The Maharashtra government will "fight for justice" and a legislation providing a Maratha quota for jobs and college admissions - which was stayed by the Supreme Court on Thursday - Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said Sunday afternoon in an online address to the people of the state.
Describing the temporary order as "unexpected", Mr Thackeray said his government would not give up on the legislation.
"I assure you we will fight for your justice. Even in the last government all four parties worked towards reservation for Marathas and we will fight for it. We have the best of the best of legal counsels and we are fighting this battle now in the Supreme Court. We haven't given up," Mr Thackeray said.
The Chief Minister also appealed for patience from the people and, with an eye on the increasing number of Covid cases in the state, reminded them of the need for social distancing and cautioned against taking out protests.
"The government is with you. Then why are you fighting? Why get out on the road? Please refrain from protests due to the pandemic. It is not necessary as the government understands your feelings," he said.
Earlier today members of the Maratha Kranti Morcha on Sunday staged protests in Solapur against both the state and centre, according to news agency PTI.
Mr Thackeray also said he had spoken to opposition leaders, including former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who is now Leader of the Opposition, and he had been assured of support on this issue.
"I even spoke with (Mr) Fadnavis over the phone. He is in Bihar currently and even he has said that we are not interested in politics and we are with you over this," Uddhav Thackeray said.
In 2018 Maharashtra passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, allowing 16 per cent reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and government jobs.
The Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional validity of the law but directed the quantum of reservation to be cut down; it was altered to 12 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.
The High Court's decision was then challenged in the Supreme Court; one of the petitioners, who represented the non-profit organization "Youth for Equality", contended the law "breached the 50 per cent ceiling on reservation fixed by the top court in its landmark judgment in the Indira Sahwney case, also known as the "Mandal verdict".
In July, the Supreme Court had refused to put a temporary freeze on the Bombay High Court order.
The state government, anticipating a challenge to the reservation law, had earlier filed a caveat in the top court saying no "ex-parte order should be passed on any plea challenging the high court judgment without hearing the state".
With input from PTI