In a contemporary Supreme Court judgment, the five-judge bench (existing of
Justices Ashok Bhushan, L. Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta, and S.
Ravindra Bhat) abrogated Maharashtra's law which provides reservation privileges
to the Maratha community. It was held that the Maratha community is not socially
and educationally backward to be fetched under the umbrella of reservation.
This Supreme Court decision is excruciating for the ruling party of Maharashtra
but the Supreme Court found no merit in the maratha claim of backwardness. In
2018 Maharashtra Assembly passed a bill proposing 16% reservation for Maratha
In 2019 Bombay high court while upholding the reservation pointed out that
instead of 16% it should be reduced to 12% in education and 13% in jobs. The
court has now repudiated the high court decision and its reasoning that the
denial of status of backward class, has pushed them deeper into a social and
educational backwardness and made them eligible to ask for reservation.
A five-judge constitution bench unanimously concluded that this reservation is
unconstitutional on many grounds including breaching of the 50% quota rule fixed
by the Supreme court earlier in Indra Sawhney v Union of India case.
Also the supreme court noticed that "States have no ability to add any standing
to the socially financially in reverse position list because of the change made
by parliament,". Only the President can add the position to the SEBC list guided
by the National Backward Classes Commission."
Framework behind the Maratha quota
Before coming to the background of maratha quota, it becomes very evident to
know who are Marathas? And why are they demanding reservation? The Maratha
people are a politically dominant community in Maharashtra. They are mainly
peasants and landowners and form nearly one-third of the population of the
state. If we dig deep into the historical aspect of Maratha then they have been
known as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land holdings.
Notwithstanding the political dominance over the years, due to rising agrarian
crisis and land division there was a decline of financial stability among the
middle class and lower middle class of the Maratha community. This financial
instability led to the demand for reservation in jobs and education. The bill
giving 16% reservation to the Maratha community in jobs and education came after
the community organised a stupendous tranquil strike throughout the year 2017
Although the demand was not new, it had been pending since the 1980s. Several
protests had been held by the community in those years but those protests were
not united as the ones we saw in the year of 2017 and 2018. And therefore these
strong and united protests forced the political parties to make an affirm step
pertaining to the Maratha reservation. The NCP(National Congress Party) promised
to the people of the Maratha community in the 2009 assembly election that they
will give reservation to marathas. in 2014 the then congress-NCP government
fulfilled their promise by awarding 16% reservation to the Maratha community.
However in 2014 the congress- NCP government was defeated and a new government
was formed by BJP and Devendra Fandavis was elected as a chief minister of
Maharashtra. This new BJP led government enacted a law regarding the Maratha
reservation which was struck down by the Bombay high court. After that
clamouring for the new law was increased.
However, in November 2017 a nine-member Maharashtra State Backward class
Commission supervised by Justice(retired) M.G. Gaikwad, made a report
investigating many specifications and deferred it to the Government. The then CM
Mr. Fandavis had submitted the Action Taken Report(ATR) in the Assembly for
What were the specifications mentioned in a report?
In 2017 a nine-member committee headed by MG Gaikwad submitted that there are
many variables available to make the Maratha Community eligible for reservation.
They claimed that this report is based on many public interaction and grassroot
meetings conducted by pundits and institutions including gram panchayat public
representatives and organisations.
It tracked down that 76.86 % of Maratha families were occupied with horticulture
and ranch work, around half lived in mud houses, just 35.39% had individual
faucet water associations, 13.42% of Marathas were not proficient with just
35.31% having essential schooling, 43.79 % having cleared HSC and SSC.
The report mentioned that Marathas were a warrior
caste and the men were
many a time far away for campaigns. So women had to be in the purdah system in
order to protect themselves from rival rulers. Gradually this system became the
custom for the women and due to this women were not allowed to go outside for
even education. And here the reason for educational backwardness started
according to the report.
The report mentioned another reason for educational backwardness that children,
especially "girls" did not get a chance to pursue basic education and that is
why they were not able to participate in government competitive exams. Due to
this there was a lower representation in government jobs.
The report concluded that the maratha community had lost its self esteem which
could be remedied by providing them a reservation.
