The Supreme Court also quashed the Maratha reservation in so far it breaches the 50 percent ceiling of reservation, and struck down the Maharashtra law that guaranteed the community their quota in public education and employment.
This Supreme Court decision on community-based work reservations could have far-reaching consequences in a country that is prone to political unrest. In the field of education, the Supreme Court today established job reservations for the Maratha community. In doing so, the court declared invalid an earlier Maharashtra government provision from 2018 that provided for Maratha reservation in government employment and educational institutions, citing a violation of the right to equality.
The Maharashtra law that classified the Maratha group as socially and economically backward was struck down by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, effectively ending the Maratha reservation in public education and jobs. In doing so, the Supreme Court has declared the Maratha reservation unconstitutional insofar as it exceeds the 50% reservation ceiling. The Supreme Court ruled that the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, is unconstitutional because it violates Article 14 of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The verdict was delivered by a five-judge Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta, and Ravindra Bhat on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. The bench had previously reserved judgement in the case after a 10-day back-to-back hearing on March 26. The Supreme Court was hearing petitions on Wednesday challenging an earlier Bombay high court order that upheld the Maratha quota in 2019 and ruled that the Supreme Court’s 50 percent limit on total reservations could be met in exceptional circumstances. According to Justice Ashok Bhushan, “Neither the Gaikwad nor the submissions have identified any circumstance that would justify exceeding the 50% quota ceiling for Marathas. As a result, we conclude that there are no exceptional circumstances that justify exceeding the ceiling. The Act granting reservation makes no provision for the Maratha community to be granted reservation.”
Following that, a Supreme Court bench struck down the amendment declaring the Marathas to be socially and economically backward, thus stating that the groups already designated as such would be treated as such under Article 342A of the Constitution. “We discovered that no exceptional circumstances existed in granting separate reservation to the Maratha Community by exceeding the 50% reservation ceiling cap.” The Act of 2018 infringes on the principle of equality enshrined in Article 16 of the Constitution. The exceeding of the ceiling cap without extraordinary circumstances expressly breaches Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution, rendering the legislation ultra vires.
“We conclude that the Act of 2018, as amended in 2019, granting separate reservation for the Maratha group has not created any exceptional circumstances justifying exceeding the ceiling of 50 percent reservation,” Justice Ashok Bhushan wrote in the main judgement. The Maharashtra SEBC Act, 2018, which offers 16 percent reservation for Marathas in employment and education, was upheld by a Constitution Bench in a series of appeals. Maharashtra’s reservation increased to 68 percent after the Maratha quota was granted. The Court decided that representation should not be proportional to the community’s population. The State is needed to provide adequate representation rather than proportionate representation in order to provide reservation under Article 16(4). The Gaikwad committee, on the other hand, followed the principle of proportionate representation.