Maratha quota law is a ‘one community’ legislation and against equality, says plea in SC

Updated - July 11, 2019 10:59 pm IST

Published - July 11, 2019 10:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court on Friday will hear a group of social workers, academics and representatives of the Muslim community who have appealed against a Bombay High Court decision upholding a “one-person or one-community” Maharashtra legislation providing reservation to the Maratha community in education and public employment.

The petitioners, led by Mohammad Sayeed Noori Shafi Ahmed, assert that the Maharashtra legislation is against the very tenets of equality enshrined as a fundamental right in the Constitution.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will consider the case of the group, represented by advocates Vipin Nair and Madhavi Ayyappan, who contended that the high court decision was seriously erroneous and based on incomplete data.

The Bench is also scheduled to examine a separate petition filed by NGO Youth for Equality through its representative Sanjeet Shukla, which said the 12% and 13% quota to Maratha community had breached the 50% cap on reservation fixed by the Indira Sawhney judgment of the apex court.

52 Muslim communities

The appeal by Mr. Ahmed and others meanwhile said the high court judgment, on June 27, had led to hostile discrimination by not addressing the issues raised by 52 least-developed Muslim communities in the State in need of social and educational upliftment. The high court judgment has worked to favour only the Maratha community for quota benefits in education and public sector jobs.

Petitioners narrated how Maharashtra had issued an ordinance for providing 5% reservation to 52 Muslim communities in 2014. However, the ordinance had lapsed and Maharashtra did not take any steps to legislate to provide reservation to the communities.

“Despite there being other identified socially and educationally backward communities including the 52 Muslim communities, the State of Maharashtra picked and chose only Maratha community to be declared as socially and educationally backward class and provide reservation to an extent of 16%,” the petitioners said. “The action of the State of Maharashtra in declaring the Marathas as socially and educationally backward class without considering other communities such as 52 Muslim communities amounts to one person or one community legislation and is therefore struck by the equality clause guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India,” they asserted.

The high court ought to have appreciated that the State could not have discriminated between the Marathas and the Muslim communities while taking affirmative action, the petitioners said.

They contended that the Bombay High Court, while dismissing the petition, upheld the validity of the SEBC Act, 2018, and held that the State was competent to provide for reservation above the 50% limit, as exceptional circumstances are set out, but limited the reservation to 12/13% as recommended by the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission.

“The High Court has seriously erred while deciding the question as to the grant of reservation to the Maratha community by identification as a ‘Backward Class’ and categorising the community as “Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Citizens” for admission in educational institutions and to the posts for appointments in public services,” the petitioners said.

The high court did not even appreciate the plea of the appellants, who had questioned the very competence of State government to legislate and declare reservation for Maratha community in light of the literal as well as contextual interpretation of Article 342-A of the Constitution. The Article empowers only the President to notify, in consultation with the Governor, for each State and Union Territory, the list of socially and educationally backward classes.

As interim relief, the petitioners have sought a stay on the implementation of the Maharashtra State Reservation (of Seats for Admission in Educational Institutions in the State and for Appointments to the Posts in the Public Services under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward (SEBC) Act, 2018, until final disposal of this petition.

The petitioners also sought an interim injunction restraining the Centre and the State of Maharashtra from excluding or including any caste from the lists of OBC, SBC, VJNT, etc, till the National Backward Commission Report on the State-wide survey is available.

The high court ought to have considered the fact that consultation of the States with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes before taking any policy decision was mandatory, they said.

The high court ought to have appreciated that all the reports such as Sachar Committee report, Justice Ranganath Misra report, National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities Report, the Maharashtra State Minority Commission Report and Dr. Mehmood-Ur-Rehman Study Group Report were based on quantifiable statistical data relating to social, educational and economical status of the Muslims, more particularly, Muslims in Maharashtra and concluded that they Muslims were “extremely backward”.

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