Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
File photo

Mumbai: A day after the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on Maratha quota for four weeks and in view of the flak it has got from the opposition and pro-reservation groups, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday moved a second application, with a plea to keep it before the Chief Justice, for the constitution of a larger bench of minimum five justices and urgently list hearing on the matter.

The government has submitted that the interim stay granted on August 9 on 12 per cent quota in education and 13 per cent in government jobs under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018, has affected the ongoing admission and recruitment process in the entire state and thousands of students and candidates are suffering. Thus there is a grave urgency for listing of the matter before the larger bench of minimum five judges, the government cited.

Minister of Public Works Ashok Chavan, who heads the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservation recalled that the government had already filed a similar application on October 7.

The apex court ruling on Tuesday came in quite handy for the opposition and pro-Maratha quota organisations to slam the Maha Vikas Aghadi government for not being serious. Rajya Sabha MP Sambhaji Raje lashed out at the state government's lack of coordination and planning to plead the case in the apex court. In addition, parents' and teachers' associations have expressed serious displeasure over delays in the admission process, holding the state government responsible for the present mess.

On the other hand, pro-Maratha organisations claimed that if the quota were not restored, aspirants from the community for government jobs would not get them and this would lead to discontent against the government. Some activists staged protests in the state.

However, Chavan had clarified that the government has been quite serious on the restoration of Maratha quota and is making all efforts in that regard.

The state government, in its application submitted that the Bombay High Court had upheld the SEBC Act with reduction of percentage of the reservation through its judgment delivered on June 27, 2019, and it has been under challenge in the present appeal and connected appeals in the apex court.

However, the apex court, in its order of August 9, 2020, had referred the present appeals under Article 145(3) of the Constitution of India to a larger bench as the Interpretation of the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018, is a substantial question of law. “Article 145(3) provides the minimum number of judges who are to sit for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. The Appeals are referred to a larger bench by invoking Article 145(3) with five member bench,’’ the government said in its application.

Meanwhile, the Maratha Morcha coordinator Vinod Patil, who is the sole respondent in the case, has also moved his application in the Supreme Court for hearing on Maratha quota petitions before a larger bench. He submitted there is an urgent need to set up a Constitution Bench, as the fate of students seeking admission and aspirants for government jobs hangs in the balance.

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