SC refers Maratha reservation issue to larger Bench, no quota in jobs and admission for now

The court had heard the parties on the question of reference of the matter to an 11-Judge Constitution Bench on the issue of 50% cap on reservations

Supreme Court of India (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Supreme Court of India (Photo Courtesy: IANS)

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a larger Bench a batch of petitions challenging the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, which provides for reservation in employment and education to the Maratha community, legal news website has reported.

The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat has held that in the meanwhile, there will be no such reservation in jobs and admissions.

The Court has further ruled that admissions to postgraduate courses will not be altered. The matter will now be placed for Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, who will constitute a larger bench.

The Bench had heard the parties on the question of reference of the matter to an 11-Judge Constitution Bench on the issue of 50% cap on reservations.

Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi, representing the state of Maharashtra, and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing an applicant, urged the court to refer the issue of the 50% ceiling on reservation to a larger Bench.

The SEBC Act provides for reservation for the Maratha community in the state of Maharashtra. The decision of the Bombay High Court upholding the law with modifications was challenged before the Supreme Court. One of primary grounds for challenge was that this law, if implemented, would breach the 50% upper ceiling put in place for reservations.

With the change in demographics of society, there is a need for the upper ceiling to be revised, the Senior Counsel in support of the SEBC Act had argued. It was further argued that this case needed to be examined by a Bench of 11 Judges, considering that the judgment delivered in the Indra Sawhney case was delivered by a 9-Judge Bench.

Counsel in favour of making the reference to a Constitution Bench had argued that after the 103rd amendment providing for the EWS reservation, the ceiling fixed at 50% was breached in almost all states.

It was pointed out to the court that in the Janhit Abhiyan case, the challenge to the constitutional amendment providing for EWS reservation has been referred to a Constitution Bench. Therefore, a statutory enactment like SEBC Act also should be similarly referred.

On the other hand, Senior Counsel like Arvind Datar and Gopal Sankarnarayanan who opposed the reference, argued that if the court decides on the SLP filed and concludes that the Maratha community is not socially and educationally backward and as such not eligible for the reservation in the first place, the question of breaching 50% is rendered void and the matter may not be needed to be referred at all.

It was urged by these lawyers that the matter be heard on merits and if during the hearing the court is of the opinion that a reference is needed, the same can be done at that later stage.

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