Earlier, while justifying giving quota with retrospective effect, the Devendra Fadnavis led state government argued that the ordinance granting 16% reservation to Marathas had originally been issued on July 9, 2014, the HC, which was hearing a petition against this ordinance, had stayed it.
The Bombay High Court had upheld the Maharashtra State Reservation (of Seats for Admission in Educational Institutions in the State and for Socially and Educationally Backward Category (SEBC) Act, 2018 (SEBC) as constitutional. However, the court ruled that the 16% quota granted by the state is not justifiable and reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).
“We hold and declare that the limit of reservation should not exceed 50%. However, in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration,” the High Court had said.
The Supreme Court sought the Maharashtra government’s response on Friday on pleas challenging a Bombay High Court order that upheld the grant of reservations to the Maratha community in education and jobs.
However, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi directed the State of Maharashtra to refrain from implementing the quota with retrospective effect from 2014.
The direction came after senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, for one of the petitioners, submitted that Maharashtra is moving to use the quota law retrospectively from 2014 to fill up about 70,000 government vacant posts.
The Bench issued notice on a batch of petitions, including that by NGO Youth for Equality, which have challenged the decision allowing 12-13% quota to Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act. They have argued that the move is seriously erroneous as the State law has breached the 50% cap on reservation fixed by a Constitution Bench in the Indira Sawhney judgment.
The petitioners argued that the reservation law was enacted under “political pressure” and in “full defiance” of the rule of law and equality. According to the 102nd amendment to the Constitution, reservation can be granted only if the community is in the list prepared by the President.
“Maharashtra government has made a mockery of the rule of law. It has also used its constitutional powers arbitrarily and purely for political gains,” the petition said.