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Maratha Quota: Supreme Court Constitution Bench Adjourns Hearing To February ; Stay Order Continues

Radhika Roy
20 Jan 2021 5:45 AM GMT
Maratha Quota: Supreme Court Constitution Bench Adjourns Hearing To February ; Stay Order Continues
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A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned to 5th February for directions the challenge against the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which provided for a quota to Marathas in jobs and education.The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan took into consideration the submission of Senior...

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned to 5th February for directions the challenge against the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which provided for a quota to Marathas in jobs and education.

The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan took into consideration the submission of Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi who informed the Court about the inability of the Counsels to prepare for the matter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COURTROOM EXCHANGE

Rohatgi, appearing for the State of Maharasthra, informed the Bench that due instructions had been taken from the clients and that as all lawyers were appearing from different locations, it was difficult to prepare for the matter.

"We are lawyers scattered in different places and there are huge records. It is difficult to argue over virtual hearing. We are not entering into the merits. Vaccination process has started and there is a 6-8 weeks wait for the elderly. We are aware there is an interim order operating against us, despite that", submitted Rohatgi.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal concurred with Rohatgi's submission and stated that no prejudice would be caused due to the stay order.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed for the matter to be listed on February 5th for directions.

BACKGROUND

During the previous hearing, the Bench had refused to pass any order to lift the stay put by a Three-Judge Bench in September 2020 on making appointments and admissions under the Maratha quota. The stay order was passed by the 3-judge Bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao which had referred the appeals to the larger Bench.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the State of Maharashtra, submitted that an application seeking modification of the order has been filed so that appointment process can proceed. He submitted that when a case is referred, the reference bench cannot pass interim orders and that the whole issue must be left to the Constitution Bench. He submitted that it is the settled law and practice.

The Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat was not inclined to consider the interim prayer for vacation of stay and instead said that the matter can be finally heard in January.

When Rohatgi submitted that around 2185 appointments have been stalled due to the stay order, the bench said that the Court has not stopped Maharashtra government from making appointments and said that what has been stopped are only the appointments under the quota.

The 5-judge Bench also issued notice to the Attorney General for India as the matter involves the interpretation of the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution.

"We are of the view that due to the issues which have been raised in these civil appeals and the effect and consequences which follow, it is necessary that the Civil Appeals be heard and the final hearing be concluded as early as possible.The court is closing for winter vacations on 18th Dec. List these appeals week commencing Jan 25", the Bench said in the order.

The Bench also allowed the counsels to submit written submissions by the second week of January.

The September 9th Order held that no appointments or admissions shall be made under the impugned Act for the year 2020-2021. However, post-graduate admissions that had taken place till date would remain unaltered.

The plea before the 3-Judge Bench challenged the Bombay High Court judgment passed in June 2019, and submitted that the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which provides for 12% and 13% quota to the Maratha community in education and jobs respectively, 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, the three-judge Bench referred the cases to 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.


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