Supreme Court junks law granting quota to the Marathas in admissions, government jobs
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a Maharashtra law granting quota to the progressive Maratha community in admissions and government jobs, saying there were no exceptional circumstances to warrant a breach of the 50 per cent reservation cap set by the 1992 Mandal verdict.
The five-judge constitution bench was unanimous in calling the quota “unconstitutional”. The quota, instituted in 2018, provided for 12 per cent reservation for Marathas in education and 13 per cent in government jobs. The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L. Nageswara Rao, Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat held that the Maharashtra government had not furnished any quantifiable data to support the reservation benefits for the Marathas.
However, three of the judges — Justices Rao, Gupta and Bhat — by a 3:2 majority further ruled that under the 102nd constitutional amendment by which Article 342A was engrafted, only the National Commission for Backward Classes can have the final say on the preparation of the list of backward classes.
The five-judge bench was dealing with a batch of appeals filed by several individuals and organisations challenging a Bombay High Court decision upholding the Maratha quota.
“What was said by (the nine-judge) constitution bench in Indra Sawhney (1992 Mandal case) clearly binds us. The judgment of Indra Sawhney has stood the test of time and has never been doubted. On the clear principle of stare decisis (a legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case), the judgment of Indra Sawhney neither need to be revisited nor referred to a larger bench of this court,” the Supreme Court said.
“…The fact that the population of backward class is 85 per cent and reservation limit is only 50 per cent. The above… circumstances… is not an extraordinary situation as referred to in paragraph 810 of the Indra Sawhney judgment. The Marathas are a dominant forward class and are in the mainstream of national life. The above situation is not an extraordinary situation contemplated by the Indra Sawhney judgment and both the commission and the high court fell in error in accepting the above circumstances as an extraordinary circumstance for exceeding the 50 per cent limit.
“We, thus, hold that there is no case of extraordinary situation for exceeding the ceiling… of 50 per cent for grant of reservation to Marathas over and above the 50 per cent ceiling of reservation,” the apex court said.
The court made it clear that students admitted to postgraduate medical courses prior to September 9, 2020, under the quota would not be affected by the judgment. The same will be the case with students in engineering and other medical courses.
Appointments to public services under the Maratha quota after the judgment of the high court dated June 27, 2019, till the earlier stay order passed by the Supreme Court on the quota policy on September 9, 2020, will also not be affected.
Terming the Supreme Court’s decision unfortunate, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray urged the Centre to step in and help the Marathas retain the quota by showing the same urgency as it did in the case of Article 370 and some other key matters.
“With folded hands, we request the Prime Minister and the President to take an immediate decision on the Maratha quota,” Uddhav said in a statement.