SC Strikes Down Maratha Reservation Act For Exceeding 50% Ceiling

No extraordinary circumstances or reasons were made out by the Gaikwad Commission to breach the 50% reservation limit.

The Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 that extended reservation to the Maratha community. The top court ruled that exceeding the ceiling limit of 50% as laid down in the 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict violated fundamental rights.

The top court said no extraordinary circumstances or reasons were made out by the Gaikwad Commission, that mooted the cause of reservation beyond the 50% limit as laid down in the Indra Sawhney verdict.

"We have found that the conclusion of the Gaikwad Commission is unsustainable. We hold that there are no extraordinary circumstances to grant reservation to the Marathas over and above 50%," Justice Ashok Bhushan said while reading out the operative part of the verdict.

The five-judge constitution bench of the top court set aside the Bombay High Court which had upheld the constitutional validity of Maratha reservations. On June 27, 2019, the Bombay HC had upheld the constitutional validity of Maratha reservations but capped the percentage from 16% to 12% (jobs) and 13%(education). The high court had held that the 50% ceiling—set in the apex court's 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict—could be overlooked under "exceptional and extraordinary circumstances".

The Constitution Bench further dismissed pleas seeking to revisit its 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict by a larger bench. The 30-year-old verdict—delivered by a nine-judge bench—capped reservations at 50%. The Indra Sawhney verdict has been followed in many judgments that followed and have received wide acceptance, the apex court said.

The Constitution Bench also upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd Amendment which introduced the National Commission of Backward Classes and granting powers to the President of India to notify backward classes.

Medical aspirants who have been admitted in post-graduate medical courses till September 9, 2020, are safe and will not be impacted by this judgment, the Supreme Court said.

What is the Maratha Reservation matter?

Before a slice in reservations were reserved for the Marathas— a group of castes consisting of farmers and landowners among others, the state had 62% reservation including the 10% the Centre's reserved for the economically weaker sections (EWS) of the society.

In 2018, the state carved out 16% quota—eventually capped at 13% (education) and 12% (jobs) by the Bombay HC—for the Marathas after accepting suggestions made by the 11-member Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) led by former high court judge MG Gaikwad.

Earlier this year in March, a five-judge bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswar Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat reserved its verdict on pleas challenging the Maratha Reservation.

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