In 1992, reservation for the socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) was introduced to end the historical injustices such as inequality, exploitation, discrimination faced by a vulnerable section of the society. India has already curb many of these issues to an extent but still this is present mainly in the remote areas of the country. Supreme court set  a cap in 1992 on the 50% reservation to SEBC and this ceiling can not be altered except in Extraordinary circumstances.

Reservation was always a contentious and sentimental issue and raise many concerns of the people at times. The Supreme court in a recent judgment quashed the reservation for the Maratha community in education and public services. On may 5 the Supreme court struck down the reservation for the Maratha’s which was given under the Maharashtra state reservation for socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) and termed it as unconstitutional.

The apex court held that they didn’t find any extraordinary circumstances in this case which can give the reservation to the Maratha community and break the ceiling of 50% reservation set by the SC in the Indira Sawhney VS Union of India case.

The Maharashtra government enacted a law in 2018 giving reservation to the Maratha community which is backed by all the political parties. Both the houses of the state legislature cleared the law on the same date.

Historically Maratha’s are the politically active and dominant community of Maharashtra and comprise 1/3 population of the state. They are classified as warrior caste earlier and owns a large chunk of land. Since the inception of the Maharashtra 11 chief ministers are from the Maratha community only and many government services are occupied by them. Maharashtra legislature passed a bill in November 2018 proposing 16% reservation to the Maratha’s in government jobs and education. Bombay high court declares it as violative of 50% ceiling on the reservation.

The Maharashtra government file an affidavit and demand to give reservation to the Marathas to alleviate them from poverty. Bombay HC starts hearing the petitions filed by the Maharashtra government and ratifies the constitutional validity of the Maratha reservation. The high court also asks the government to bring down it to 12-13% from 16%. Finally after hearing for 10 consecutive days the Supreme court reserve the judgement and holds Maraths’s judgement as unconstitutional and abolish the law.

A five-judge constitution bench on may 5 held that reservation for the Maratha community was unconstitutional as it exceeds the 50% ceiling limit. The unanimous judgement was delivered by the justices Ashok Bhushan, S.Abdul Nazeer, L.Nageshwar Rao, Hemant Gupta and S.Ravindra Bhat.

The bench rejected the plea of the Indira Sawhney vs Union of India verdict which had fixed the 50% cap on the reservation and stated that there are no extraordinary circumstances in the case that should garnt an additional 16% reservation to the Maratha community. The bench didn’t consider the interpretation of Article 342A of the constitution which was incorporated by the 102nd Amendment. Article 342A stands for identification of communities in states as socially and educationally backward classes by the President after consultation with the Governor of the state. The bench further said that the Gaikward report and Bombay high court decision are also not satisfying any extraordinary circumstances under which reservation will be given to the Marathas.

Questions before the court:

  • Tamilnadu also has 69% reservation since the 1990s so will the Supreme court take action on that?
  • 10% reservation is also given to the economically backward classes (EWS) in addition to the 50% ceiling limit so is the 103rd amendment subject to abrogation?.

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