Dr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil  V.  The Chief Minister and Ors.

Facts of the Case :

The Maratha is a Hindu community which mainly resides in the State of Maharashtra. On July 9th 2014 Maharashtra Government promulgated an ordinance which provide 16% reservation to Maratha community in education and public employment. On 14th November 2014, the Bombay High Court issued an interim order staying the implementation of ordinance.

On 4th January 2017, Maharashtra Government establish the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission. The Commission chaired by Justice M.G Gaikwad which recommend that Maratha is a Socially and Educationally backward class community and 12% and 13% reservation should be given to Maratha community in educational institutions and public services respectively.

Upon the Gaikwad Commission’s recommendations Maharashtra Government passed Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act,2018 on 29th November 2018.

As the Act exceed the original quota, its constitutionality was challenged in the Bombay High Court  with several writ petitions. Several further applications for intervention trying to justify the validity of the 2018 Act were filed during the pendency of these writ petitions.

Issue Raised :

  1. Whether the judgement in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India 1992 needs to be referred to a larger bench or require to re-look by the larger bench in the light of subsequent Constitutional Amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics of the society etc.
  2. Whether the 102nd amendment to the constitution denies the state legislature to establish the enactment that decides the socially and economically Backward classes.
  3. Whether the State Government on the strength of Maharashtra State Backward Commission report chaired by Justice M.C Gaikwad has made out a case of existence of extraordinary situations and exceptional circumstances in the state to fall within the exception carved out in the judgment of Indra Sawhney
  4. Whether the state’s power to legislate concerning “any backward class” under Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) is abridged by Article342(A) read with Article 366(26c) of the Constitution of India.
  5. Whether, Article 342A of the Constitution abrogates States power to legislate or classify in respect of any backward class of citizens and thereby affects the federal policy / structure of the Constitution of India?  
  6. Whether the 2018 Act as amended in 2019 granting 12% and 13% reservation for Maratha community in addition to 50% reservation is covered by  exceptional circumstances as contemplated by the Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney’s case.

Contention :

Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) Act 2018 provides 16% reservation to Maratha community amounts to breach of Article 14,16 and 21 of  the Constitution of India and bypassing the ceiling of 50% reservation which was brought in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. The Act was passed without following the requirements given in the 102nd Amendment of the Constitution of India. That is why SEBC, Act was Unconstitutional. Another contention was that the Gaikwad Vommission Report was flawed and Unscientific.

Rational :

The Five Judge bench gave out a 569-page  verdict, precluding the need to rethink the validity of Indra Sawhney judgment case, which fixed the 50% reservation bar. The democracy is part of basic structure of Constitution. If the reservation goes above 50% limit which is reasonable , it will slippery slope, the political pressure, make it hardly to reduce the same. Thus, answer to the question posed is that the percentage of 50% has been arrived at on the principle of reasonability and archives equality as enshrined by Article 14 of which Article 15 and 16 are facets. There can be no quarrel that society changes, law changes, people changes but that does not mean that something which is good and proven to be beneficial in maintaining equality in the society should also be changed in the name of change alone. Therefore, bench also noticed that the judgment of Indra Sawhney is being followed for more than a quarter century without being any doubt raised in any of the judgments about the 50%, the 50% rule has been repeatedly followed.

The Supreme Court noticed that no extraordinary circumstances were made out in granting reservation to Maratha community by exceeding the 50% ceiling limit of reservation. The SEBC Act violates the principle of equality as enshrined in Article 16. The exceeding of ceiling limit without there being any exceptional circumstances clearly violates Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution. The object of the bill clearly indicate that the State Govt. has formed the opinion on the basis of the report of Gaikwad Commission reasons given by the Commission holding that extraordinary circumstances for exceeding the limit of 50%. But the report fail to prove that Maratha is a socially and Educationally Backward class community and there is no a extraordinary circumstance, therefore, report is flawed and unscientific. That is why the Socially Educationally Backward Class Act,2018 is unconstitutional.

The Commission relied on the Constitution Bench judgment in M. Nagaraj and took the view that on the quantifiable data ceiling of 50% can be breached. It hence noted, Based on the population of 30%, Commission has arrived at a conclusion that the total percentage of State population which is entitled for the constitutional benefits and advantages as listed under Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) would be around 85% and this is a compelling extra-ordinary situation demanding extra-ordinary solution within the constitutional framework.

However, the Constitution Bench in M. Nagaraj has noticed majority opinion in Indra Sawhney

has held that rule of 50% was a binding rule and not a mere rule of prudence.

The Constitution bench had held that, The State is not bound to make reservation for SCs/STs in matters of promotions. However, if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance with Article 335. It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, as stated above, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.

The Constitution Bench, thus, had clearly laid down that even reservation for promotion, ceiling of 50% limit cannot be breached. Hence, the Commission has completely erred in understanding the ratio of the judgment.“The Marathas are dominant forward class and are in the main stream of National life.” That is why the report of Gaikwad Commission is unscientific and flawed.

Defects in the Law :

According to judgment Article 342(A) and Article 342(26c) gives power to president to issue one list of socially and educationally backward classes. It takes power from the state legislature to issue a separate list of Socially and educationally backward classes for a particular state.

But the state was empowered to spot the backward classes for granting quota in particular state. Because different class has different status and background in different state that is why this power cannot be taken from any state. That is why this judgment still needs some reviewing to be done regarding who identifies as backward classes in the society.

Inference :

The Supreme Court Struck down the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act which gives reservation to Maratha Community. The ruling is likely to impact other reservation laws under the category of exceptional circumstances that have access to the 50% limit. Reservation has been a political issue that has been brought up time and again in recent years. Quota become a dominant issue in state politics and election with leaders promising quota to particular class or community for their political gain. Going forward, the Maharashtra Government has some serious thinking to do regarding this judgment and the way ahead.

Casteism is not a tangible problem that can be fixed, like poverty or unemployment. Casteism is a mindset that is established in people’s brains, and thing will not improve until and unless people mindset changes. When it comes to reservation system, there will always  be different viewpoints.

Rakesh Singh

1st year student

Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur