Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday sought to know the state government’s rationale behind carving out a separate category — Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) — for Marathas.
The HC questioned the government’s decision, especially after noting that the Marathas could have been included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, for availing the benefits of reservation. A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre said if both the SEBC and OBC were backward in social and educational aspects, then why was there a need to create a separate category.
“Since you (government) have maintained from the very first day that the SEBC and OBC are one and the same, we want to know why was a new and separate class created?” Justice More asked. “The government could have included Marathas in the OBC and granted the community 16 per cent reservation in the OBC category. Why this segregation?” Justice More further asked.
Senior counsel Vijaysingh Thorat, appearing for the government, said, it did not intend to give full reservation to the Marathas. “The government’s intention was to give reservation to the Maratha community only in public service and educational institutions. If the Marathas are included in the OBC category, then they would automatically get full reservation, including politics,” Thorat submitted.
“Thus, we were left with no option but to create a separate category,” the former advocate general of Maharashtra, added.
In his brief arguments, Thorat also countered one of the main contentions of the petitioners, that the state government has no powers to grant reservation by virtue of the 102nd amendment to the Constitution of India.
According to this amendment, the President of India is the sole authority to approve reservation to any community. “We agree that the amendment confers special powers to the President but that just does not mean that it takes off all the powers from the state government,” Thorat argued.
“The state government gets powers from Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution of India, which confers powers to government to identify backward classes and take measures towards their betterment,” Thorat submitted. The bench will continue to hear the matters on Monday.
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