Photo by BL SONI
Photo by BL SONI

Mumbai: In a major setback for the state government, the Supreme Court has directed it to refrain from implementing Maratha reservation with retrospective effect. A government resolution (GR) issued by the chief minister-led General Administration Department on Thursday had stated reservation would be applicable to those who had applied for it between July 9, 2014 and November 14, 2014. The purpose behind the GR was to score brownie points in the forthcoming assembly elections by back dating the quota for Marathas, the largest community in the state. However, the GR would have had implications for nearly 350 government servants, who would have lost their jobs.

This is because the July 11 GR would have cancelled these appointments under the open category and the posts would have been filled by Maratha community candidates. Now, these jobs stand protected. These news clippings were presented in the court by the counsel while praying for a stay on Maratha reservation. A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, however, did not stay the HC judgment, which means until further orders from the Supreme Court, Maratha reservation can be implemented from the date when the Socially and Educationally Backward Category (SEBC) Act for Maratha reservation came into effect. The court has also asked the state government to file its reply on the prayer seeking to stay the quota.

On June 27, the Bombay High Court had upheld the reservation granted to the Maratha community in admission to educational institutions and appointments to posts in public services. A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharti Dangre of the Bombay High Court had held that the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for appointments to posts in public services under the state) for Socially and Educationally Backward Category (SEBC) Act, 2018 (SEBC Act) was constitutional. Before the Bombay High Court, the SEBC Act of 2018 was assailed by the petitioners as being a fraud on the Constitution of India, as it proposed to hike reservation in Maharashtra from 52 to 68 per cent. 

This was in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India case. It was also argued that the reservation for the Maratha community would affect the number of seats in the general pool and that the reservation was nothing but a desperate attempt by political parties to appease the Maratha vote bank. Another point of contention was that the SEBC Act was passed based on the recommendations of Justice Gaikwad Commission Report, which the petitioners claim, did not have any empirical data to conclude that the Maratha community is socially and educationally backward.

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