The Supreme Court on Wednesday cancelled the Maratha quota in Maharashtra and said reservation cannot exceed 50% as it violates equality.
The verdict was on a batch of petitions challenging the Bombay High Court verdict which had upheld the grant of reservation to Marathas in admissions and government jobs in the state. Live Law quoted the bench as saying, “In this case there are four judgments being delivered. One is by me and Justice Nazeer. The others are being delivered Justice Bhat, Rao and Gupta."
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat pronounced the verdict on the matter.
The Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on a bunch of petitions on March 26, which saw a long hearing. Submissions were made to seeking reconsideration by a larger bench of the landmark 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict (called the Mandal judgement), which put a cap of 50 per cent on reservations. In this verdict, the court had capped reservation at 50% apart from “extraordinary circumstances”.
The constitution bench had begun hearing arguments in the matter on March 15. It had said that it proposed to consider issues, including whether the judgement in the Indra Sawhney case needed to be referred to or requires re-look by a larger bench in the light of subsequent constitutional amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics of the society. The high court, while upholding the law in June 2019, had held that 16 per cent reservation was not justifiable and the quota should not exceed 12 per cent in employment and 13 per cent in admissions.
The Centre had argued that Maharashtra has the legislative competence for granting reservation to Marathas and its decision is Constitutional as the 102nd amendment does not denude a state of the power to declare its list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC). The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Class (NCBC), and 342A dealing with power of the President to notify a particular caste as SEBC as also of Parliament to change the list. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had said that in its view, the SEBC Act 2018 of Maharashtra granting reservation to people of the Maratha community in the state in jobs and admissions is Constitutional.
Bar and Bench quoted the court as saying, “We have upheld the 102nd constitutional amendment as it does not violate the basic structure of the constitution. Conclusion: the civil appeal of 3123 of 2020 and others are allowed, impugned judgment of HC 2019 is set aside."