The Bombay High Court Wednesday said it expected to start final hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging reservation to Marathas in jobs and education in February 2017. A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak has kept the matter for directions on January 30, when it will fix a date in February for the final hearing in the matter.
“The petitioner leading the matter, Sanjeet Shukla, seeks time till end of January. The hearing in the matter can start in February,” said the court. Shukla’s lawyer requested for day-to-day hearing in the matter, which the court said would be decided later.
According to the affidavit filed by government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani before the court, “The reservation only seeks to fulfill the Constitutional duty of ensuring adequate representation to a class of educationally and socially backward category of citizens which in this case is the Maratha community in order to alleviate the community from its social and education backwardness.”
The affidavit argues that the 50 per cent ceiling for quotas is not an absolute rule and is in conformity with the Indian Constitution. The affidavit states that the extraordinary circumstances that justify a higher percentage of reservation in this case is “Social isolation caused due to displacement, high rate of illiteracy, destruction of environment resources due to climate change resulting in farmer suicides.”
While making its argument in favour of reservation, the government has relied on the Bapat Commission Report, which spoke of the inadequate representation of the Maratha community in government services, the quantifiable data studied by the Rane Committee on the same issue, report of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics.
The government has, however, only partly accepted the Bapat Commission report, as it eventually put forward a resolution not to include the Maratha community in the list of OBCs. “The Rane Committee report is more scientific and has taken the largest sample of population for deciding the social, educational and economic backwardness of the Maratha community,” states the affidavit.
Referring to the study of farmer suicides in the state from 2014 to 2016 by the Gokhale Institute, the affidavit reads, “Approximately 78 per cent of farmers’ suicide took place in Marathwada and Vidarbha region … among cases of farmers’ suicides, most of them belong to the Maratha caste,” The affidavit puts the number of suicides during 2014-16 in these two regions at 3,881.