Supreme Court strikes down Maratha Reservation Quota for exceeding 50% cap; upholds Indra Sawhney Verdict

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 which grants reservation for Marathas in jobs and education institutions exceeding 50% and also ruled that there was no need to re-examine its 1992 verdict capping quota at 50 per cent.

A five-judge Constitution bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat were unanimous on unconstitutionality of Maratha law and said that Maratha community cannot be declared as socially and educationally backward community to grant them reservation. The court also also pointed out that there was no exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situation to justify breach of 50 percent cap in granting reservation to Marathas.

The state government had framed the law on November 30, 2018 granting 16 percent quota for Marathas in government jobs and admission in educational institutions.
While upholding the law, Bombay High Court on June 27 last year directed the government brought it down to 12% for education and 13% for jobs as recommended by a state-appointed backward class commission headed by former HC judge M B Gaikwad.

Challenging the high court’s, the petitioners contended that the HC misread SC judgments to conclude that there is no stringent ceiling limit of 50% reservation as set out in the 1992 Indra Sawhney case.

Allowing the appeal, the apex court quashed the high court order

The main plank of the bunch of petitioners challenging the validity of the Maratha quota is that it took the total reservation way beyond the 50% ceiling on quota put by the SC in its landmark Indra Sawhney judgment in November 1992, while upholding the validity of 27% OBC quota in government jobs, which was later extended to admissions in state-run educational institutions.
The state government, however, said that there was no illegality in giving reservation to Maratha community and pointed out that many states were providing reservation above 50 percent which has not been stayed by SC.

Various states have also supported Maharashtra government and pleaded that SC’s 1992 verdict by nine-judge bench needed to be re-examined and contended that that 50 percent cap imposed by judicial verdict should go and they should be allowed to decide on the quantum of quota required.

The Centre had also come in support of Maratha reservation and told the court that it was a valid law.

The following is the operative part of the judgment:

– Appeals challenging the Bombay High Court judgment are allowed. The impugned judgment of the High Court is set aside.

– Section 2(j) of the Act insofar as it declares Maratha community as -Educationally and Socially Backward category is held to be ultra vires the Constitution and is struck down.

– Section 4(1)(a) of the Act insofar as it grants reservation under Article 15(4) to the extent of 12 percent of the total seats in educational institutions including private institutions whether aided or unaided other than minority institutions is declared ultra vires the Constitution and is struck down.

– Section 4(1)(b) of the Act granting reservation upto 13 percent for Maratha community in total appointment in direct recruitment with respect to public services and posts under the State is held to be ultra vires the Constitution and struck down.

– Admissions to post graduate courses which were already held up till the interim order of the Supreme Court in September 9, 2020 will not to be affected by the judgment. Hence, those who have already been admitted in post graduate courses till then shall be allowed to continue.

– All appointments made to public services in favour of Maratha community after the judgment of the High Court till interim order of the Supreme Court on September 9, 2020 are saved.

– Challenge to 102nd Constitutional Amendment dismissed.