Mumbai: The Union government on Thursday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging the majority view of the Constitution Bench that only the Centre had the power under the 102nd Constitution Amendment to identify and list Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, and not states. The Centre has prayed that the power that lies only with the President to add a community to the SEBC list should be given to states.
The Centre’s move came after the Supreme Court, on May 5, upheld the 102nd Constitutional Amendment which led to the setting up of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). The apex court thereby took away the states’ power to add communities to the SEBC list for reservation in jobs and admissions. The apex court in the same order struck down the SEBC Act, 2018, enacted by the Maharashtra Government and also the 12 per cent quota in education and 13 per cent in government jobs.
“As provided in the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, a Review Petition of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court has been filed by the Union of India on 13th May 2021,” said the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in a statement released today.
Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who was supported by Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemanta Gupta, formed the majority and said the President alone was empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in the Central list. However, Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer upheld the validity of the 102nd Constitution Amendment, saying that it did not affect the basic structure of the Constitution.
Thereafter, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray led a delegation and submitted a letter addressed to the President of India to Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari on May 11. Thackeray’s letter said, “There is no doubt that our State is of the view that despite the 102nd Constitutional Amendment, our State continues to have power, authority and jurisdiction to identify the Maratha community as the SEBC. However, at this stage, such understanding of my State pales into insignificance, in view of the aforesaid authoritative pronouncement of law made by the Hon'ble Supreme Court.
“Following the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Maratha reservation, we had all decided to make a request to the Centre in this regard, and accordingly, we have met the Governor today and have taken the first step,” said Thackeray.
Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan, who heads the cabinet subcommittee on Maratha quota, urged the Centre to urge the Supreme Court to reconsider the 50 per cent reservation limit set in the Indira Sawhney case. “This is necessary as all the concerned states, including Maharashtra, had demanded an increase in the reservation limit,” he said.
On the other hand, BJP leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the Centre’s move. He said the two judges had admitted that the states had the power to identify and list SEBCs.