SC asks States to make it clear whether reservation should remain within 50% or not

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine whether its nearly three-decade-old judgment, which fixed reservation for the marginalised and the poor in government jobs and educational institutions at 50%, needs a re-look.

In 1992, a nine-judge Bench of the court had drawn the “Lakshman rekha” for reservation in jobs and education at 50%, except in “extraordinary circumstances”.

However, over the years, several States such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have crossed the rubicon and passed laws which allows reservation shooting over 60%.

Maratha quota law

A five-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, on Monday, set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over 50% limit to just Maharashtra.

The Bench expanded the ambit of the case by making other States party and inviting them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation should continue to remain within the 50% boundary or not.


Hearing from March 15

Justice Bhushan, leading the Constitution Bench, decided to start the hearing from March 15, giving time for the other States to prepare their arguments.

The court, meanwhile framed a series of questions, which include whether the Indira Sawhney verdict of 1992, fixing 50% limit on quota, needs to be re-looked by a larger Bench of more than nine judges.

Another question is whether the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018, which provides 12% to 13% quota benefits for the Maratha community, and thus, taking the reservation percentage in the State across the 50% mark was enacted under “extraordinary circumstances”.

The Indira Sawhney judgment had categorically said “50% shall be the rule, only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas population into mainstream said 50% rule can be relaxed”.

The court will also examine whether Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of Justice M.C. Gaikwad had made up a case of “extraordinary circumstances” of deprivation suffered by the Maratha community, requiring the helping hand of reservation even at the cost of crossing the 50% line.

In fact, the Bombay High Court had, in June 2019, reduced the quantum of reservation for Marathas from the 16% recommended by the Gaikwad Commission to 12% in education and 13% in employment.

A significant question the Bench wants to judge is whether the Constitution (One Hundred Second Amendment) Act of 2018, which introduces the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), interferes with the authority of State Legislatures to provide benefit to the social and educationally backward communities in their own jurisdiction.

The Constitution Amendment Act had introduced Articles 338B and 342A in the Constitution. Article 338B deals with the newly established the NCBC. Article 342A empowers the President to specify the socially and educationally backward communities in a State. It says that it is for the Parliament to include a community in the Central List for socially and backward classes for grant of reservation benefits.

The court wants to delve into the issue whether Article 342A strips State Legislatures of their discretionary power to include their backward communities in the State List.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 3:47:24 AM |

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