The Supreme Court struck down the Maratha Quota and deemed it unconstitutional in a hearing on Wednesday. The court squashed the Maharashtra law that granted quotas to Marathas in admissions to educational institutes and government jobs. In the hearing, the Supreme Court held its verdict and said that there were no exceptional circumstances to exceed the total 50% reservation that’s already in place. The court also made it clear that the Maratha community can’t be considered a backward one.
The Supreme Court’s verdict came on the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act that was passed by the BJP government in Maharashtra. This Act provided additional 16% reservation to the Maratha community. On Wednesday, the apex court struck down this act.
The SEBC Act was challenged in the Bombay High Court and was claimed as being invalid according to the Indian Constitution. The move came after it was announced that the act was proposing the reservation in Maharashtra from 52% to 68%.
On May 5, a 5-judge bench was given the case of analysing whether the 16% additional reservation for the Maratha community brought by the BJP-govt was constitutionally valid or not. The judgement came from the bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice Hemant Gupta, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat.
Exceeding 50% cap without exceptional circumstances violates Article 14
The Supreme Court bench said that exceeding the 50% cap without any exceptional circumstances violates Article 14 of the Indian constitution. The Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
The Supreme Court quashed the findings of Justice N.G. Gaikwad Commission which was responsible for the passing of the Maratha quota law and stayed on the Bombay High Court’s judgement on the SEBC act. Earlier, the Bombay High Court in 2019 had reduced the Maratha reservation rate from 16% to 13% in employment and 13% in education.
The Supreme Court bench also rejected the idea to take into consideration the 1992 Indira Sawhney judgement which made reservation limit fixed to 50%.
The Supreme Court bench said, “We don’t find any substance to revisit the Indira Sawhney judgment or referring it to a larger bench. The judgment has been upheld by at least four Constitution Benches.”
Appointments made under the quota to hold
Justice Ashok Bhushan in the ruling said that the employment appointments made under the quota following the Bombay High Court verdict would hold. But these employees would get any more benefits. Meanwhile the students that were able to take admission under the PG courses will not be affected.
According to Bar and Bench, the Supreme Court in its ruling said:
“Admissions to post graduate courses which were already held up till the interim order of the Supreme Court in September 9, 2020 will not to be affected by the judgment. Hence, those who have already been admitted in post graduate courses till then shall be allowed to continue.”
It further added, “All appointments made to public services in favour of Maratha community after the judgment of the High Court till interim order of the Supreme Court on September 9, 2020 are saved.”
“Unfortunate that SC rejected the law” Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray
Unfortunate that SC rejected the law of reservation to Maratha community in Maharashtra. We had unanimously passed a law for the sake of life with self-respect to our Maratha community. Now SC says that Maharashtra can't make law on this, only PM & President can: Maharashtra CM pic.twitter.com/hOLb4tEKrD
— ANI (@ANI) May 5, 2021
On the Supreme Court’s ruling, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said how it is, “Unfortunate that SC rejected the law of reservation to Maratha community in Maharashtra.” In a report by ANI, CM Thackeray said, “We had unanimously passed a law for the sake of life with self-respect to our Maratha community. Now SC says that Maharashtra can’t make law on this, only PM & President can.”
Interpretation of Article 342A
In another part of the judgement, the Court also looked at the interpretation of the Article 342A of the Indian Constitution. For those who may not know, the article calls for classifications of communities as socially or educationally backward by the President. The Supreme Court today dealt with the important issue of whether or not the Articles took away the State’s right to classify any community as Socially or Economically Backward Class (SEBC).
In this matter, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, who was part of the 5-Justice Supreme Court bench said that it is only the Indian President who could make changes to the list of socially and backward classes according to the data he’s provided. The states can only suggest the President and the final call is taken by the President alone.
Meanwhile, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer while upholding the validity of the amendment said that the Indian Parliament’s intent is to not away the power from States to identify its backward classes.