‘Unfortunate’: Uddhav, As SC Strikes Down Maratha Reservation Law

SC said breaching the 50% ceiling in reservation, unless there are exceptional circumstances, violates Article 14.

3 min read
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 5 May, struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018, which granted reservation to the Maratha community in education as well as jobs.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray termed the decision as “unfortunate” and said that legal battle for the reservations for the community would continue till there is "victory", reported PTI.

On Wednesday, the court said breaching the 50 percent ceiling in reservation, unless there are exceptional circumstances, violates Article 14 of the Constitution, as it upheld the apex court judgment in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992.

“We hold 2018 Act as amended in 2019 exceeds the limit without any exceptional circumstances.”
SC, as quoted by Bar & Bench

The court also upheld the 102nd Constitutional amendment, saying that the authority to determine Socially and Backward Classes (SEBCs) lies only with the Centre and the President, reports said.

However, all admissions made to postgraduate medical courses and appointments already made under the new quota law shall not be disturbed by its ruling today, the court said.

The Court also ruled that the judgment in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India need not be referred to a larger Bench as the 50 percent ceiling on reservation laid down in Indra Sawhney is good law.

Four judgments were delivered in the case on Wednesday, including one by Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, and three others by Justices LN Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ravindra Bhat.

How Did Politicians React?

In a statement after the SC delivered its verdict, CM Thackeray said, "With folded hands, we request the prime minister and the president to take an immediate decision on Maratha quota."

He also asked that the Centre show the same promptness it had shown with regard to the Atrocities Act in connection with the Shah Bano case and on the abrogation of Article 370.

“It also made necessary amendments in the Constitution then. Now, the same promptness should be shown regarding the issue of Maratha reservation,” Thackeray said, according to The Indian Express.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar termed the SC decision “unexpected and disappointing” and said that they examine the verdict and take a decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil called it a failure on the part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government because it had not been able to convince the Supreme Court.

“It was the Fadnavis government which had appointed the Backward Class Commission, got its report and law approved in the state legislature and then convinced the high court which upheld the law. However, the MVA government could not ensure that law would be upheld in the Supreme Court..,” Patil told reporters, according to The Indian Express.

MP Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje, who has been at the forefront of the community’s effort to get reservation, said that the verdict is unfortunate but added that the community would accept it.


Some Background

On June 2017, the Maharashtra Government set up an 11-member committee headed by Justice (retd) NG Gaikwad that found the Maratha community to be a socially, educationally and economically backward class.

The committee classified Marathas under an independent category called Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).

The Bill, granting reservation for the community, was passed on 30 November 2017. With 16 percent of government jobs and positions in educational institutions now earmarked for Marathas, reservation in Maharashtra stood at a total of 68 percent.

The BJP government’s decision didn't go unchallenged. Jishri Patil, an advocate, immediately filed a plea in Bombay High Court opposing the government’s decision, on the grounds that it violates the Supreme Court order that capped reservations across all states at a maximum of 50 percent.

Later in 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the law, but quashed the 16 percent quota, saying the quota for Marathis should not exceed 12 percent in employment and 13 percent in admissions to government-run educational institutes.

However, the Supreme Court on 9 September 2020, in an interim order, said that the Maratha quota would not be applicable to jobs and admissions this year.

Today’s Judgment

The court concluded that neither the Gaikwad Commission report nor the judgment of the Bombay High Court has made out an extraordinary situation in the case of Marathas, so as to exceed the ceiling of 50 percent.

The court further emphasised, "Conclusions of the commission are unsustainable. There is no case of extraordinary situation for exceeding the ceiling limit of 50 percent for grant of reservation to Marathas over and above the 50 percent."

(With inputs from PTI and The Indian Express.)

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