The Bombay High Court on 27th of June upheld reservation granted to the Maratha community by categorising them as Socially and Educationally Backward Class [SEBC], whereby the total reservation in the state of Maharashtra crossed 50 %. The High Court termed the circumstances warranting the grant of reservation as exceptional and extraordinary. The BJP lead Maharashtra Government had passed a law granting reservation to SEBCs last year. The reservation was offered on the basis of a report by Committee headed by Justice Gaikwad. However, the quantum of 16℅ as fixed by the Maharashtra Government is lowered to 12% in employment and 13 % in education, as recommended by the Backward Commission.
The High Court has stated in its 487 page Judgement, “We hold and declare that the report of the Gaikwad Commission has set out the exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations justifying crossing of the limit of 50% reservation as set out in Indra Sawhney’s case.” Last year, Maharashtra experienced state-wide protests and agitations seeking reservations for the Maratha community. The Maratha community is estimated to be about 32% of the total population of Maharashtra. The community comprises mostly of agriculturalists and as per a study carried out by Gokhale Institute of Economics, 40% of the total farmers who committed suicide in the state are from the Maratha community.
While explaining the extraordinary situation of the Maratha community, the Court quoted from Nehru’s Autobiography, “Bowed by the weight of centuries, he leans upon his hoe and gazes on the ground the emptiness of ages in his face and on his back, burden of the world”.
The High Court has held that the State Government in exercise of its power under Articles 15(4)(5) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India is justified, in the backdrop of the report of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, in making provision for a separate reservation to the Maratha community. Court held that the limit of reservation could exceed 50% in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration. Court also held that the classification of the Maratha community into “Socially and Educationally Backward Class” can be considered a reasonable classification permissible under Article 14.
Senior Advocate Mr. Mukul Rohatgi had appeared as a Special Counsel for the State before the High Court. The state has now filed caveat before the Supreme Court in anticipation of an appeal by the petitioners. The High Court had refused to stay its judgment despite such a request by the petitioners.