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Supreme Court Strikes Down Maratha Quota; Says No Exceptional Circumstance To Grant Reservation In Excess Of 50% Ceiling Limit

Radhika Roy
5 May 2021 5:07 AM GMT
Maratha Quota Supreme Court Constitution Bench

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down the Maratha quota in excess of 50% ceiling limit as unconstitutional.

The Court unanimously held that there were no exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of reservation to Marathas in excess of 50% ceiling limit as a Socially and Economically Backward Class.

"Neither the Gaikwad Commission nor the High Court have made out any situation for exceeding the ceiling of 50% reservation for Marathas. Therefore, we find there are no extraordinary circumstances for exceeding the ceiling", Justice Ashok Bhushan, the presiding judge, read out the operative portion of the judgment.

The bench struck down the Maharashtra SEBC Act 2018 to the extent it held Marathas as a socially and economically backward class as violating the principles of equality. The bench struck down the reservation given to Marathas in job and education. However, the bench clarified that the judgment will not affect the PG Medical Admissions under Maratha quota made till 09.09.2020.

"We have found that no extraordinary circumstances were made out in granting separate reservation of Maratha Community by exceeding the 50percent ceiling limit of reservation. The Act, 2018violates the principle of equality as enshrined in Article 16. The exceeding of ceiling limit without there being any exceptional circumstances clearly violates Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution which makes the enactment ultra vires.

We thus conclude that the Act, 2018 as amended in 2019, granting separate reservation for Maratha community has not made out any exceptional circumstances to exceed the ceiling of 50 percent reservation", the main judgment authored by Justice Ashok Bhushan stated.

A Constitution Bench pronounced judgement in a batch of pleas challenging the Maharashtra SEBC Act, 2018, which provides 16% reservation for Marathas in jobs and education. After the grant of Maratha quota, the reservation in Maharashtra became 68%.

A 5-Judge Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L. Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat had reserved judgment in the case on March 26 after a consecutive hearing of 10 days.

Justices Ashok Bhushan(for himself and Justice Nazeer), Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ravindra Bhat delivered judgments in the case.

Marathas adequately represented in services

After elaborately referring to statistics regarding the representation of Marathas in government jobs, the Court held that Marathas are adequately represented in services.

"The above representation of Marathas in public services in Grade-A, B, C and D are adequate and satisfactory. One community bagging such number of posts in public services is a matter of pride for the community and its representation in no manner can be said to not adequate in public services. The Constitutional pre-condition that backward class isnot adequately represented is not fulfilled. The State Government has formed opinion on the basis of the above figures submitted by the Gaikwad Commission. The opinion of the State Government being based on the report, not fulfilling the Constitutional requirement for granting reservation to Maratha community becomes unsustainable".

The Court held that there need not representation proportionate to the population of the community. What is required by the State for providing reservation under Article 16(4) is not proportionate representation but adequate representation. But the Gaikwad commission proceeded on the basis of proportionate representation.

"The constitutional precondition as mandated by Article 16(4) being not fulfilled with regard to Maratha class, both the Gaikwad Commission's report and consequential legislation are unsustainable. We thus hold that Maratha class was not entitled for any reservation under Article 16(4) and grant of reservation under Article 16(4) is unconstitutional and cannot be sustained", the Court held.

Marathas not socially or educationally backward

The Court said that the facts and figures which were obtained by the Commission itself indicate that students of Maratha community have succeeded in open competition and got admissions in all the streams including Engineering, Medical Graduation and Post-Graduation Courses and their percentage is not negligible.

The Court also noted that in IAS, IPS and IFS ,percentage of Maratha out of the posts filled from open category candidates comes to 15.52, 27.85 and17.97 percentage respectively, "which is substantial representation of Marathas in prestigious Central services".

The Court held that the mere fact that the percentage of Marathas in engineering, medical, PG courses, higher academic posts and central services are not proportionate to their population is not indicative of their social and economic backwardness.

" and facts which have been collected by the Commission noted above clearly indicate that Marathas are neither socially nor educationally backward and the conclusion recorded by the Gaikwad Commission on the basis of its marking system, indicator and marking is not sufficient to conclude that Marathas are socially and educationally backward", the Court said.

No need to revisit 50% ceiling limit laid down by Indira Sawhney case

The bench held that there was no need to revisit the 50% ceiling limit on reservation laid down by the 9-judge bench decision in the Indira Sawhney case.

Observing that the Indira Sawhney dictum has been followed in many judgments and has received acceptance, the Court reiterated that position. For more reading on this aspect of the judgment, this report may be read.

Challenge to 102nd Constitution Amendment rejected

The bench also dismissed the petitions challenging the 102nd Constitution Amendment, which introduced the National Commission for Backward Classes. The bench rejected the argument that the 102nd Constitution amendment violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
The bench had heard several senior lawyers on issues such as :
  • Need to revisit the dictum in Indira Sawheny judgment imposing a 50% ceiling on reservations.
  • Whether the 102nd Constitution Amendment, which introduced the National Commission for Backward Classes, abrogated the power of States to identify OBCs.
  • Are there exceptional circumstances justifying the 16% quota for Marathas, exceeding the 50% reservation limit in Maharashtra.
  • Whether affirmative action is limited only to reservations.

The Attorney General for India KK Venugopal told the bench that the 102nd Constitution Amendment did not affect the right of the States to identify OBCs. The AG said that the amendment only related to identification of OBCs in central lists.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehra told the bench that the Union Government was supporting the Maratha quota.

The pleas before the Constitution Bench challenged the Bombay High Court judgment passed in June 2019, and submits that the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, violated the principles laid in the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India (1992) as per which the Apex Court capped the reservation limit at 50%.

The Bombay High Court, while upholding the Maratha quota, held that 16% reservation is not justifiable and ruled that reservation should not exceed 12% in employment and 13% in education as recommended by the State Backward Commission.

On September 9, 2020, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred the cases to a larger Bench to determine the issue whether State Government has the power to declare a class as Socially and Economically Backward after the Constitution (102nd) amendment.
While referring the case to larger bench, the 3-judge bench also stayed the operation of Maratha reservations.
Case Details
Title : Dr Jaishree Laxmanrao Patil v The Chief Minister and others
Coram : Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswarar Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat
Citation : LL 2021 SC 243

All Communities & Castes Are Presumed To Have Made Advancement, Unless Rebutted : Supreme Court In Maratha Quota Case

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