- The Supreme Court heard about the validity of the high reservation of the Maratha community.
- Such matter was considered in the 8th consecutive hearing related to matters of reservation of jobs and education.
- Senior Advocates Shekhar Naphade, Mukul Rohatgi, Jaideep Gupta, were the ones who sought reconsideration of the 50% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
- Senior Advocate CU Singh argued for the requirement of the Maratha Community to be recognised as SBEC and granted the reservation of 16%.
- Senior Advocates Mahalakshmi Pavani, V. Shekhar, Tapesh Kumar Singh, Arvind Verma, along with AG of Meghalaya Amit Kumar and Advocate Sudhanshu S. Choudhary also argued in relation to this matter.
- The court stated, “We cannot take this 16% reservation lightly."
The Supreme Court has been hearing on matters regarding the reservation of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) of Maharashtra, which is prescribed by the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, which has recently prescribed a 16% reservation for the Maratha Community. A five judge Constitutional Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta, L. Nageswara Rao and led by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat has been hearing the arguments pertaining to the validity of such reservation. Such final hearings in this matter have been going on from the 15th of March and so far, eight hearings have been dedicated to this matter. On such 8th hearing, the apex Court posed questions to the State of
Maharashtra regarding the backwardness of the Maratha community which allowed the State to provide for the 16% reservation.
The apex Court has also conveyed its decision of hearing all the individual States and Union Territories once the question of as much as 50% capping for reservation for backward classes, or classes which require more representation according to the landmark Indra Sawhney case was to put forth before it.
The 102nd amendment to the Constitution of India, implemented from the year 2018, permits the State Legislatures to enact laws for their respective states which identified, recognised and determined the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) and confer benefits on such individuals. Such amendment was brought vide Article 338B, dealing with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Class (NCBC), and Article 342A, which states in its Clause (1) that “the socially and educationally backward classes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be socially and educationally backward classes in relation to that State or Union territory,” might be notified by the President in consultation with the Governor. The Parliament may also, by the provisions of Clause (2), “by law include in or exclude from the Central List of socially and educationally backward classes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any socially and educationally backward class, which deals with power of the
President to notify a particular caste as SEBC as also of Parliament to change the list.”
The Mandal Judgement, later allowed the States to reserve up to 50% of the total number of available seats for jobs and education for those socially and educationally backward classes which, in the opinion of the States lacked representations or the means to avail such opportunities without them being offered the reservations.
ARGUMENTS FOR RECONSIDERATION OF 50% CAPPING
The learned counsels of the various States mostly urged the Hon’ble Court to reconsider the 50% capping for reservation of the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SBEC). Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, strongly argued to reconsider the judgement of the Indra Sawhney case. He further argued that the provisions of Article 324A that such reservation can be reserved only by the Centre.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the States of Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka also agreed with the opinion of Advocate Naphade of reconsidering such capping. He further commented that "If 50% limit is enforced, 371(J) will have to be read into Articles 16 and 15. This is crucial in understanding if 50% is valid or not. It is imperative that these matters are re-examined. 371(J) talks about domicile-based reservation."
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, representing the State of Kerala, argued to reconsider such capping by pointing out the volatility of the circumstance since such judgement had been delivered in 1991, and said, "When Indra Sawhney was considered, there was an understanding that only historical backwardness was supposed to be rectified. EWS was not considered at that stage. This cannot be seen as a part of 50%. Amendment to the Constitution is not intended to reallocate the existing 50%. It is supposed to be an addition. After the 103rd Amendment, Court needs to consider whether the cap can remain."
ARGUMENTS FOR THE RESERVATION OF THE MARATHA COMMUNITY
The matter which had arisen from one judgement of the Bombay High Court, Senior Advocate CU Singh, who had represented one of the parties in such matter, displayed the reports of the Gaikwad Commission which showed that the Maratha community belonged to the backward classes. But the Court disagreed with such report on the grounds that "How can you select two villages where Marathas are dominating in the village and leave out villages where Marathas are not in the majority, and then compare them. Commission has collected a large number of data, but can you arrive at this conclusion of backwardness from it?”
The learned Advocate, in his response, stated, "That is not my argument. I am showing that the Commission took into account a plethora of factors to find that they were SEBCs," while attempting to convince the court of the lesser representation of the Maratha Community in various arenas of jobs and education offered by the State.
While the Court pointed out of the political influence such community, the counsel argued, Being politically powerful does not mean that the community cannot be socially and educationally backward. Yadavs in Bihar may be politically powerful, but they are still OBCs. One has nothing to do with the other."
The Court does not plan to let the matter of this unjustifiable reservation in this case go lightly.
The five judge Constitutional bench of the High Court had observed in this regard of the high representation of the Maratha Community in the various government service jobs and the educational sector, which made the stance of the 16% reservation by the State for such community to be of concern to the Court. They were concerned of the lack of opportunities for the really deserving candidates due to such reservation for those candidates who were being already represented highly in the various government sectors. The court said that the Marathas were better represented than other communities in the State of Maharashtra, according to the reports of various surveys conducted to this effect.
The bench remarked, "We cannot take this 16% reservation lightly."