said, “We do not find any reason in revisiting Indira Sawhney judgment, we follow and reiteration proposition followed in Sawhney’s case.”
The Apex Court in its judgment said that there was no valid ground to breach 50% reservation while granting Maratha reservation. The top court also made it clear in its judgment that people from the Maratha community cannot be declared as educationally and socially backward community to bring them within a reserved category. After the verdict was pronounced, the former standing counsel of the Maharashtra Government, Nishant Katneshwarkar, said that the State has failed to protect the interest of the Maratha community people.
“The Supreme Court has discarded the Gaikwad Commission’s report on the ground that it has failed to make out an exception for exceeding 50% reservation. Interestingly, no advocate from Maharashtra, who is well acquainted with the ground reality including the Advocate General argued in support of the report. The state government of Maharashtra failed to protect the interest of the Maratha community people,” Katneswarkar told ANI.
The Bench of the Apex Court had reserved the judgment on the issue on March 26, Friday, as to whether the SC 1992 verdict for capping reservation at 50% needs re-examination or not.
The final hearings in the case had commenced on 15 March. During the hearing, the central government said that it is of the view that the SEBC Act, which extends reservations to the Maratha community in public education and employment, is constitutional.
The Attorney General (AG) of India, KK Venugopal had earlier stated that States continue to have powers to identify socially and educationally backward classes in so far as it relates to reservations for State institutions.
One of the appeals filed by J Laxman Rao Patil had earlier sought to stay on the High Court order as the reservation today is 65% in education and 62% in jobs, exceeding 50% cap in total reservation.
Another appeal filed by advocate Sanjeet Shukla, a representative of “Youth for Equality”, said the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, enacted to grant reservation to the Maratha community people in jobs and education, breached the 50% ceiling on reservation fixed by the top court in its judgment in the Indira Sawhney case.
WITH ANI INPUTS