Bombay High Court Upholds Maratha Reservation But Says 16% Quota Not Feasible
The judgment by the High Court comes after a bunch of petitions challenged the Maharashtra government's decision to grant 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community.
"We, however, have held that the 16 per cent (quota) should be reduced to 12 to 13 per cent, as recommended by the commission," the bench said. The court further held that the state's legislative competence is not affected by the amendment to Article 342(a) of the Constitution of India. As per the 102nd amendment to Article 342(a), reservation can be granted only if a particular community is named in the list prepared by the President of India.
"We conclude that the report submitted by the State Backward Classes Commission was based on quantifiable data and was correct in classifying the Maratha community as socially and educationally backward," the bench said in its judgment. The court said it was aware the Supreme Court in the past said the quota should not exceed 50 per cent. "However, in exceptional circumstances, the 50 per cent (limit) can be exceeded if it is based on quantifiable data," the High Court added.
Soon after the judgment was delivered,the state government told the court that it has already granted admissions in post graduate medical courses under the reservation up to 16 per cent. Government counsel V A Thorat sought permission to let the percentage remain 16 per cent for these courses this year. The bench asked the government to file a separate application for this.
The Maharashtra legislature, on November 30 last year, passed a bill proposing 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Marathas under the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) category. Following the decision, several petitions were filed in the High Court challenging the reservation, while a few others were filed in support of the quota. This increased the reservation in Maharashtra from 52 per cent to 68 per cent, way beyond the regular 50 per cent reservation limit set by the Supreme Court.
A division bench comprising Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre began hearing all the petitions on February 6, 2019. The Maharashtra government defended its decision and argued that the reservation was only to uplift the Maratha community, which has been neglected for a long time. In April this year, the court closed the petitions for verdict.
The petitioners challenging the quota decision, however, claimed by granting reservation to the Maratha community, the government has given them permanent crutches which they will never be able to shed. The petitioners argued by saying that the government has destroyed the concept of equality by setting up a special category - Socially and Educationally Backward Class - for the Maratha community.
They also claimed that as per the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission report, Marathas and Kunbis are one and the same caste and hence, should be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. They also claimed that as per the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission report, Marathas and Kunbis are one and the same caste and hence, should be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
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