The Bombay high court on Thursday granted the Maharashtra government six weeks to compile demographical data and file an affidavit in support of its stand on reserving seats in government jobs and educational institutions for Marathas across the state.
A bench of justices Anoop V Mohta and GS Kulkarni directed all intervenors in the matter to file their affidavits within the next two weeks.
While the bench had earlier asked the state to file its affidavit by October 12, the government sought additional time, saying that while a preliminary affidavit was “ready”, it needed more time to include statistics demographical details of the community.
The bench also warned the government this was the “last chance” to comply with its orders.
The state’s counsel, Ravi Kadam, told the court that the Maratha community “comprises people belonging to various castes and sub-castes, and since the country doesn’t conduct a caste-based census anymore, it was proving difficult to get the requisite data”.
Although the petitioners objected to the extension, the bench said it had no choice but to believe the government.
“It is obvious that the government will have a lot to say on this complex issue. Let them have time to file their additional affidavit. We will verify their claims once the arguments begin,” the bench said.
The bench is hearing two PILs opposing the then Congress-NCP government’s 2014 decision to grant 16% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, and a bunch of applications in favour of the reservation.
In December 2014, in an interim order, the HC had stayed the reservations and listed the matter for final hearing.
During the last hearing on October 5 this year, the state had urged the court to “protect students already granted admissions under the reservation policy” and to keep government posts covered by the policy “vacant” until the final order.
The HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on December 7.
Court struck down resolution in 2014
In December 2014, the Bombay High Court, in an interim order, had stayed the Maharashtra government’s resolution providing 16% reservation in government jobs and government aided educational institutions
The court had said that the Supreme Court had already laid down the law for reservation which cannot exceed 50% of the total seats
In Maharashtra, 52% seats in government jobs and educational institutions were already reserved for various backward groups. By introducing an additional 16% for Marathas and 5% for Muslims, the reservation number was raised to 73%
The high court had also held that the Maratha community “cannot be regarded as the Backward Class, and that the National Commission for Backward Class and Mandal Commission had concluded that the community is socially advanced”.