SC said it is of the prima facie opinion that Maharashtra government did not show any extraordinary situation for providing reservations to Marathas in excess of 50 per cent cap fixed by the apex court in its 1992 verdict also known as the 'Mandal verdict'.
Maratha community comprises 30 per cent of the population in Maharashtra and it cannot be compared to marginalized sections of the society, the Supreme Court has said as it stayed the implementation of 2018 state law granting reservation to them in education and jobs. The top court said it is of the prima facie opinion that Maharashtra government did not show any extraordinary situation for providing reservations to Marathas in excess of 50 per cent cap fixed by the apex court in its 1992 verdict also known as the ‘Mandal verdict’. It said that appointments to public services and Government posts and admissions to educational institutions for the academic year 2020-21 shall be made without the applying 2018 state law providing for Maratha quota.
The apex court said the implementation of the 2018 state Act during the pendency of these appeals will cause irreparable loss to the candidates belonging to the open category. “Admissions to educational institutions for the academic year 2020-21 shall be made without reference to the reservations provided in the Act. We make it clear that the Admissions made to Post-Graduate Medical Courses shall not be altered,” it said.
The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 was enacted to grant reservation to people of Maratha community in Maharashtra in jobs and admissions. The Bombay High Court, while upholding the law in June last year, had held that 16 per cent reservation was not justifiable and said that quota should not exceed 12 per cent in employment and 13 per cent in admissions.
An apex court bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat said that the state government has failed to make out a special case for providing reservation to Maratha community in excess of 50 per cent and neither has any caution been exercised by the State in doing so. “Maratha community which comprises of 30 per cent of the population in the State of Maharashtra cannot be compared to marginalized sections of the society living in far flung and remote areas,” the bench said.
It added, “Applying the law laid down by this Court in Indra Sawhney (1992 Mandal verdict), we are of the prima facie opinion that the State of Maharashtra has not shown any extraordinary situation for providing reservations to Marathas in excess of 50 per cent.”
The apex court’s order which was passed on a batch of pleas challenging the high court order and the 2018 state law on Wednesday was uploaded on its website on Thursday. The top court said that the issue of interpretation of provisions inserted by the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018 is a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution and hence the appeals against validity of 2018 law be referred to a larger bench.
It added that there was no authoritative pronouncement on the interpretation of the provisions inserted by the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018 (granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes).
The bench said that as mandated by Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India, these appeals require to be considered by a larger Bench and “In view of our decision to refer these Appeals to a larger Bench, we do not consider it necessary to adjudicate on the other points raised by the applicants.”
According to the 102nd amendment to the Constitution, reservation can be granted only if a particular community is named in the list prepared by the President. In its 22-page reference order, the bench said that the relaxation of the strict rule of 50 per cent can be made in certain extraordinary situations and people living in far flung and remote areas not being in the mainstream of national life should be treated in a different way.
In view of the conditions peculiar to them they are entitled to be given relaxation, it said, adding that in 1992 verdict that extreme caution has to be exercised and a special case made out for relaxation of the rule of 50 per cent. The bench said that the factors termed as extraordinary and exceptional, justifying reservations in excess of 50 per cent by the state government are those which are required for the purpose of providing reservations.
“The social, educational and economic backwardness of a community, existence of quantifiable data relating to inadequacy of representation of the community in public services and deprivation of the benefits flowing from reservations to the community are not exceptional circumstances for providing reservations in excess of 50 per cent,” the bench said. It said, “We are of the prima facie opinion that the High Court committed an error in treating the above factors as circumstances which are extraordinary, warranting relaxation of the strict rule of 50 per cent.”
On July 27, the state government had assured the top court that it would not proceed with the recruitment process to fill up the vacancies on the basis of 12 per cent Maratha reservation till September 15, except for departments, Public Health and Medical Education and Research. The high court, in its June 27 last year order, had said that the 50-per cent cap on total reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances.