The Supreme Court, while hearing petitions related to reservation for Marathas in education and jobs, on Monday issued a notice to all states, seeking their response on whether reservation could be allowed beyond the 50% ceiling, Bar and Bench reported.
The petitioners had argued that the provision for 12% reservation for Marathas in jobs and 13% in admissions would breach the ceiling of 50% quota limit imposed by the Supreme Court itself in a landmark verdict in 1992.
Senior lawyers Mukul Rohtagi, Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that the matter concerned all the states, as the court’s verdict could have an impact on their authority to provide reservation to socially and educationally backward classes.
“The case involves interpretation of Article 342A of the Constitution and will affect every state,” Rohatgi told the constitution bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and Ravindra Bhat,” according to Bar and Bench. “I have filed an application that every state should be heard. The issue cannot be decided appropriately without hearing every state.”
Sibal also said that the court should not decide on the matter by hearing only the Centre and the Maharashtra government.
The Supreme Court bench said: “We are of the view that in view of seminal importance of the issue which has arisen on the validity of 102nd amendment, we issue notice to State.” The 102nd Amendment to Article 342A of the Constitution allows the Centre to notify any class or community as socially and educationally backward class in state or union territory.
The matter will be heard on March 15 next.
On September 9, the Supreme Court had stayed reservations in educational institutions and government jobs provided to the Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018. The Maratha community roughly forms one-third of the state population.
The three judge-bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao referred the matter to Chief Justice SA Bobde to constitute a larger bench and examine the validity of such a quota. The court, however, clarified that admissions already made under the Maratha quota in postgraduate medical courses will not be affected. It added that the status of those who have availed of the benefits will also not be disturbed.
In 2018, the then Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra had approved 16% reservation for the Marathas in jobs and education after statewide protests. However, the Bombay High Court, while upholding the constitutional validity of the law stated that 16% reservation was not justifiable. It directed the state government to reduce the quota to 12-13% as per the recommendations of the State Backward Classes Commission. The court also maintained that 50% cap on total reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances.