SC Stays 2018 Maratha Reservation Law. What Is It?

A brief history of the Maratha Reservation Law explained.

Published
Explainers
3 min read
Maratha community members hold a rally in Mumbai for reservation.
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Snapshot

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

The court has referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India to constitute a larger bench for hearing the matter, but said that admissions that have already made under the quota will not be disturbed.

The apex court was hearing petitions challenging the Bombay High Court order of 2019 which, while holding that that 16 percent reservation was not justifiable, said the quota for Marathis should not exceed 12 percent in employment and 13 percent in admissions to government-run educational institutes.

The order now re-starts the long-standing debate on Maratha reservation. What is the Maratha Law and what is its history? Let’s take a look.

SC Stays 2018 Maratha Reservation Law. What Is It?

  1. 1. The Demand For Maratha Reservation

    From vehemently protesting reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) before the 1980s, the Marathas changed their stand drastically once the Mandal Commission report was released. What changed over the years?

    While Marathas comprise approximately 32 percent of the state’s population, they have been well-represented in the state’s political and business sectors. Since the 1960s, Marathas have occupied at least 40 percent of the seats in Assemblies, until recently when that number dipped. Most of the 16 chief ministers that have governed Maharashtra have also been from the Maratha community. Marathas even have immense influence in private educational institutions, cooperative banks and sugar cooperatives. However, a larger majority of its community members are small and marginal farmers.

    According to a 2014 CSDS survey, almost 20 percent Maratha households consisted of landless farmers. At least 15 percent of these farmers owned less than 3 acres of land and barely 3 percent of them can be considered ‘rich’. Sensing their livelihoods at stake, Marathas have been agitating to be recognised as OBCs.
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  2. 2. The Formation Of The Law

    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).

    While the commission did recommend reservation for Marathas, it did not specify the percentage that should be allotted.

    After decades of pushing the demand, and two failed attempts to secure reservation for Marathas in five years, the Bill granting reservation for the community was finally passed on 30 November. With 16 percent of government jobs and positions in educational institutions now earmarked for Marathas, reservation in Maharashtra now stands at a total of 68 percent.

    Expand
  3. 3. Challenges to The Law

    The Maharashtra 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.

    The petitioner’s lawyer also argued that with the admission process in the state about to begin, about 2 lakh applications are expected for medical and engineering courses and around 76,000 recruitment applications will be given out. But with Maratha reservation coming into effect, there will be confusion among the candidates.

    Another argument that has also been made while seeking the reservation be quashed, is that this move amounts to ‘discrimination against open category candidates’.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Did The Law Mean?

    The law made Maharashtra the state with the second highest reservations in the country with 68 percent caste-based quota, trailing Tamil Nadu, which has 69 percent quota. It was anticipated that it could also act as a catalyst for the demand for reservation already being made by Patidars and Jats in BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

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    Expand

The Demand For Maratha Reservation

From vehemently protesting reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) before the 1980s, the Marathas changed their stand drastically once the Mandal Commission report was released. What changed over the years?

While Marathas comprise approximately 32 percent of the state’s population, they have been well-represented in the state’s political and business sectors. Since the 1960s, Marathas have occupied at least 40 percent of the seats in Assemblies, until recently when that number dipped. Most of the 16 chief ministers that have governed Maharashtra have also been from the Maratha community. Marathas even have immense influence in private educational institutions, cooperative banks and sugar cooperatives. However, a larger majority of its community members are small and marginal farmers.

According to a 2014 CSDS survey, almost 20 percent Maratha households consisted of landless farmers. At least 15 percent of these farmers owned less than 3 acres of land and barely 3 percent of them can be considered ‘rich’. Sensing their livelihoods at stake, Marathas have been agitating to be recognised as OBCs.

The Formation Of The Law

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).

While the commission did recommend reservation for Marathas, it did not specify the percentage that should be allotted.

After decades of pushing the demand, and two failed attempts to secure reservation for Marathas in five years, the Bill granting reservation for the community was finally passed on 30 November. With 16 percent of government jobs and positions in educational institutions now earmarked for Marathas, reservation in Maharashtra now stands at a total of 68 percent.

Challenges to The Law

The Maharashtra 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.

The petitioner’s lawyer also argued that with the admission process in the state about to begin, about 2 lakh applications are expected for medical and engineering courses and around 76,000 recruitment applications will be given out. But with Maratha reservation coming into effect, there will be confusion among the candidates.

Another argument that has also been made while seeking the reservation be quashed, is that this move amounts to ‘discrimination against open category candidates’.

What Did The Law Mean?

The law made Maharashtra the state with the second highest reservations in the country with 68 percent caste-based quota, trailing Tamil Nadu, which has 69 percent quota. It was anticipated that it could also act as a catalyst for the demand for reservation already being made by Patidars and Jats in BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

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