Bombay HC to give verdict on 16% Maratha quota today
Almost three months after the conclusion of arguments, the Bombay high court (HC) will on Thursday give its verdict on the validity of the state’s decision to give 16% reservation to the Maratha community under the socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) category.
The quota was created to give representation to Marathas in government jobs and education. A bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre heard arguments in support of and against the reservation for more than a month-and-a-half.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners opposing the reservation, had said the reservation was constitutionally invalid, as it breached the 50% cap on reservations recommended by the Supreme Court. “Maharashtra has 52% reservation and the additional 16% will take it to 68%,” Datar had submitted.
“The state violated the President’s right by promulgating the Maharashtra State Reservation (of Seats for Admission in Educational Institutions for appointments to the posts in the Public Services under the State) for the SEBC Act, 2018,” senior advocate Satish Talekar had argued for another petitioner. He had submitted that the 102nd Constitutional amendment gave the prerogative of including or excluding a community from the list of socially and educationally backward classes in union territories and states only to the President of India.
Another contention of petitioners, through senior advocate Shreehari Aney, was that while it could be assumed Marathas were backward, creating a separate category to decide on reservation was not valid. The Marathas should have been given reservation in the Other Backward Classes category rather than carving out the SEBC category.
Counsels also questioned the constitution of the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission (MSBCC), which recommended the reservation, and the way in which they compiled the data, their observations and recommendations.
The state, represented by senior counsels namely Mukul Rahtogi, Paramjit Singh Patwalia, VA Thorat and Anil Sakhare, responded to the objections, stating the 50% cap on reservation could be breached in exceptional circumstances. The Marathas had been denied equal opportunities since the first class survey conducted in the 1930s and the state’s move was in the right direction, the government said.
While the 102nd amendment spoke about the central list, it did not mention the state list, implying the state had the right to identify socially and educationally backward classes and give them reservation, the government submitted.
The state submitted that as the Marathas constituted 32% of Maharashtra’s population, including them in OBC would be detrimental to others in the category. Moreover, Marathas were politically well represented and only needed to be promoted in areas of social and education empowerment, which is why a separate category was carved out, it said.
The government also submitted that their November 30, 2018 decision to enact the SEBC Act took care all lacunae that had prompted a previous bench to stay the reservation in 2014.