The Maratha Kranti Morcha has accused the state government of “mismanagement” and “lack of coordination” after the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing in the Maratha reservation case for four weeks.
In the first hearing, which was scheduled for Tuesday, after the apex court stayed the implementation of the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) Act, senior counsel for the state Mukul Rohtagi was not present, said Vinod Patil, one of the respondents virtually present for the hearing.
The SC then adjourned the hearing for some time. “Two hours later, when Rohtagi appeared for the hearing, the court asked whether it had heard their matter. Rohtagi said the SC itself had referred the matter to the constitution bench and the government had sought a hearing by the larger constitution bench. The court then adjourned the hearing for four weeks,” Patil said.
Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, the 13th direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who was also present for the online hearing and is spearheading the Maratha community’s fight for reservation, said adjournment of the hearing would further delay the final verdict in the case and will hit the student community and unemployed youth.
Blaming the state machinery, Sambhajiraje said, “What we witnessed today was total mismanagement and lack of coordination on part of state officials and lawyers. Today’s hearing was supposed to be about lifting the stay on the SEBC Act. Instead, the discussion was about referring the matter to a larger constitution bench,” he said.
Sambhajiraje said the SC had granted stay to the SEBC Act on September 16. “After a few days, the state government sent a letter to the Supreme Court demanding that the matter be referred to the appropriate bench. But today, they demanded that the matter should be referred to the larger constitution bench. They could have made this demand when they sent the letter demanding setting up of an appropriate bench. What is an appropriate bench? There is no such definition of appropriate bench,” he said.
Calling the adjournment of the hearing as “most unfortunate”, he said, “Senior lawyer is not present in the court. Even juniors were not present in the court. We didn’t know what was happening. We wondered whether the state government is serious about Maratha reservation.”
Responding to the statement of minister Ashok Chavan, who is the chair of the sub-committee for Maratha reservation, Sambhajiraje said, “If he (Chavan) wants to resign as chairman of the sub-committee, it is his call. Who are we to decide?”
After the SC adjourned the hearing, Chavan had said if the chief minister wanted, he could remove him as the chair of the sub-committee. “If I am removed, I have no problems. I will continue to work with honesty for the Maratha community as one of its members,” he said in response to the demand from a section of Maratha coordinators.
Rajendra Kondhare, another key Maratha coordinator, said, “I think the state lawyers were confused as to whether to go before the same bench to get the stay lifted or to go before the larger bench. Some lawyers were of the opinion that the state should go to the same bench, while others advised to go before a larger bench. In this confusion, the lawyers failed to come up with a strategy.”
Kondhare said if the state government had intimated earlier that they wanted to go before a larger bench, the hearing could have been cancelled and the larger bench could have heard the case. “Precious time could have been saved,” he added.
Kondhare also said the adjournment had put the Maratha community, especially youngsters, in a spot of bother. “The delay is causing pain to the community, the state government needs to act with seriousness and purpose and seek proper advice from top experts,” he added.
Patil said, “Lakhs of students from the Maratha community seeking admission in Class XI, medical or postgraduate, were waiting with great anticipation for the final hearing today. They were all disappointed.”
Patil said it was up to the state government to give justice to these students. “On behalf of the state government, I request the chief minister to use discretionary powers to do justice to these students seeking admission till the final verdict arrives.”
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