Supreme Court Strikes Down Maratha Quota, Terms It Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court today cancelled the reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the Maratha community brought in by Maharashtra in 2018, saying it exceeded the 50 per cent cap imposed earlier.

A five-judge bench examining the constitutional validity of the 16 per cent reservation brought in by the earlier BJP government in Maharashtra said the move violated equality. The bench comprised Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta, and S Ravindra Bhat.

"States have no power to add any caste to socially economically backward caste list due to the amendment made by parliament," the Supreme Court observed. "States can only identify the castes and suggest to the Centre...Only President can add the caste to SEBC list guided by the National Backward Classes Commission."

It, however, said all admissions made to post-graduate medical courses and appointments already made under the new quota law shall not be disturbed by its ruling today.

The constitution bench also said there was no need to revisit the 50 per cent cap on reservation imposed by the Supreme Court in the 1992 Mandal judgment.

In 2018, the BJP government in Maharashtra had passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act that provided 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community.

Hearing a petition that argued the Maharashtra government's decision amounted to providing the Maratha community with "permanent crutches", the Bombay High Court had upheld the quota in 2019. The Supreme Court had put the Bombay High Court judgment on hold last year.

The petitioners said the quota was unconstitutional because, with it, the state's total reservation exceeded 50 per cent.

The Centre, which supports the Maratha quota, argued that states can grant reservation and that the decision is constitutional.

"If there is no 50 per cent or no limit, as you are suggesting, what is the concept of equality then. We will ultimately have to deal with it. What is your reflection on that...? What about the resultant inequality? How many generations will you continue?" In March this year, the bench told the Centre.

The court had reserved its verdict last month.


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