- Court ordered the quota percentage be reduced from 16 to 12-13 per cent
- State government decision like providing "permanent crutches": Petition
- Petitioners say it would violate 50% reservation cap fixed by top court
The Bombay High Court today upheld the Maharashtra government's decision to provide reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions. However, the court cut down on the quantum of 16 per cent approved by the government on the grounds that it was not "justifiable".
The verdict passed by the division bench, comprising Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre, came on a petition claiming that the Maharashtra government's decision amounted to providing the Maratha community with "permanent crutches". The petitioners also maintained that it would violate the cap of 50 per cent fixed on reservations by the Supreme Court.
"We hold and declare that the state government possesses legislative competence to create a separate category of the Socially and Educationally Backward Class and grant reservation," news agency PTI quoted the court as saying. The bench, however, ordered that the quota percentage be reduced from the government-approved 16 per cent to 12-13 per cent as per the State Backward Classes Commission's recommendation.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the high court order, terming it as proof of the state's commitment for its people. "The verdict has proved that this Maharashtra legislative assembly is capable of devising a law. The court has also accepted the report of the Backward Class Commission," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
Members of the Maratha community were seen celebrating the Supreme Court decision in various parts of the state. Police have been asked to ensure that the situation does not go out of hand.
The state legislature had passed a bill granting 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Marathas, declared a socially and educationally backward class by the administration, on November 30 last year. This was supposed to be in addition to the existing 52 per cent overall reservation in the state, thereby raising it to 68 per cent.
The Maharashtra government's decision to provide reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to Marathas was spurred by an violent agitation taken out by the community through July and August last year. The movement was called by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups.
The Maharashtra Congress expressed happiness over the development. "The previous Congress government had initiated this move for the Maratha community, but it could not pass muster with the High Court due to certain legal hurdles. We only hope that the government now goes ahead and provides reservations to the Dhangar (shepherd) and Muslim communities. If that's resolved, I think there'll be communal harmony in the state," state party chief Ashok Chavan told ANI.
Among other objections, the petitioners challenging the government decision had claimed that it goes against the very principle of equality. "The government cannot divide the nation/society into small fragments. This decision of the state is a prime example of erecting narrow silos that shuts doors for people to have equal opportunities in jobs and education," senior counsel Srihari Aney, appearing on their behalf, argued before the division bench earlier this year.
(With inputs from Agencies)