Supreme Court (Image: Shutterstock)
The Supreme Court on May 5 said the 50 percent ceiling for reservations cannot be exceeded in any state. The apex court was responding on a matter pertaining to a special reservation for the Maratha community in Maharashtra's education institutions and government jobs.
Justice Ashok Bhushan said in his judgement that the amendment which holds that Marathas are socially and economically backward classes is struck down.
SC also said the amendment granting reservation of 13 percent to Marathas in state government jobs and educational institutions is struck down.
Maharashtra had given upto 13 percent reservation to Marathas in educational institutions and some government jobs. This had taken up the total reservation in the state to 65 percent.
"We find there are no extraordinary circumstances for exceeding the ceiling," said Justice Bhushan in his judgement.
However, the apex court clarified that this will not apply to students who have already been granted admission to postgraduate medical courses till September 9, 2020 on the basis of the Maratha reservation.
The court also said in its judgement that only the President can identify socially and economically backward classes (SEBC) and include them in the list for reservation.
SC also added that while state governments can give suggestions for inclusion of certain communities in the list, the President takes the final decision.
Responding to the SC judgement, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray requested the President and Prime Minister to take a decision on the Maratha reservation matter.
"The Maratha reservation decision was taken earlier because this was the demand of our local community," he said.
Thackeray also advised youth to stay patient and added that this reservation matter is of prime importance for him and he will fight till the proposal is accepted.
The Maratha reservation matter
In 1992, a landmark case Indira Sawhney vs Union of India (1992) had decided through a nine-judge bench that there will be fixed limit of 50 percent in reservation in education and jobs across the country.
The judgement had said that there would be a reservation of other-backward classes (OBC) in government jobs but there would be a creamy layer exclusion. This means that those OBC members who are economically and educationally advanced would not be eligible for this reservation.
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 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 has to be reduced to 12-13 percent for education and government jobs, respectively, from 16 percent. This was in response to a slew of petitions questioning the validity of this reservation.
In 2020, a few other petitions were filed in the SC, challenging the reservation to Marathas.
Later, on September 9, 2020, a three-member bench of the SC stayed this legislation and referred the matter to a larger Constitutional bench. Meanwhile, groups like the Maratha Kranti Morcha held protests across Mumbai seeking continuation of reservation.