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Why is Maratha Reservation unconstitutional as per the Supreme Court?

Tulika Tandon

Maratha Quota: Why in News?

The Supreme Court bench of five judges unanimously declared a law in Maharashtra providing more than 50% reservation to the Maratha community as unconstitutional. Know the reason and the details here. 

Details of the Supreme Court’s orders:

The Bench was led by Justice Ashok Bhushan which found that there were no such ‘exceptional circumstances’ or ‘extraordinary situation’ in Maharashtra. Due to this law the Maharashtra government would be required to break the 50% ceiling limit of quota benefits for any community.

It took the quota limit in the State in excess of 50% which was unconstitutional as per the court. 

The apex court also rejected the findings of Justice N.G. Gaikwad Commission that led to the enactment of Maratha quota law. It also said that the Bombay High Court’s judgment that validated the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018 was to be put aside. 

Also, exceeding the ceiling limit above 50% without exceptional circumstances is violating of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 

States like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have allowed reservations shooting over 60% in the state. The Bench also made other States party and invited them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation must continue to remain within the 50% boundary.

Indra Sawhney Case: Details

The Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench’s verdict in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India fixed that the ceiling limit of 50% for reservations be referred to a larger bench. The bench this time in a way rejected the above too.

In the Indra Sawhney case, the nine-judge bench said that only in extraordinary circumstances  would the reservation in excess of the 50% ceiling be granted.

The court also stated that reservation of a majority of seats was never envisaged by the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. 

Court’s Ruling in Indra Sawhney case:

As per the Court, “While 50 per cent shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.  It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the main stream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristic to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative.  In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.”

About Reservation: 

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, chairman of the Constituent Assembly’s Drafting Committee, brought up the idea of Reservation. However, he himself contemplated reservation being confined to a minority of seats. No other member of the Constituent Assembly suggested otherwise. 

Maratha Reservation: What happened so far?

The state legislature passed a Bill providing 16% reservation in government jobs along with education to the Marathas above the ceiling stated by the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney on the basis of the Gaikwad Commission report. 

The Bombay high court said that the extraordinary circumstances would warrant exceeding the 50% ceiling on reservations. It also stated that the Indra Sawhney bench did not limit the state’s power to exceed the ceiling when any case deserves its ruling.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had then stayed the law favoring Maratha reservations, before it was referred to the five-judge bench.

What would follow:

Justice Bhushan said that, “appointments made under the Maratha quota following the Bombay HC judgment endorsing the State law would hold, but they would get no further benefits.”

As per the bench those students who have already been admitted under the Maratha quota law would continue with their studies. 

Those students who were admitted to various PG courses would not be affected since they did not receive any reservation.

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Can SEBC apply for EWS?

Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) can apply for jobs in the state energy department in the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservation

Why did the Supreme Court reject the Maratha Law?

The Supreme Court rejected the Maratha Law as it was violating the 50% cap of reservation.

What is the full form of SEBC?

The full form is Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Citizens

What is Maratha Reservation Law?

Maharashtra passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act which provided 16% reservations to the Maratha community.

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