Maharashtra: Big Win For Govt As Bombay HC Upholds Decision Allowing Maratha Candidates To Apply For Jobs Through EWS Quota

Maharashtra: Big Win For Govt As Bombay HC Upholds Decision Allowing Maratha Candidates To Apply For Jobs Through EWS Quota

The HC was hearing a batch of petitions by over 100 Maratha candidates and the state government, challenging the MAT order of February 2 this year against the appointment of these candidates for the posts in forest department, engineering services and sub-inspector/tax assistant and clerk-typist

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, December 22, 2023, 06:40 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

In a significant victory for the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Friday upheld State’s decision to allow Maratha candidates, who had originally applied for government jobs advertised in 2019 from the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC), to do so through the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category in the ongoing recruitment process. 

A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Manjusha Deshpande set aside the February order of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) which has ruled against the government in matters related to reservations of jobs in state departments for candidates from Maratha community. 

MAT order has deviated from established legal principles, says HC

While setting aside the tribunal’s order, the HC observed that the “order has deviated from established legal principles, leading to cascading effects and negatively impacting a substantial number of candidates”.

The HC was hearing a batch of petitions by over 100 Maratha candidates and the state government, challenging the MAT order of February 2 this year against the appointment of these candidates for the posts in forest department, engineering services and sub-inspector/tax assistant and clerk-typist. 

Initially, the government issued a Government Resolution (GR) on December 23, 2020, related to Maratha reservations.

The said law was upheld by the high court in June 2019, which was later challenged in the Supreme Court.

On May 5, 2021, the Supreme Court struck down the provisions of the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Class Act (SEBC) which provided reservation to the Maratha community. This took the total quota in the state above the 50% ceiling set by the court in its 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment. 

Post striking down of the SEBC Act, another GR was issued on August 31, 2021, related to public posts advertised in 2019, extending EWS quota facility to candidates who had initially applied through the SEBC category.

Some candidates who had applied under the EWS category challenged this GR before the MAT. Allowing the plea, the MAT disqualified the candidates who had initially applied under the SEBC (Maratha) category.

"MAT order has 'misdirected itself in law, facts'": Candidates

The selected candidates, aggrieved by the MAT order, approached the HC. They claimed that the MAT order has “misdirected itself in law and facts”, stating there cannot be retrospective application of impugned GRs.

Advocate General Birendra Saraf and senior advocates VA Thorat and Mihir Desai and advocate Akshay Shinde, appearing for the state government submitted that the advertisements explicitly conveyed that both, the posts and the reservations, were subject to changes.

The counsels for the State further contended that when the apex court initially directed for recruitment without the SEBC reservations and later invalidated the SECB Act, the candidates from the Maratha community who belonged to the EWS category too were afforded the option to benefit from EWS reservations. The tribunal failed to consider the same. 

The Bench noted that the tribunal order “ignored the multi-cadre selection adversely affecting the entire process”. 

“The generalised observations in the impugned order that SEBC candidates from the Maratha community scored higher marks imply that they were never entitled to SEBC reservation exceeded the scope of the service dispute and were unnecessary,” the bench said in a 132-page judgment. 

After the SEBC Act was declared unconstitutional, seats reserved for SEBC candidates were integrated into the general category and the candidates who had originally applied to SEBC were allowed to apply under EWS with a “merit-based approach”, the bench said. However, the MAT order disqualified the Maratha candidates who belonged to EWS despite securing higher marks, it noted.

“The impugned order thus has created an inequitable situation. The petitioners are entitled to succeed,” the judges said while setting aside the MAT order. 

The high court refused a stay on the order saying that the appointments to be made by the state government can be challenged before the apex court.

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