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No early disposal of Maratha plea

The petition was filed by pro-reservation activist Vinod Patil early this month, requesting the SC to give directives for early disposal of plea

mumbai Updated: Sep 20, 2016 01:41 IST
Faisal Malik

Even as the Maratha silent protests continue in the state, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a petition filed seeking early disposal on the issue of reservation for the community. The Supreme Court asked the petitioner to approach the High Court for the same putting the state government in a fix.

A petition was filed by pro reservation activist Vinod Patil early this month requesting the SC to give directives for early disposal of plea on Maratha reservation pending with the Bombay High Court. The petition was filed after high court refused to give hearing to the petition on priority basis.

The petition was backed by the BJP-led Maharashtra government that has promised the community 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and education but the special leave petition was dismissed by the bench of chief justice TS Thakur and AM Khanwilkar.

“We supported the petition but the apex court asked the petitioner to again approach the high court,” said Nishant Katneshwarkar, state government’s advocate in the Supreme Court.

The move is being seen as a set back to the pro reservation activists as well as the state government. Political observers believe that the issue can create big trouble for the Devendra Fadnavis led government as the silent protest started by members of the Maratha community are getting huge response especially from youngsters. Marathas form around 32 per cent of the state’s population. In all around a dozen of silent protests held so far lakhs of people were found participating.

“We are considering requesting the high court to expedite the matter,” said Surendra Kumar Bagade, secretary social justice department.

The High Court in its interim order in November 2014 had stayed the government ordinance (passed by the former Congress-NCP ahead of 2014 polls) granting reservation to the Maratha community, stating the community was neither socially nor educationally backward.

The court had then observed that there was no question of reservation as there was an existing 50 per cent cap in reservation as upheld by the apex court. However, a final order in this petition is awaited.

Vinod Tawde, higher education minister, who is also heading all party committee constituted to deal the Maratha reservation issue, admitted that they have no other option but to wait for court verdict in the matter. He, however, claimed that the protest by the community members was not against the government but against those Maratha leader who were previously ruling the state, pointing out towards Maratha leaders from Congress and NCP.

“There is no pressure on government as the unrest is against all those Maratha lobby leaders who were ruling Maharashtra for a long period and not against us,” Tawde insisted. He informed that they now have many reports to substantiate their claim that the Maratha community is socially backward.

Four months ahead of state Assembly elections, the Congress-NCP government had announced 16 percent reservation for Marathas and five percent for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions. The reservation was sought on the grounds of a report submitted by former revenue minister Narayan Rane committee. However, the report was found lacking enough merit.

According to the sources, archives directorate was asked to find out some evidences in history books, which can prove the state’s stand in the court that Marathas need reservation. This includes literature of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and also the gazettes of early 20th century when Shahuji Maharaj was the ruler of Kolhapur. The department has retrieved some of the speeches. Other information used to bolster their case includes data collated from General Administration department on the number of Marathas in government jobs.