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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 06 May, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Maratha quota unconstitutional, violates right to equality, says SC

Maratha quota unconstitutional, violates right to equality, says SC

  • The Supreme Court struck down the findings of the Justice M.G. Gaikwad Commission, which led to the enactment of the Maratha quota law, and set aside the Bombay High Court judgment which validated the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018. It declared the Maharashtra law unconstitutional.

Only Centre is empowered to identify SEBC

  • The Centre alone is empowered to identify Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) and include them in the Central List for claiming reservation benefits.
  • “The President (that is the Central government) alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory for the purposes of the Constitution.
  • Justice Bhat said the States could only make suggestions to the President or the statutory commissions concerned for inclusion, exclusion or modification of castes and communities to be included in the List.
  • The Central List is to be the “only list” for the SEBC.
  • Once published, under Article 342A (1), the list can only be amended through a law enacted by Parliament, by virtue of Article 342A (2).
  • In the task of identification of SEBCs, the President shall be guided by the Commission (National Commission for Backward Classes) set up under Article 338B; its advice shall also be sought by the State in regard to policies that might be framed by it.
  • If the commission prepares a report concerning matters of identification, such a report has to be shared with the State government, which is bound to deal with it, in accordance with provisions of Article 338B.
  • However, the final determination culminates in the exercise undertaken by the President (i.e. the Central Government, under Article 342A (1).
  • However, “the President’s prerogative as far as the identification and inclusion of SEBCs in the List would not affect the States’ power to make reservations in favour of particular communities or castes, the quantum of reservations, the nature of benefits and the kind of reservations, and all other matters falling within the ambit of Articles 15 and 16”.

  • The Bench found there was no “exceptional circumstances” or “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra, which required the State government to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community.
  • “We have found that no extraordinary circumstances were made out in granting separate reservation for Maratha community by exceeding the 50% ceiling limit of reservation... The Marathas are in the mainstream of the national life. It is not even disputed that Marathas are a politically dominant caste.
  • The High Court, in June 2019, reduced the quantum of reservation for Marathas from the 16% recommended by the Gaikwad Commission to 12% in education and 13% in employment.
  • The Supreme Court concluded that even the reduced percentages were ultra vires.
  • In fact, the Supreme Court held that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law).
  • Most important, the top court declined to revisit its 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment, which fixed the reservation limit at 50%.
  • The judgment of Indra Sawhney has stood the test of time and has never been doubted by any judgment of this court.
  • The ceiling of 50% with the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exception, is the just balance — what is termed as the ‘Goldilocks solution’ — i.e. the solution containing the right balance that allows the State sufficient latitude to ensure meaningful affirmative action to those who deserve it and at the same time ensures that the essential content of equality.

Source: TH


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