Supreme Court quashes Maharashtra law granting reservation to Maratha community




  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state. 
  • The top court made it clear in its judgment that people from the Maratha community cannot be declared as educationally and socially backward community to bring them within the reserved category.
  • A five-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat also refused to refer the 1992 Mandal judgment, setting a 50 per cent cap on reservation, to a larger bench for reconsideration.

Key point

  • The judgment came on a batch of pleas challenging the Bombay High Court verdict which had upheld the grant of reservation to Marathas in admissions and government jobs in the state.
  • Maharashtra has the legislative competence for granting reservation to Marathas and its decision is Constitutional as the 102nd amendment does not denude a state of the power to declare its list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).



  • This verdict came after petitions were filed challenging the Maharashtra law providing reservation to Marathas in jobs and admission to medical and dental institutions. 
  • The petitions were against the June 27, 2019 order of the Bombay High Court which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the State and for appointments in the public services and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
  • The petitioners argued that the quota would breach the 50 per cent ceiling set by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India case.
  • The law was enacted during the rule of BJP government and it provided a 16 per cent quota to the Maratha community in the matter of jobs and admissions.
  • The 50 per cent ceiling was set by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in its landmark 1992 ruling on Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, which most call the Mandal Commission case.

Earlier Verdict of the High Court: 

  • The High Court upheld the law and said 16 percent reservation was not justifiable and that it should not exceed 12 per cent in education and 13 percent in jobs, as recommended by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).
  • The High Court had said that the “50% limit of reservation can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration”.
  • However, in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, the inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
  • The verdict of the High Court was based  on the findings of the 11-member MSBCC, which submitted in November 2018 that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards.

Verdict of the Supreme Court: 

  • The recent reference means the question will have to be answered by at least an 11-judge bench.
  • The apex court said that the reservation law will not apply to the year 2020-2021, but it however clarified that it will not affect admissions already made to postgraduate courses. 

Important Constitutional Provisions regarding Reservations

  • Article 16(1) and 16(2) assure citizens equality of opportunity in employment or appointment to any government office.
  • Article 15(1) generally prohibits any discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) state that the equality provisions do not prevent the government from making special provisions in matters of admission to educational institutions or jobs in favour of backward classes, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Article 16(4A) allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.
  • In the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, the Supreme Court fixed the upper limit for the combined reservation quota should not exceed 50% of seats.
  • In 2019, the 103rd Constitution Amendment Act was passed empowering both Centre and the states to provide 10% reservation to the EWS category of society in government jobs and educational institutions.

Article 32: Right to Constitutional Remedy

  • This article provides the right to move the SC by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights. 
  • The right to move the Supreme Court shall not be suspended except by the President during a national emergency (Article 359).
  • The Supreme Court has been vested with the powers to provide a remedy for the protection of the FRs and only FRs can be enforced under Article 32 and not any other like non-fundamental constitutional rights, statutory rights, customary rights etc.
  • The SC shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs any of the FRs.

Writ Jurisdiction:

  • The Supreme Court under Article 32 and the High courts under Article 226 of the Constitution can issue the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto to check and enforce fundamental rights. 




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