The Bombay High Court on Thursday voiced displeasure over the delay by the Maharashtra government in filing affidavit and making other submissions regarding quotas for the Marathas, and served it an ultimatum to do so by December 7 when it would take up the matter.
A division bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and G S Kulkarni had last month directed the government and other respondents to file their affidavits, replies and written submissions by today, so the court could fix a date to hear the matter finally.
Senior counsel V A Thorat, appearing for the government, told the court that while the affidavit was ready, it needed time to collect data and other information to support the case.
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The court, while adjourning the matter till December 7, said this was the “last chance” it was granting to the state.
The government told the HC that Maratha community comprises people belonging to various castes and since the country does not conduct caste-based census anymore, it was proving rather “difficult” to get the requisite data.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions challenging 16 per cent reservation to Marathas, announced by the previous Congress-NCP Government.
In November 2014, the HC had stayed implementation of the decision, holding that the Supreme Court had already laid down the law that reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent of the total seats.
The petitioners objected to the adjournment, arguing that the state was “employing tricks” to delay the matter but the bench said at this stage it had “no choice but to believe” the government.
“We have already given a lot of time to the government to file their affidavit and written submissions in the case,” the HC said, adding that the Supreme Court had earlier stated the matter should be heard and decided as expeditiously as possible.
“It is obvious that the government will have a lot to say on this complex issue. Let them have time to complete all pleadings and file their additional affidavit. This is the last chance we are giving to the government to file their affidavit. We’ll verify their claims once the arguments begin,” the bench said.
The court is hearing two PILs opposing the 2014 decision and also a bunch of applications in favour of the reservation.
The members of the Maratha community have organised massive marches across the state to press their demand for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
The state unit of the ruling BJP had said last week it was committed to meeting the demand of the community without upsetting the existing OBC quota.
One of the petitioners, Ketan Tirodkar, contended that the decision to term the Maratha community as socially and educationally backward is a “fraud” committed on the country and the Constitution.
In Maharashtra, 52 per cent seats in government jobs and educational institutions were already reserved for various backward groups and by introducing 16 per cent Maratha and5 per cent Muslim reservation, it was raised to 73 per cent.
The high court had earlier held that the Maratha community cannot be regarded as Backward Class and that the National Commission for Backward Classes and the Mandal Commission had concluded that the Marathas were socially advanced.