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Reservation for Marathas: Is it legally tenable?

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Mumbai, Dec 1: The decision by the Maharashtra government to grant 16 per cent quota to the Maratha community will be up for a legal challenge. The question is whether this grant has taken the reservation beyond the Supreme Court mandated 50 per cent ceiling in 1992.

File photo of Maratha Kranti Morcha activists raise slogans

As things stand, the state currently has a 52 per cent quota and the additional 2 per cent was introduced in 1994 in which the Gowari tribes were included as special backward class. If one were to add the new amendment for Marathas the reservation in jobs and education in the state touches 68 per cent.

Maharashtra approves 16% Maratha quota in jobs and education

The 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court which capped the reservation at 50 per cent, said that a hike can be allowed only in case of an extraordinary and exceptional circumstance. The state of Maharashtra would now have to demonstrate in court that the decision was taken under an exceptional circumstance.

The state of Maharashtra justified the reservation on the basis of the Backward Class Commission report. The report which is not yet been made public had conducted various surveys to identify social and educational status of the Maratha community. While the state government may use this report to justify its decision, the problem however lies in the fact that the caste census figures have not been made public as yet.

In the Bill the state has sought to justify the hike on the grounds that the overall backward population in the state is now at 85 per cent. Further while terming the amendment as exceptional, the government also said that if the Marathas who comprise 30 per cent of the state's population are accommodated within the existing OBC quota, it could lead to unwarranted repercussions in the harmonious co-existence of the state.

Those who propose to challenge this move would also cite what Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar said in the constituent assembly. He had said act even if the backward class population is over 70 per cent or more, the reservation quota cannot exceed 50 per cent.

Maharashtra cabinet approves reservation for Maratha community

The Maharashtra government on the other hand says that when it had moved the Supreme Court to protect the earlier ordinance, it was told that the backwardness for a community can only be decided by the Backward Class Commission. It was following this that the commission was formed, which in turn said that the Marathas are backward and deserve reservation.

The most likely challenge would come from the Other Backward Class groups. They would be wary of the fact that the new law may dilute their quota.

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