Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
File photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to pass an interim order on July 15 on 11 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the enhanced 16% Maratha quota in Maharashtra, telling the lawyers not to press for an immediate date since "a five-judge Bench cannot sit now."

The interim order is expected to decide whether to grant Maratha reservation this year or not. A 3-judge Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao said it wishes to hear the case on a day-to-day basis in August and, if possible, finish it off in a week or so by starting on Monday and going on till it is over.

To speed up the hearing, the Bench has asked all parties to give their written submissions and specify the time each will take to argue. It has also suggested that the respective lawyers hold a video conference among themselves to discuss the issue and limit their arguments.Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil and ten others had moved the Apex Court in July last year, challenging the Bombay High Court verdict on June 27, 2019, upholding the reservation extended to the Marathas by the previous Fadnavis government, observing that the 50% cap on total reservations as imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances.

The Shiv Sena's MVA government is also backing Maratha reservation, as the Sena was a party to the decision of the coalition government of Devendra Fadnavis.The petitioners are excited at Justice Rao promising an interim order; earlier, the top court had refused to pass any such order or stay the Bombay High Court ruling and posted the matter for final hearing on March 17, which could not take place due to the spread of Covid-19.

The petitioners, however, pleaded that the matter could not be adjudicated through virtual hearing since there were nuances that could not be brought out except in the physical hearing.

Justice Rao said this aspect will also be heard on July 15 and a decision will be pronounced the same day.

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