Petitioners challenging the Maharashtra government’s decision to grant 16% reservation to the Maratha community told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it was an “election gimmick and politically motivated”. They also alleged that the state government lacks the legislative power to make such a decision, PTI reported.

The Maharashtra Assembly unanimously passed the bill providing reservation for the community on November 29. A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre began the final set of hearings in the case on Wednesday.

“The central legislation says reservation in any state should not exceed 50%,” advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte, appearing for petitioner Jaishree Patil, argued. “Presently, reservation in Maharashtra stands at 78%. The state cannot go beyond what central legislation says.” Sadavarte also told the court that the state backward class commission in its report has said that the Marathas are not a caste but part of the Kunbi caste.

“Kunbi caste is already included in the Other Backward Class and has reservation,” he said. “If Marathas are part of the same caste then they should have been included in the OBC category.” The advocate also contested the government’s claim that more Maratha farmers commit suicide than those from any other caste.

Senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for petitioner Sanjeet Shukla, demanded that the state’s decision be set aside. “The central legislation and the Supreme Court order clearly says that reservation should not exceed 50%,” he added.

The Bombay High Court had on January 29 directed the state government to give copies of the entire report of the Backward Class Commission to the petitioners. The judges said the state government was unduly worried that certain portions of the report would create communal tension and law-and-order problems, pointing out that “there is nothing worrisome” in the document.