SC for virtual hearing in Maratha reservation case
The Supreme Court indicated on Tuesday that it was open to holding daily hearings over video in a case relating to the Maharashtra law for Maratha community quotas, refusing calls by lawyers to begin some in-court since the virtual medium is inadequate for the elaborate legal discussions that need to be made in a matter that involves interpretation of the Constitution.
In-court hearings have been suspended since the Covid-19 outbreak began to grow, moving to videoconferencing where lawyers connect with judges over an application called VIDYO. The process has been fraught with technical complications such as dropped links as well as posed difficulties among lawyers and judges being able to discuss matters among themselves.
On Tuesday, the petitioners challenging a Maharashtra law introducing quota for Maratha community people in education and jobs, as well as the state government told the court that the case required physical hearings because of the elaborate nature of arguments.
“The case involves 15 petitions, the judgment of the Bombay High Court which is under challenge runs into 500 pages. The state has filed a counter affidavit which is over 1500 pages. There are several books, reports and documents that need to be referred which is possible only in a physical court setting,” said senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioners.
To this, the bench, led by justice LN Rao, said: “Expecting an immediate hearing in the case and that too, judges assembling physically in the current situation (of Covid-19) might not be possible.”
The court fixed the matter for July 15 and asked the petitioners and state government to submit a short note of their submissions. Based on this, the Court is likely to consider passing interim orders on whether the Act requires to be stayed till there is a final decision on its validity.
The matter relates to a Maharashtra law that introduced 12 per cent reservation for Maratha community in education and 13 per cent quota in appointment to public service jobs in the state.
The law in question – Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act 2018 -- was introduced with the purpose of extending reservation benefits to the Maratha community. This law originally provided 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in state admissions and jobs. This law was challenged before the Bombay High Court which upheld the validity of the law but reduced it to 12 per cent in admissions and 13 per cent in jobs. Accordingly, the state government amended the law.
The petitions have challenged the law on the ground that it breaches the 50 per cent reservation threshold prescribed in the landmark Indra Sawhney judgment of 1992. But the state argued that its law is based on a scientific study conducted by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission which found extraordinary conditions prevailing among Maratha families which required special provisions for their upliftment.