SC refuses to stay ordinance allowing Maratha quota in PG seats this year

The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday refused to stay the Maharashtra government’s ordinance that allows reservation for Marathas in post-graduate (PG) medical and dental courses this academic year.

The Apex Court, however, allowed the petitioners – three medical aspirants from the open category who had challenged the ordinance – to move the Bombay high court (HC).

On May 2, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court (HC) ruled that 16% reservation for Marathas under the socially and educationally backward class (SEBC) category won’t apply to PG medical and dental courses this academic year, as the registration process for their entrance tests began before the Act came into effect. The SC, on May 9, upheld the HC’s judgment, after which the state decided to pass an ordinance.

A bench of justice Arun Mishra, justice Bhushan Gavai and justice Surya Kant that heard the three separate petitions said the pleas against the ordinance should be heard by HC, as the latter is already hearing other petitions challenging SEBC reservation. The court also directed the HC to consider the matter as early as possible, in case the petitioners decide to approach it.

The petitions in the SC argued that the ordinance was specifically brought in to bypass the Apex Court’s earlier verdict. They contended that reservation cannot be applied when the admission process had already begun.

“We argued that our petitions are different from the ones filed in the HC. But, later we decided to withdraw with the liberty to file them in the state’s court,” said Ashwin Deshpande, counsel to three of the petitioners.

Shriram Pingale, counsel to one of the intervenors favouring Maratha quota, said Friday’s SC order brings relief to 253 Maratha aspirants whose admissions to PG medical and dental courses were cancelled and later reinstated by the state. “The students are safe,” he said.

The state’s ordinance has introduced an amendment to the SEBC Reservation Act, 2018, to remove the legal hitch in applying Maratha reservation to PG medical and dental courses in the state this year. A new clause added to the Act sets the last day to apply for admission to the courses, for which admissions are conducted through national entrance tests such as national Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), as the cut-off day for implementing the quota.

Earlier, the Act had fixed the beginning of entrance test process as the cut-off date for all courses, which resulted in legal challenges to Maratha quota in PG dental and medical courses in the state, as the application process for entrance tests for these courses began on October 16 and November 2, respectively, much before the Act became a law on November 30.

First Published:
May 25, 2019 05:24 IST

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