The Bombay High Court on Thursday sought to know from the counsel arguing against reservation for the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions, if the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) has concluded that 80 per cent Marathas are backward and can that be an exceptional situation.
A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati H Dangre was hearing final arguments in three petitions filed by advocates Jaishri Patil, Sanjeet Shukla and Dr Uday Dhople, along with others, challenging the November 30, 2018, notification published by the Government of Maharashtra announcing provision for 16 per cent reservation for Marathas.
So far, the counsels for all petitioners have relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Indira Sawhney and Others versus the Union of India case, which held that the 50 per cent reservation ceiling cannot be exceeded, except in exceptional cases, like in extraordinary situations in far-flung and remote areas, and if a special case is made out.
On Thursday, the bench sought to know “whether 80 per cent of Marathas are backward, which is concluded by the commission, can it be an exception situation?”
Senior counsel Pradeep Sancheti, appearing for petitioner Shukla, replied that five bench judges of the Supreme Court had raised a similar question. But the seven bench judges in the Indira Sawhney case held that the reservation cannot exceed the 50 per cent ceiling. Sancheti added that even Dr B R Ambedkar had said that the moment the 50 per cent mark is exceeded, equality is diluted.
Sancheti said after excluding the 52 per cent reservation, from the remaining 48 per cent, 19 per cent jobs goes to the Maratha community, which is 40 per cent of the remaining 48 per cent in the general category.
Sancheti argued that according to the data, of the farmers who committed suicide, 23 per cent were Maratha farmers, which means that the other 77 per cent who committed suicide were also in a difficult situation. “How does only Marartha farmers’ suicide make them a special class?” Sancheti asked.
While concluding his argument Sancheti said that any amount of quantifiable data will not give room to exceed the 50 per cent limit held by the Bombay High court. He added that economic status should be the criteria to give reservation and not caste, because caste divides society. Sancheti said the Bombay High Court in 2014 passed an interim order and stayed the Maratha reservation, from 2014 to 2017. The state had an opportunity to go to the commission.