EVEN as the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to lift the interim stay on Maratha reservation, the aggrieved community blamed the state government for “poor strategy which has led to the present situation.”
A five-member Constitution bench on Wednesday refused to vacate the interim stay, and decided to hear the petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, enacted by the Maharashtra government.
Vinod Patil, one of the respondents in the case, said the bench refused to pass an order to lift the stay granted by a three-judge bench in September this year. “The bench heard the arguments made by the government lawyers as well as my lawer. The court said it appreciated the points made for lifting the stay but since the matter is serious, it will conduct final hearings from January 25.”
According to Patil, the Supreme Court said both sides will be allowed to submit their arguments till January 18, and then the final hearings will be conducted from January 25.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the Maharashtra government was represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, P S Patwalia and Kapil Sibal. Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Sandeep Joshi represented Vinod Patil.
Patil said after the Supreme Court refused to lift the stay, the lawyers pleaded that since the selection process for some students under the Act had been completed, it should be allowed. “However, the court rejected the plea,” he said.
Criticising the state government, Patil said, “It was a big disappointment for Maratha community today. However, the community should remain patient. The Maratha community is united and organised, but the government should not test the patience of the community. We had earlier said that while fighting a case in the court, it needed a different strategy. This has been consistently missing right from the beginning. If the state government had taken the necessary steps earlier, we wouldn’t have faced such an embarrassing situation today.”
Referring to the arguments made by the state government’s lawyers, Patil said,”There was no need to mention the supernumerary concept for giving reservation to Maratha community. Yet, the lawyers raised this point. In turn, the court asked whether the state government has adequate finances to implement the concept. I think the arguments should have been restricted to getting the stay lifted rather than telling the court that there are other alternatives available. In such a scenario, why would the court lift the stay when other options are available for the community or have been planned by the state government?”
Patil said though the court did not lift the stay, the judges did not sound negative about the reservation issue. “The judges accepted the points made by our lawyers. They said the points were good but this matter cannot be decided immediately…,” he said.
“Nothing is lost yet. The government needs to act decisive to give justice to students. There are several alternatives available to ensure justice to Maratha students….At the same time, we request political parties like the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and the BJP to take the reservation issue seriously,” said Patil.
Stating that the Maratha community has full faith in the Supreme Court, Patil said,”We will take advice from legal experts and strongly place our arguments before the court. We will fight till the end to give justice to the Maratha community.”
Rajendra Kondhare, coordinator of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said, “Today’s development is disheartening. While many communities, without any recommendation, are enjoying reservation, Maratha community is being deprived of the benefits of reservation despite the Backward Class Commission recommending reservation for the community.”
Kondhare said if the supernumerary concept is implemented, there is no need for the government to go before the Supreme Court. “That the SC has not objected to supernumerary concept is a welcome development. The state government should implement it immediately as it resolves this longstanding issue,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP Sambhijiraje Chhatrapati, who is leading the community’s fight for reservation, said, “The lawyers presented the arguments in a proper way today. However, there was no need for them to seek postponement of the hearing. This is what I object to. Because of this, the hearing got posted to a later date.”
Sambhijaraje said another positive outcome was that the apex court did not oppose the supernumerary concept. “The court merely asked whether the government has money… it, however, did not object to the concept. I will write to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray about implementing the supernumerary concept,” he said, adding that he will also meet the chief minister in this connection.
Meanwhile, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, “The SC lifting the stay is a failure of the Uddhav Thackeray government and it is a big blow to the Maratha community.”