Why supreme court is right in denying unethical pleasure to Maharashtra govt

An apex court bench headed by chief justice HL Dattu declined to interfere with the high court's interim order and said it (the HC) was still seized of the matter

GN Bureau | December 18, 2014



When it is about populism the governments show unusual hurry and go to any length to get it in the public domain disregarding values and hard numbers. Denying such unethical pleasure, the supreme court on Thursday refused to hear Maharashtra government's plea against the Bombay high court order staying reservation to Marathas and Muslims.

An apex court bench headed by chief justice HL Dattu declined to interfere with the high court's interim order and said that it (the HC) was still seized of the matter. The court said, "It is just an interim order, let the high court decide it."

On December 5, the Maharashtra government rushed to the supreme court even though the high court had said that it will hear the case next month (January 2015). The Devendra Fadnavis government had filed a special leave petition before the supreme court. The reservations were brought in hurriedly before the state election through an ordinance by the then Congress-NCP government.

The high court had stayed the 16% reservation for Marathas in jobs, faulting the data used by the state to back its assertion that the community is backward.

A bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice MS Sonak had also stayed the 5% quota in public employment to about 50 sub-castes among Muslims.

The new BJP government sought the order to be stayed for four weeks, but the high court had refused to accept the request.

Dismissing the quotas, the court cited the supreme court constitution bench norm of capping reservation at 50%. "The reservation ceiling cannot exceed 50%, except in extraordinary situations and for extraordinary reasons,” the high court had reasoned.

Maharashtra has 52% reservation in public employment for backward classes under the State Reservation Act of 2001. The quota for Maratha and Muslim would have taken the total reservation to 73%.

The high court had also said the state's data to justify Marathas as socially and economically backward to merit reservation has "glaring flaws". Nor is there any exceptional circumstances made out to permit such reservation. Even the National Commission for Backward Classes has held the Maratha community to be "socially advanced".

The government had granted the reservation to Marathas on the basis of the recommendations of the Narayan Rane committee. It was set up after the state rejected another committee report that said Marathas required no special reservation.

"There must be some element of social oppression or discrimination against a community for whose benefit the reservation is to be provided beyond the 50% ceiling. In the present case, there has been no attempt by the state to establish the exceptional circumstances... to exceed the reservation ceiling,'' the court had ruled on Maratha reservations issue.

On the Muslim quota, the high court said the reservation was not for the "entire Muslim community" but only for specified backward Muslims.

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