By SM .05 May, 2021
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state. The top court 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 the reserved category.
A five-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta, and S Ravindra Bhat also refused to refer the 1992 Mandal judgment (Sawhney judgment), setting a 50 percent cap on the reservation, to a larger bench for reconsideration. The bench said that exceeding the 50 percent ceiling without any exceptional circumstances to justify the same, violates Article 14.
The court ruled that the state government, which enacted the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018 based on the findings of the Justice M G Gaikwad Commission that the Marathas were backward, had not made any extraordinary circumstance to grant such reservation.
The bench also upheld the 102nd constitutional amendment saying it does not violate the basic structure of the constitution. The amendment inserted Articles 338-B and 342-A in the Constitution.
The 102 amendment deals with the constitutional status of the National Commission for Backyard Classes. Article 334B deals with the structure, duties, and powers of the Commission while 342A speaks about the power of the President to notify a class as Socially and Educationally Backward (SEBC) and the power of Parliament to alter the Central list SEBC list.
The judgment came on petitions challenging the June 27, 2019 order of the Bombay High Court upholding the constitutional validity of the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the State and for appointments in the public services and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
On March 26, the top court had reserved its verdict on the batch of pleas. The high court, while upholding the law in June 2019, had held that 16 percent reservation was not justifiable and the quota should not exceed 12 percent in employment and 13 percent in admissions.
The Centre had argued in the top court that Maharashtra has the legislative competence for granting reservation to Marathas and its decision is Constitutional as the 102nd amendment does not denude a state of the power to declare its list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).