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Supreme Court declares Maratha quota law unconstitutional

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    10th May, 2021

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state.

Context

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state.

About

About the reservation in Maharashtra

  • The massive, rallies across the state were organized between2016-17 and in 2018 again and was centred on reservation for the community in government jobs and educational institutions.
  • Sensing the growing aggression amongst the Marathas, a 11-member commission headed by Retired Justice N G Gaikwad on June 2017 was set up.
  • The commission submitted a report stating Marathas should be given reservation under Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
  • Although the commission recommended reservation, it did not specify the quota percentage and left it to state government.
  • In November 2018, the Maratha community was given the reservation under the Maharashtra State Socially and Educational Backward Act.
  • However, the reservation under SEBC was challenged by a PIL in Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court while upholding the reservation pointed that instead of 16 per cent it should be reduced to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs.

About the Recent Supreme Court Verdict

  • The court had framed six questions of law on the issue

Issue 1: On revisiting the Indra Sawhney ruling

  • The Maratha quota exceeded the 50% ceiling. The court held that the 50% ceiling, although an arbitrary determination by the court in 1992 (Indira Sawhney’s verdict), however is now constitutionally recognised.

Issues 2&3: on the matter of exception

  • Since the 50% ceiling is held valid, the court looked into whether the Maratha quota law falls under the exceptional circumstances contemplated by Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney’s case.
  • But Marathas are dominant forward class and are in the main stream of National life.
  • The above situation is not an extra-ordinary.

Issues 4, 5 & 6: On state’s power to identify SEBCs, and 102nd Amendment

  • In the task of identification of SEBCs, the President shall be guided by the Commission set up under Article 338B.
  • After the insertion of Article 342A in the Constitution, it is the Central government alone which is empowered to identify Socially and Economically Backward Class (SEBC) and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1)
  • The States can, through their existing mechanisms, or even statutory commissions, only make suggestions to the President or the Commission under Article 338B, for inclusion, exclusion or modification of castes or communities, in the list to be published under Article 342A (1),
  • The use of the term “the Central List” is only to refer to the list prepared and published under Article 342A (1), and no other. It does not imply that the states have any manner of power to publish their list of SEBCs. Once published, under Article 342A (1), the list can only be amended through a law enacted by Parliament, by virtue of Article 342A (2).

The Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018 gives constitutional status to the National Backward Classes Commission.
  • Article 342A was inserted into the Constitution by way of 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act. It reads as follows:
    • The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify 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, as the case may be.
    • Parliament may 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, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.
    • By introduction of Articles 366 (26C) and 342A through the 102nd Constitution of India, the President alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs in relation to each state and union territory for the purposes of the Constitution
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