Mumbai: On the second consecutive day of hearing, the Bombay High Court was informed on Thursday that the Maharashtra government had given special treatment to the Maratha community, by creating a special category to grant it 16 per cent reservation. The HC was also informed that the Marathas could not be termed backward, either geographically or historically.
A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre heard the final arguments in the Maratha quota matter. The bench is seized with a bunch of petitions challenging the decision of the government to provide quota to Marathas in educational institutions and public services. Senior counsel Shrihari Aney, the former advocate general of Maharashtra, said the government has given special treatment to Marathas by creating a special category — Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
Aney, who was arguing on behalf of petitioner Uday Dhople, said, “The reservation to the Marathas is exclusive and only this one community has been treated as special.” “One must not forget the fact that there are such impoverished, socially and educationally backward people in almost every case and not just the Maratha community. Hence, the Marathas cannot get anything special,” Aney explained.
In his brief argument, Aney further said the inclusion of the SEBC was illegal and against the Constitution. “People from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC ST) can say they are from that caste, but a person included in the newly introduced SEBC category, cannot say they are from that caste. This can be said so as the SC and ST are castes but SEBC is a class,” Aney argued.
Aney further said that a person may be socially and educationally backward today, but may not remain the same in future. “Then why should such a person be given permanent reservation?” Aney asked. He also trashed the claims of the government that it had ‘special powers’ under the Constitution of India, to take steps for the advancement of any caste deemed to be socially and educationally backward and not having enough presence in public service.
The word used in Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) is advancement. But advancement need not necessarily mean reservation,” Aney argued, adding “If this is the case, then tomorrow, Brahmins might also come and say their caste does not have adequate representation in state services and hence, seek reservation.” On the same lines, senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for advocate Sanjeet Shukla, highlighted the fact that the government had not followed the due procedure of law.
“The Constitution mandates, issuing of a notification by the President of the country that too, after consultation with the concerned governor of a state, which wants to include any caste in the list of Backward Classes. The decision to grant quota to Marathas, was a classic case of communal act by the government,” Datar submitted.
Datar further argued, “A law meant for only one particular community is constitutionally wrong, similarly, the newly passed bill to provide reservation to this one particular community is illegal. And it must be noted that Marathas cannot be said to be a backward class, either historically or geographically.” The bench will continue hearing the submissions on Friday.
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