This apex court judgment on community-based job reservations could have far-reaching implications in a country, where it can easily turn into a political tinderbox.
The Supreme Court today stuck down job reservations for the Maratha community in education.
In doing so, the court quashed an earlier provision by the Maharashtra government in 2018 that offered reservation for Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, observing that it violates the `right to equality’.
End of confusion
For students, this implies that the three-year-long confusion on the status of admissions across educational institutions comes to an end.
Existing students enrolled into various educational courses as of September 9, 2020, won't be impacted by the judgment, even if they have obtained a seat through the Maratha quota.
Moneycontrol had reported earlier how close to 300,000 students across the state had to face unprecedented delays in junior college admission due to uncertainty around the Maratha reservation.
Preeti Dhumal, a Class X student, Jasmine High School in Nagpur told Moneycontrol that it is good that a final decision has been made.
"In 2020, my elder sister lost out on going for an international Olympiad because there was confusion over when the admission would begin. This year, the decision has come through," she said.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, through a social media message, requested the President and the Prime Minister to consider the Maratha reservation request and pass an order expeditiously.
Is it status quo for students?
Students like 22-year-old Vinay Thorat, who were admitted on the Maratha quota last year, are relieved that the court decision is not applicable with retrospective effect.
"If the decision was to be applicable for students from 2019-20 onwards, then our academic career would have been at risk. I am glad that the court has made this decision," he pointed out.
In November 2018, the then Maharashtra government, headed by Devendra Fadnavis, passed a legislation offering 16 percent reservation for the Maratha community in government jobs and higher educational institutions. It was implemented in a few educational institutions and in technical and medical courses.
However, in June 2019, the Bombay High Court clarified that while this reservation is constitutionally valid, the quantum of reserved seats must be reduced to 12-13 percent for education and jobs, respectively, from 16 percent.
Slew of petitions
This was in response to a slew of petitions questioning the validity of this reservation.
Following this, another bunch of petitions were filed against this decision in the Supreme Court. The contention was that this reservation was against the 1992 Indira Sawhney vs Union of India (1992) order, where the apex court had clarified that reservations cannot exceed 50 percent, except under exceptional circumstances.
Sonika Gadhwe, aspiring for a postgraduate programme in medicine, however, told Moneycontrol that she was hoping for some reservation, considering their economic status.
"If reservation is being provided for economically weaker sections (EWS), then why cannot Marathas be considered an added community and be given some allocation of seats in educational institutes in the state," she questioned.
Local student bodies have also expressed displeasure at this decision.
Shubhra Patil, general secretary at Maratha Jan Vidyarthi Sabha, told Moneycontrol that the state government must seek reprieve by seeking an amendment to the Constitution for communities like Marathas.
"Marathas have been of historic significance to the country. I hope the state government raises this issue and offers some reservation in government jobs and higher educational institutions," she added, hopefully.