Mumbai lawyer couple who opposed Maratha reservation
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed with a batch of pleas and found that there were no exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of reservation to Marathas in excess of 50% ceiling limit as a socially and economically backward class.
Among the petitioners was Mumbai advocate couple, Gunratan Sadavarte (47) and Jayashree Patil (43), who filed a petition in 2020 in the Bombay High Court (HC) shortly after the state passed a bill granting 16% reservation to Marathas in government jobs and education.
The Bombay HC upheld the Maratha quota provided by the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act 2018 but said that 16% reservation provided by the new law was not justifiable; the reservation should not exceed 12% in employment and 13% in education.
Sadavarte, on behalf of Patil, then approached the Supreme Court in 2019 challenging the Bombay HC decision.
The going has not been easy for the petitioner couple: in 2018, Sadavarte informed the Bombay HC, which was hearing Patil’s petition challenging the state law, that he would receive threats routinely, and on one occasion, he was assaulted outside the court by a mob that supported the reservation.
“They can shoot me. But I won’t stop my fight,” Sadavarte said at his Parel residence, minutes after the SC judgment was pronounced. The two had consistently argued that the breach of the 50% ceiling on reservation laid down by a previous SC judgement, was “discriminatory and against the Constitution.”
“The latest verdict by Supreme Court is in accordance with the Constitution which does not discriminate,” he said in a phone interview to Hindustan Times.
This isn’t the couple’s first big legal battle. In 2014, when the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government issued an ordinance to reserve 16% seats to Marathas in education and jobs, months before the assembly polls were to be held in Maharashtra, Sadavarte on behalf of his father-in-law Laxman Patil approached Bombay HC against it.
When the couple started getting threats, the Maharashtra government provided them security cover in 2016. Despite this, Sadavarte was attacked in December 2018 by a worker affiliated to Maratha outfit Sambhaji Brigade.
“I don’t believe in caste. Don’t even ask me which one I belong to,” Sadavarte said.
Born in 1974 in a small village Hivra in Nanded district, bordering Maharashtra and Telangana states, Sadavarte first trained as a dentist and later, studied law in Mumbai. His mother was a state government employee in the health department, while his father was a wrestler, who later became a corporator in the Nanded Municipal Corporation.
Born at Mahurgaon, Patil studied law in Aurangabad and attained a Master’s degree in law in Mumbai. She later pursued a doctorate in criminology. Her father Laxman Patil, was also involved in the Goa liberation movement.
Both husband and wife are also doctorate holders. “She is an independent woman and I have always taken her counsel in various cases,” said Sadavarte.
“We both counsel each other. That too without fees,” Patil said.
“We are not against a person or caste or any community. We want Constitution to be followed and injustice to be opposed,” said Patil when asked about her stand in moving Supreme Court against Maratha reservation.
In April, Patil also filed a petition in the Bombay HC seeking an investigation into former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations of corruption against former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. The Bombay HC directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary investigation within 15 days.
The couple has two daughters, 12-year-old Zen and a four-month-old who is yet to be named. A class eight student, Zen won the National Bravery Award in 2020 by President Ram Nath Kovind Prime Minister Narendra Modi for saving the lives of 10 people when her building caught fire in August 2018.