Maratha candidate from SEBC quota can’t be appointed on posts reserved for EWS

The order was passed on Friday. However, the detailed 53-page judgment was made available on Saturday.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, July 30, 2022, 10:58 PM IST
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Bombay HC | Photo: Representative Image

In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court has held that those candidates from Maratha community, who had applied for jobs with the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) in the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) category cannot, retrospectively, avail benefit under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik set aside the decision of MSEDCL which had permitted -- based on a GR of the erstwhile MVA government -- candidates from the Maratha community to avail benefit under the EWS quota, terming the same as “Illegal and bad in law”.

The order was passed on Friday. However, the detailed 53-page judgment was made available on Saturday.

The HC was hearing 39 different petitions filed by aspiring/selected candidates either challenging or supporting the decision of the MSEDCL. “We are dealing with two groups pitted against each other espousing their respective cause,” said the HC.

One group pertains to the petitions filed by the candidates selected to the posts reserved for EWS category, and the other group of petitions was filed by the candidates selected/aspiring to the posts reserved for SEBC in respect of the recruitment process initiated by the MSEDCL.

A group of petitions by EWS candidates had challenged the MSEDCL’s decision to consider, retrospectively, those candidates from Maratha community, who had applied under the SEBC quota, for posts reserved for the EWS persons.

The second set of petitions was filed by candidates from Maratha community seeking that they be considered, retrospectively, for the posts reserved for the EWS quota.

In August 2019, MSEDCL had advertised for vacancies and invited applications from candidates. It had provided separate reservation for those belonging to the EWS category, and for those eligible for SEBC category. The advertisement had, however, made it clear that the appointment to the posts would be subject to the final decision of the Supreme Court on the legality of reservation provided by the state government for the SEBC category, which included the Maratha community.

Meanwhile, on May 31, 2021, the MVA government issued a GR announcing that SEBC category candidates could avail reservation benefits under the EWS category.

However, in May 2021, the SC struck down Maharashtra's SEBC Act.

Based on the May 2021 GR, MSEDCL interpreted that those SEBC candidates, who had qualified for the job, could be considered for appointment to seats reserved for the EWS quota, which were still vacant.

This was challenged before the HC.

The court reasoned that the SEBC candidates had applied with “full knowledge that their applications are made subject to the orders passed by the Supreme Court”. EWS category candidates definitely had an accrued right to be considered for appointment. “In such circumstances, the decision of the State to permit such migration midway through the selection process is arbitrary and unfair,” observed the HC.

“It is declared that the action on the part of the respondents in applying the GRs retrospectively to the selection process is illegal and bad in law. Consequently, the impugned directions of MSEDCL are held illegal and bad in law,” said the HC while quashing the MSEDCL decision.

The HC has further directed the MSEDCL to “proceed with the selection process in consonance with the Rules prevailing when the advertisement/s were issued”.

Timeline of the case

  • June 27, 2019 – HC upholds Maharashtra government’s decision to provide reservation to the Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018.

  • Sept 9, 2020 – SC stays the decision following challenge to HC order

  • Dec 23, 2020 – MVA government issues a government resolution despite the matter pending in SC

  • May 2021 – SC strikes down Maratha quota

  • July 15, 2021 – MVA government issues another GR permitting appointment under the EWS quota of those candidates from Maratha community, who had applied under the SEBC quota (between the HC judgment of June 2019 and the SC stay on quota on September 2020)

  • The EWS quota is open to all those not covered by any other quota and whose family’s annual income is below Rs 8 lakh.

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