Writ Petition ( civil) No. 3123 of 2020; LL 2021 SC 243.
The Maratha Community constitutes a significant percentage of Maharashtra population and has long been demanding reservation in employment and education. The government, acknowledging their demands, provided a 16% quota in the state’s job and educational sector. This decision was challenged by Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil claiming that the reservation is unconstitutional and unjustified.
This provision of reservation is a policy of affirmative action initiated by the Government of Maharashtra to provide separate reservation quotas for Maratha people.
In 2018, the State Government of Maharashtra enacted a law of the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward classes (SEBC) Act which provides 16 percent reservation to the people of Maratha community in educational, jobs, admissions, and other fields of the society. The law termed the Maratha community as a socially and educationally backward class. But this reservation policy has violated the limit of 50% ceiling mentioned as per the rule of Indra Sawhney case. The policy was challenged in the High court of Bombay. The High court of Bombay upheld the constitutional validity of the policy. The High Court reduced the reservation from 16% to 12% – 13% in employment. The High Court’s verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court, which gave a landmark verdict in 2021 by terming the policy as unconstitutional.
1. Whether the SEBC Act of 2018 as amended in 2019 granting 12% and 13% reservation for the Maratha community additionally to 50 percent social reservation is proof of exceptional circumstances as per contemplated by the Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney’s case?
2. Whether the government on the strength of Maharashtra State Backward Commission Report which is chaired by M.C. Gaikwad has made out a case of existence of extraordinary situations and the exceptional circumstances within the State to fall under the exceptions carved at the judgment of Indra Sawhney?
3. Whether the Constitution’s 102nd Amendment denies the State Legislature of its ability to establish enactment that decides the socially and economically backward classes?
4. Whether the State’s ability to administer “any backward class” under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) is abbreviated by Article 342(A) read with Article 366(26c) of the Indian Constitution?
The council on the petitioner side was Aravind Datar, Gopal Sankarnarayan, Shyam Divan, Pradeep Sancheti, Siddharth Batnagar, Rajeev Dhawan and other council of advocates.
The council on the behalf of the respondent was Att. Gen. KK. Venugopal, Sol. Gen. Tushar Mehta, Mukul Rohatagi and others.
Arguments of Petitioner
- Dr. Patil’s main argument is that the Maratha Reservation Act violates the fundamental principles laid down by the Constitution of India by exceeding the 50% reservation limit, thereby violating the principle of equality.
- The petitioner also pointed out that there is no specific evidence to prove that the Marathas are socially and educationally backward. In fact, they rank more in the areas of literacy, income level, and other social parameters.
- It is also argued that the existing reservation policies are meant to uplift the underprivileged communities in this case, the Marathas, the benefits are not reaching the actual beneficiaries and are being wrongly diverted and misused.
- This reservation policy is termed to violate the Right to Equality under Article 14 as it discriminates against other communities.
- Reservation should only be provided to the economically weaker sections of the society and not based on case or community.
Arguments of Respondent
- The State Government held that the Maratha community faced historical injustice and has been socially and economically marginalized, justifying the need for reservation.
- They also stated that there has been a significant drop in the Martha community employment rate, and reservation would provide them with equal opportunities in the job sector.
- Reservation would ensure better representation of the Maratha community in the state assemblies and other institutions, leading to a more equitable and inclusive society.
- They also held that this reservation addresses the social imbalance which was cluttered in our society and aims to eliminate it in the form manner.
The 50% cap on reservation was established by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney v. Union of India case in 1992. The Maratha reservation Act,2018 exceeds this limit and thus its constitutionality is being questioned during the proceedings of the case. The court actually criticized the government for failing to collect quantitative data to justify the need for Maratha reservation and pointed out political motives behind the decision. Justice Bhushan, who headed the Constitutional seat, observed that the condition for a 50% reservation limit under Article 16(4) wasn’t satisfied in giving 12% and 13% reservation to Marathas in jobs and education. Dr. Patil from the beginning argues that the reservation solely on the basis of caste is not justified. Instead, reservation based on economic status should be the criterion. She also pointed out that communities that are already well represented in government jobs and higher education are receiving reservation benefits, while deserving economically weaker sections are left behind.