Complexities involved in Maratha Quota Case
In 2017, when Maharashtra Assembly passed the socially and educationally
backward classes act which normally provided 16% reservation to the Maratha
Community,it increased the existing total percentage from 57% to 68% which
breached the 50% limit. This law was straight away questioned in the Bombay High
Court. The high court sustained the law but reduced the 16% Maratha reservation
to 12% in employment and 13% in education.
The High Court concluded that quotas satisfied the criteria of extraordinary
circumstances the supreme court sculptured out in its judgement Indra Sawhney Vs
Union of India in 1992.
In Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India
in 1992, a nine judge bench of the
Supreme Court came to a landmark decision that ordinary quotas should ordinarily
be restricted to 50%, but there would be an exception to this 50% only if some
extraordinary circumstances are established. But in 2019, several medical
students of Mbbs challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to SEBC
But this petition was dismissed by Bombay High Court. Recently the Supreme Court
refused to grant an interim stay on plea by medical student, seeking a direction
that 12% quota not be made applicable for admission in postgraduate mental and
dental courses for the academic year 2020-2021.
Last year, the Bombay High Court judgement was questioned in the Supreme Court.
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court set down that evidently it did not
agree with the High Court reasoning and placed the matter before the honourable
chief justice. This resulted in the formation of a 5 judge constitution bench.
Turning point of the Case
The five-judge bench had ascended six questions of law on the issue. The Bench
agreed one and all on three issues but the verdict spitted in the ratio of 3:2
on the other three issues. The constitution bench informed that it would hear
detailed arguments on six issues. The first three were related to the stability
of the state when it comes to furnishing reservations not just above 50% but
also within this barrier.
Issue 1- On readdressing the Indra sawhney ruling
One of the main problems before the constitution Bench was to scrutinize whether
the 1992 landmark case Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India
had to be
revisited or not. This is the case in which the Mandal Commission report was
upheld and it consigned two prime paradigms. First the criteria for a group to
qualify reservation is social and educational backwardness.
Second, it recapitulated the 50% limit to vertical quotas reasoning that it was
impertinent to ensure ‘efficiency’ in administration. But a count ensured an
exception to this limit in extraordinary circumstances
. The court
unanimously decided that there is no limit to readdress the case. The 50% limit
albeit an arbitrary determination by court but it is now constitutionary
Issue 2 and 3- Whether the Maratha reservation falls under extraordinary
Now it was decided that there is no need to readdress the Indra Sawhney Case the
court looked at whether the Maratha Reservation falls under extraordinary
circumstances. The court also addressed the Gaikwad commission report. The
Maharashtra government argued that the population of the Maratha Community is
85% and the reservation limit is only 50%, so an upgrade in reservation would be
justified in extraordinary possibilities.
The constitution bench differed from the reasoning of state government. The
court said that the Maratha Community is the dominant and mainstream community.
The bench also observed that the MG Gaikwad Commission report too did not focus
only on extraordinary circumstances
Issue 4,5 and 6- Whether the state has power to identify by SEBCs and 102nd
The Constitution One Hundred and Second Amendment Act,2018 gives constitutional
status to National Backward Commision. And this act provides power to the
President to identify Backward classes. Many states raised their voice against
this amendment to curtail their power.
The constitution unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of 102nd
Amendment but took a different view on whether it curtailed the power of states
to identify the Backward class.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court observed that the final say in regard to
inclusion or exclusion (or modification of lists) of SEBCs is firstly with the
President, and thereafter, in case of modification or exclusion from the lists
initially published, with the Parliament.
In the task of identification of SEBCs, the President shall be guided by the
Commission 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, - Justice Bhat
This constitution bench judgment moreover brings an image of vengeance for
different networks, for example, the Patidars in Gujarat, who, in the wake of
developing distress because of underlying changes in the economy, have been
preparing for amounts. The Constitution has guaranteed reservation as an
instrument to address authentic treachery and segregation. Strategies should be
found, notwithstanding, to deal with different sorts of obstacles and
Eventually, a goal to the developing fuss to be proclaimed in reverse may just
lie in the public authority tending to supply-side issues in schooling and work.
Until further notice, a tricky piece of the SC decision should be scrutinized —
three of the five appointed authorities were of the view that solitary the
President will have the ability to distinguish the regressive classes in a state
or UT. The inquiry, who is in reverse, and who gets what amount, is a
significant one. The appropriate response must be found with the association of
- Himanshi Chandani
- Harsh Shrivastav - Students of Lloyd Law college Gr. Noida, UP