Maratha Quota Law Unconstitutional - Supreme Court : Daily Current Affairs

Maratha Quota Law Unconstitutional- Supreme Court

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It was on 5th May that Supreme Court declared the Maratha Quota Law as unconstitutional that excedds the quota limit to more than 50%.

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Marathas claim quota under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.

Historically, Marathas have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land-holdings. Since the formation of the Maharashtra state in 1960, out of its 19 chief ministers, 11 have been from the Maratha community.

While division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a fall of prosperity among middle class and lower middle-class Marathas but the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.

The Marathas are a group of castes comprising peasants, landowners among others. It encompasses nearly one-third of the population of the state.

The Supreme Court abated the findings of the Justice N.G. Gaikwad Commission that gave rise to the enactment of Maratha quota law and set apart the Bombay High Court judgment which confirmed the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018.

The High Court had, in June 2019, reduced the portion of reservation for Marathas from the 16% suggested by the Gaikwad Commission to 12% in education and 13% in employment. The Supreme Court concluded that even the lower percentages of reservation granted by the High Court were ultra vires.

As a matter of fact Supreme Court held that the reservation violates the constitution specially article 14 and article 21.

It is important to note that Supreme Court has also declined to revisit the Indira Sawhney case (1992) that fixed the reservation limit to 50%. However few states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have crossed the limit of 50% and had gone even beyond that.

The Indira Sawhney judgment had precisely said ‘50% shall be the rule, only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas population into mainstream said 50% rule can be relaxed’.

Justice Bhushan said that appointments made under the Maratha quota succeeding the Bombay HC judgment patronizing the State law would hold, but they would get no further benefits. Students already taken admission under the Maratha quota law would continue but those who are admitted to postgraduate courses would not be affected since they were not given reservation.

The second part of the judgment concerning the validity of the 102nd Constitution Amendment, held a ‘different view’ of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat from the one held by Justices Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.

The Bench also examined that whether the Constitution 102nd Amendment Act of 2018, which introduced the National Commission for Backward Classes, stood in the way of the authority of State Legislatures to provide gain to the social and educationally backward communities in their own jurisdiction.

The Constitution Amendment Act had introduced Articles 338B and 342A in the Constitution. Article 338B is concerned to establish National Commission for Backward Classes. Article 342A gives the power to the President to specify the socially and educationally backward communities in a State.

Justice Bhat accorded that only the President could make changes to the Central List of socially and backward classes based on data imparted from various sources, including the National Commission for Backward Classes. The States could only make ‘suggestions’ that is not binding. The ‘final exercise’ or the final discretion of including castes and communities lies with the President alone.

Justices Bhushan and Nazeer however inferred that the Parliament did not intend to take away the power from the States to identify their backward classes. But they nonetheless endorsed the validity of the Amendment Act.