Reiterating that the Maratha community was neither socially nor educationally backward, the Bombay High Court (HC) on Tuesday directed the state government to fill up the 16 per cent reserved seats, originally meant for the community, in government jobs that the state intended to keep vacant. Candidates from the open merit category will fill up these posts, said the HC, which had last year stayed the previous government’s ordinance to provide the community reservation in jobs and education.
The high court also restricted the government from offering admissions to educational institutions on the basis of the newly enacted law. The Maharashtra Reservation Act 2015 provides for reservation of seats for admission to educational institutions and appointments for posts in public services under the educationally and socially backward category.
A bunch of petitions challenging the government’s decision came up for hearing before Chief Justice Mohit Shah and G S Kulkarni. A bench headed by Chief Justice Shah had in November 2014 held that the Maratha community was not backward and that the state did not have the power to exceed the 50 per cent reservation limit set by the Supreme Court. The state had exceeded the ceiling limit of reservation by a Cabinet decision on July 9, 2014.
Advocate General Sunil Manohar informed the court that the state intended to keep the 16 per cent seats in government jobs vacant till the final outcome of the petitions before the HC. The senior state representative said not keeping the posts open would create unwanted competition and multiplicity of litigation.
One of the petitioners’, however, contested the argument, saying the state could not keep the seats vacant as the HC had already held that the community was not backward and keeping seats in abeyance would be contrary to the Court’s order. The petitioner’s counsel also informed that the state government had published ads calling for applications to fill up government jobs in the category post the HC order.
The AG said it could have been a “slip” and he would “rectify” in case there was any anomaly.
Chief Justice Shah, earlier, clarified that the question of reservation for the community would not arise as there was a 50 per cent cap in reservation, same held by the apex court. In addition, the court said the community did not fall in the backward category. The Court said, as opposed to its earlier observation, the government could not exceed the reservation cap in extraordinary cases and the same had been held by the SC.
The HC, therefore, ordered that the state should fill up posts in government jobs from the open merit category for a period of 11 months or till the final outcome of the case, whichever was early. The Court asked the state to file a reply to the new contentions raised by the petitioner and posted the matter on June 15.