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May 5, 2021

Supreme Court strikes down Maratha Reservation law for exceeding 50% limit

by Mahesh Mara in Income Tax

Supreme Court strikes down Maratha Reservation law for exceeding 50% limit

The Supreme Court on has struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 which extends reservation to the Maratha community in public education and employment.

Appeals were filed by the State of Maharashtra before the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict. In July 2019, the Supreme Court issued notice to State of Maharashtra in the appeals.  The impugned judgment of the High Court is set aside.

Section 2(j) of the Act in so far as it declares Maratha community as -Educationally and Socially Backward category is held to be ultra vires the Constitution and is struck down. Section 4(1)(a) of the Act insofar as it grants reservation under Article 15(4) to the extent of 12 percent of the total seats in educational institutions including private institutions whether aided or unaided other than minority institutions is declared ultra vires the Constitution and is struck down. Section 4(1)(b) of the Act granting reservation upto 13 percent for Maratha community in total appointment in direct recruitment with respect to public services and posts under the State is held to be ultra vires the Constitution and struck down.

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. 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. Challenge to 102nd Constitutional Amendment dismissed.

Issues raised and heard Supreme Court

The following legal issues were heard by the Court:

– Whether judgment in case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India [1992 Suppl. (3) SCC 217] needs to be referred to larger bench or require re-look by the larger bench in the light of subsequent Constitutional Amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics of the society etc?

– Whether the SEBC Act of 2018 as amended in 2019 granting 12 percent and 13 percent reservation for Maratha community in addition to 50 percent social reservation is covered by exceptional circumstances as contemplated by Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney’s case?

– Whether the State Government on the strength of Maharashtra State Backward Commission Report chaired by M.C. Gaikwad has made out a case of existence of extraordinary situation and exceptional circumstances in the State to fall within the exception carved out in the judgment of Indra Sawhney?

– Whether the Constitution 102nd Amendment deprives the State Legislature of its power to enact a legislation determining the socially and economically backward classes?

– Whether States power to legislate in relation to “any backward class” under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) is anyway abridged by Article 342(A) read with Article 366(26c) of the Constitution of India?

– Whether Article 342A of the Constitution abrogates States power to legislate or classify in respect of “any backward class of citizens” and thereby affects the federal policy / structure of the Constitution of India?

Observation of Court

The Court in its 1992 judgment in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India said that there were no extraordinary circumstances to grant reservation to Maratha community over and above the 50 % ceiling on reservation prescribed by the Supreme Court .

The Court held that the 2018 Act as amended in 2019 granting reservation for Maratha community does not make out any exceptional circumstance to exceed the ceiling limit of 50 percent reservation. The Act of 2018 violates the principles of equality and exceeding ceiling limit of 50 percent clearly violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, the Court added.

In the process the Court also ruled that the judgment in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India need not be referred to larger Bench and the 50 percent ceiling on reservation laid down in Indra Sawhney is good law.

The court did not find any substance in the argument to refer the judgment in Indra Sawhney to a larger Bench. The said judgment has been repeatedly followed by this Court and has received approved by at least four Constitution Benches of this Court. The court also follow and reiterate the proposition laid down in Indra Sawhney in paragraph 809 and 810 and made it clear.

The Court further said that neither the Gaikwad Commission report nor the judgment of the Bombay High Court has made out an extraordinary situation in the case of Marathas so as to exceed the ceiling of 50 %.

Conclusion

The Court emphasised that Conclusions of the commission are unsustainable. There is no case of extraordinary situation for exceeding the ceiling limit of 50 percent for grant of reservation to Marathas over and above the 50 percent.

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