The Bombay High Court on Friday upheld the Maharashtra government’s decision allowing Maratha candidates who originally applied for state government jobs advertised in 2019 through the Socially and Economic Backward Classes category to be considered under the Economically Weaker Section category, Bar and Bench reported.

A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Manjusha Deshpande set aside a February order of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal that had struck down the state government’s decision.

The High Court judgement came after more than 100 candidates from the Maratha community and the state government had challenged the tribunal’s order for the posts of sub-inspector, tax assistant and clerk-typist, as well as roles in the forest department and engineering services.

The court held that the tribunal’s order had deviated from established legal principles and led to “cascading effects” that were “negatively impacting a substantial number of candidates”, Bar and Bench reported.

The Maharashtra government had extended the Economically Weaker Section quota to candidates under the Socially and Economic Backward Classes category in the recruitment process that were ongoing at that time, after the Supreme Court struck down the Maratha quota in 2021.

The top court had blocked quotas in government jobs and education for the Marathas citing the 50% cap on total reservations it had set in 1992. The court said that there were no “exceptional circumstances” or an “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra for the state government to breach the limit.

The High Court’s judgement comes amid an agitation by activist Manoj Jarange-Patil having revived in recent months the long-standing demands seeking quotas for the Marathas.

The agitation has witnessed violence, suicides and the resignation of legislators in support of reservations.

Jarange-Patil has demanded that all Marathas be identified as Kunbis under the Other Backward Classes category. Kunbis, a Maratha sub-caste, are members of a largely agrarian community with small land holdings and low incomes, spread across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

On Tuesday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced that a special session of the legislature would be held in February to pass a legislation to extend reservations to the Marathas.

Shinde’s announcement about the special session came days ahead of the December 24 deadline set by Jarange-Patil. The activist has threatened to launch another round of agitation if the government does not extend the reservations for the community by the deadline.

Also read: Maratha quota: Why caste divides the community as they rally for reservation