Quashing the 2018 law framed by the Maharashtra government granting reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the state can’t exceed the 50% cap on quota imposed by it earlier.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, while unanimously declaring the law as unconstitutional, held that providing quota to the community beyond 50% violated equality.
It also said the state had failed to show any extraordinary reason why Marathas be considered a socially and economically backward class.
“We have found that no extraordinary circumstances were made out in granting separate reservation of Maratha Community by exceeding the 50 per cent ceiling limit of reservation. The Act, 2018 violates the principle of equality as enshrined in Article 16. The exceeding of ceiling limit without there being any extra-ordinary circumstances clearly violates Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution which makes the enactment ultra vires,” the judgment written by Justice Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer said.
The judges also ruled that people from the Maratha community cannot be declared educationally and socially backward community to bring them within the reserved category.
“States have no power to add any caste to socially economically backward caste list due to the amendment made by Parliament,” it said, adding that “states can only identify the castes and suggest to the Centre…Only President can add the caste to Socially and Educationally Backward Classes list guided by the National Backward Classes Commission.”
It, however, said all admissions made to post-graduate medical courses and appointments already made under the 2018 quota law shall remain undisturbed by its Wednesday’s judgement.
The Constitution Bench also said there was no need to revisit the 50% limit fixed by the Supreme Court in the in the Indra Sawhney case (1992 Mandal judgment).
It also set aside the Bombay High Court’s judgment that had upheld the 2018 law in June 2019 and had held that 16% reservation was not justifiable as the quota should not exceed 12% in employment and 13% in education. The HC said that the 50% cap on total reservations imposed by the SC could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances.
While the judgments were unanimous, the judgments differed on the interpretation of Article 342A of the Constitution which was inserted by 102nd Constitutional Amendment. Article 342A calls for the identification of communities in States as socially and educationally backward classes by the President, in consultation with the Governor of the state.