The Bombay high court on Monday gave three weeks to Maharashtra government to file an affidavit submitting data to justify its decision to provide reservation to Marathas and Muslims in jobs and educational institutions.
The direction was given by a bench headed by chief justice Mohit Shah on a batch of public interest litigations challenging quotas for Marathas and Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions.
The bench gave further three weeks time to petitioners including activist Ketan Tirodkar to file rejoinders, if any, to the government's affidavit.
Appearing for the state, senior counsel and former advocate general Darius Khambata on Monday said there was sufficient data to justify the decision of the government to introduce reservation for Marathas and Muslims following which the court asked it file an affidavit.
Tirodkar, arguing in person, said reservation for all categories already exceeded 50% limit set by the apex court.
On November 14, 2014, the High Court had, while admitting PILs, stayed implementation of the decision of the erstwhile Congress-NCP government to provide 16% reservations for Marathas in jobs and education announced ahead of state assembly polls. It had also stayed the state's decision to provide 5% reservation to Muslims in government service but allowed quotas for them in educational institutions.
Being aggrieved, the state had challenged the order in the Supreme Court which refused to interfere with the interim decision of the high court but asked the government to go back to the Bombay high court on the issue.
Admitting a batch of PILs earlier, the HC had said the Supreme Court had already laid down the law for reservation which cannot exceed 50% of the total seats.
52% seats in government jobs and educational institutions are already reserved for the targeted groups and the Congress-NCP government had, in the run up to the assembly poll, raised it to 73% by announcing 16% quotas for Marathas and 5% for Muslims.
In its interim order delivered earlier, the High court had said it was of the view that the comparative data provided by the government justified its decision on reservation for Muslims in government educational institutions but it excluded private educational bodies from the purview of quotas for the minority community.
The government had defended its decision contending that the two communities were socially and educationally backward and also economically poor. It said the decision was based on the report of a committee headed by former minister Narayan Rane set up to look into the issue.
The government said it had taken into consideration recommendations of Rajinder Sachar Committee and Mahmoodur Rahman Committee, both of which had recommended reservation for Muslims, while arriving at the decision to provide quotas for them.
The PILs challenging reservation for the two communities have been filed by Ketan Tirodkar, an NGO Youth for Equality, Anil Thanekar, IS Gilada of Indian Health Organisation and others.