This case mainly draws its similarity from the famous case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India which overturned the scope of Article 16(1) and Article 16(4) of our Constitution. The reservation policies and benefit programs like these always uplift the downtrodden communities but it should not be over the limit which in turn curtails the development scope for non-beneficiary communities just because of the reason that they are not a part of that particular group or community. In 2019 the High Court of Bombay suggested to the Maharashtra Government to ratify the quota of reservation from 16% to 12-13 percentage gap in educational and professional sectors. The constitutional bench also disapproved the interpretation of Article 342(a) in this case as it states about the community of Scheduled tribes and scheduled caste but the Martha community doesn’t fall under that category because they already made enough representation for themselves in every strata of the society and surpassed the minimum subsistence level of living. Their literacy rate increased over 40% in the last 20 years and they are not to be considered as a backward caste to avail the reservation. The bench also rejected the consideration of Indra Sawheny v. Union of India judgement which fixed the 50% reservation cap on reservation and stated that there are no any special circumstances in which the court provides additional 16% reservation to the Maratha community. Many states have demanded that the case be heard by the 9- judge constitutional bench pertaining to its constitutional status. But the Supreme Court stated that by replying that there is no need of authoritative pronouncement on the interpretation of the provisions inserted by the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act 2018 which directly adheres the authority or power of a State government to declare a certain class or caste socially or educationally backward. The apex court also stated that the State Government of Maharashtra failed to prove the necessity of extraordinary circumstances which allow to avail the reservation benefit which were initially introduced by the Judiciary in the case of Indra Sawhney. After all the facts and the laws put forward by both of the parties before the bench the side of the respondent are not entitled to get the demanded 16% reservation cap in various fields of the public services, the Supreme Court said. 
Defects of Law
First, everyone in the society has to understand that the main motive behind a reservation policy or any beneficiary program which was introduced by the government is to uplift the downtrodden communities from the low level. In olden days even before the statute laws, the many communities of our society were heavily affected by the class discrimination and were denied their rightful positions which are earned by their merit due to their caste or class to which they belong. After many years of independence, many laws were introduced for the welfare of backward classes. But on the creamy layer, these were heavily misused and illegally availed by some members for their selfish usage. The law should provide additional aid to the backward classes to make a mark for themselves but this help which includes various reservation policies, benefit programs should not darken the opportunity of other community people. Just because if one person belongs to a train backward community he or she should not be provided with ample opportunity or any entitlement solely on the basis of the reservation. If that person is talentless or any misdeed means it turns out to be troublesome in some or other ways. Dr. Patil points out mainly that there is no scientific evidence to prove that the Marathas are socially and educationally backward. In fact, they rank higher in terms of literacy, in per capita income, and other social indicators. Dr. Patill also argues that the benefits are not reaching the actual beneficiaries and are being enjoyed by the creamy layer. This is mainly due to over denotation to the backward classes just to spread out the reservation or any beneficiary policy.
After conducting a comprehensive analysis of the presented evidence, facts, legal arguments, the Supreme Court held that the reservation for the Maratha community was unconstitutional and violates the Article 14 of our Constitution of India and it also exceeds the 50 percentage ceiling limit as prescribed by the Judiciary in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. This judgment was delivered by the bench consisting of Justice Ashok Bhushan, S. Abdul Nazeer, L.N. Rao, S. Ravindra Bhat and Hemant Gupta. While delivering the judgment Justice Ashok Bhushan said that “There is often no fight that society changes, law changes, and individuals changes yet that doesn’t imply that something sweet and demonstrated to be useful in keeping up balance inside the general public ought to try and be changed in the name of progress alone”.
The Government of Maharashtra should once revisit their demand for reservation and empower the other states to select various other backward communities of society into reservation status and inculcate transparency in law-making. The government must remove well-off groups of people from the reservation policy. The government can achieve this by moving away from reservation based on a citizen’s conditions rather than community-based reservations.
NAME: PVSS. SRINIVAS
COLLEGE: Dr. B.R. AMBEDKAR COLLEGE OF LAW
Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454
INDIA CONST. art. 14
INDIA CONST. art. 16
INDIA CONST. art. 342
SCO, https://www.scobserver.in/cases/jaishri-laxmanrao-patil-chief-minister-maharashtra-maratha-reservation-case-background/ ( last visited 22 June 2023)
SocialLawsToday, https://sociallawstoday.com/maratha-reservation-case-analysis-dr-jaishri-laxmanrao-v-chief-minister/ ( last visited 22 June 2023)
OurLegalWorld, https://www.ourlegalworld.com/maratha-reservation-dr-jaishri-laxmanrao-patil-v-the-chief-minister/ ( last visited 22 June 2023)
 Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454
2. INDIA CONST. art. 14