The Bombay High Court today upheld the Maratha Reservation by declaring the State Reservation (of Seats for Admission in Educational Institutions in the State and for Appointments to the Posts in Public Services under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Category Act, 2018 (SEBC Act) as constitutional. The Act was passed by the State Legislative Assembly on 29th November 2018 granting 16 % reservation to Marathas.
A Division Bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharti Dangre today upheld the validity of the SEBC Act which was enacted on the recommendations of the State Commission for Backward Classes headed by retired judge Justice MG Gaikwad constituted under the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission Act, 2005.
Several petitions were filed against the SEBC Act and the Gaikwad Commission report on the ground that the 16% reservation granted to Marathas violated the 50 % cap prescribed by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Indira Sawhney v Union of India.
The court observed that the 50% ceiling could be exceeded under exceptional and extraordinary circumstances and the reservation was based on justifiable data submitted by Gaikwad Commission. However, the court has asked the state to cap the reservations at 12% for jobs and 13% at educational institutions.
It was the contention of the petitioners that the Supreme Court judgments mandate the lists to be revised every ten years so that the classes that cease to be backward classes can be excluded and new classes can be added. The petitioners argued that the State government passed the SEBC Act on the basis of unqualified data and without revising the list in the light of the provisions of the existing list of backward classes. They also questioned the Gaikwad Commission report contending that it failed to follow the mandate in Indira Sawhney case and the Mandal Commission report.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar who appeared on behalf of one of the petitioners argued that the Act was in violation of Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution. He contended that only the President can notify or de-notify a list of backward classes whether at the Centre or in the State.
The insertion of Articles 342A and 366(26) in the Constitution through the 102nd Amendment Act, 2018 had vested the power to identify and specify the socially and educationally backward classes with the President and the Parliament. The ACt, therefore, stood repealed in the light of the 102nd Amendment Act.
However, the court rejected the arguments and held that the State government’s competence to enact the law is not affected by the Amendment.