Maratha community does not need quota, it is not backward: Petitioner tells Bombay HC

Supporters of the Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil during a protest demanding Maratha reservation, in Navi Mumbai, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

Supporters of the Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil during a protest demanding Maratha reservation, in Navi Mumbai, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday began hearing the issue of interim relief in the Maratha quota petitions. One of the petitioners has argued in court that the community did not require any reservation in education or government jobs as it is not qualify as a backward class.

In February 2024, the Maharashtra government decided to grant 10% reservation to the Maratha community under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) category. The Bench of Chief Justice D.K. Upadhyaya, and Justices G.S. Kulkarni and Firdosh Pooniwalla was hearing the petition challenging this decision.  

The petitions sought an interim stay on the Maratha quota, and asked that no admissions took place in educational institutes nor government jobs be provided under this reservation.  

Highlighting the petition filed by advocate Pradeep Sancheti, Maharashtra Advocate General Birendra Saraf said advocate Sancheti’s voluminous rejoinder attacked the credibility of the Backward Commission, and alleged bias. “The enactment giving reservation to the Maratha community by the State is based on a survey and a report put together by the Commission. The Commission should have had a party to answer the allegations levelled against it,” Mr. Saraf argued.  

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“The petitioners would bear the consequences, if any, for not making the Commission a party to the petition. The Chief Justice has used discretion to form a larger Bench of three judges that has been especially constituted to hear the Maratha reservation issue. There is some difficulty in the formation of this Bench after April 19 as this Bench will not be available. The Bench would be able to hear the parties concerned only until April 16,” the Bench said, upon hearing the Advocate General’s argument. The court refused to grant Mr. Saraf an adjournment in the hearing of the petitions challenging reservation for the Marathas.  

Senior counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted that the issue had been already decided by the Supreme Court, and the 50% ceiling on reservations could not have been breached by the State while providing reservation to the community. “The Supreme Court has in May 2021 quashed the (earlier) reservation granted to the community. There has been no change in the status of persons from the Maratha community since 2021 to merit reservation. It is unfortunate that every time the petitioners come to court because the government wants to placate a particular community which is very powerful. The government has been time and again claiming that the Maratha community is backward, but this was not the case,” he argued. 

Questioning the Backward Class quota, he said the Maratha community had always been in mainstream society. “Members of the Maratha community have been in the mainstream of society and are dominant in politics. They are a forward community and hence do not require reservation. The data on which the government relied to grant fresh reservation under the SEBC (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) category was the same as that in 2021. Unless some mysterious collapse has taken place in the last 36 months (since the May 2021 judgment of the Supreme Court) that requires revisiting the reservation, there is no reason for granting reservation,” Mr. Sankaranarayanan added. 

The petitioners have requested the court to not rush the judgment, and allow more time to hear all the petitions. The Bench has agreed to allot an extra hour on Monday and Tuesday to hear all the petitions.

The next hearing is slated for April 15.  

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