Centre must clarify its stand on Maratha quota, says BJP MP

Post-SC verdict, Sambhaji Chhatarapati urges govt. to issue ordinance to resolve the imbroglio

A day after the Supreme Court refused to re-examine its May 5 verdict holding the reservation for the Maratha community unconstitutional, influential community leader and BJP MP Sambhaji Chhatarapati — a direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji — said the Centre must clarify where it stood on the issue and urged it to issue an ordinance to resolve the imbroglio.

“After the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, the Central government will now have to take the call on the reservation issue. We want to know whether the Centre intends to give justice to the Maratha community or not,” said the royal from Kolhapur, speaking in Pune.

The court on Thursday also held that only the Centre had the power to declare a community as socially and educationally backward and to include the community in the Central List to avail quota benefits.

Two alternatives

“We have just two alternatives now that the Supreme Court has unfortunately rejected the Central government’s petition filed under the 102nd Amendment. The first being that the Centre should issue an ordinance as soon as possible and that would mean effecting a constitutional amendment. The ordinance would help restore the powers of the State government to make an Act to give reservation to the community,” he said.

The MP, who has been galvanising the community’s efforts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s repeal of the Maratha quota law in May, said that until the Central government filed an ordinance, the State could create a backward class commission under 338B of the Indian Constitution, recollect pertinent data on the Maratha community, and rectify the loopholes of the erstwhile Gaikwad Commission.

“This data [collected by the newly-constituted commission] can then be sent to the President through the Governor with a request from the State government that reservation be granted to the Maratha community under exceptional circumstances. If the President thinks that the report proves that the Maratha community falls under the socially and educationally backward classes [SEBC], he can refer the matter to the National Commission for Backward Classes under Article 342A. The commission, after seeking data from the State committee, can revert back to the President, who, in turn, can lay it before Parliament,” said Mr. Sambhaji Raje.

The MP, who has emerged as the face of the agitation after the court’s scrapping of the Maratha quota law, was generally complimentary of the ruling Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s efforts in addressing the issue.

‘Silent rallies’

“After our ‘silent rallies’ in Kolhapur and Nashik, the Uddhav Thackeray government has accepted our six key demands and has sought some time to implement them, which we have accordingly granted … the Maratha community has already demonstrated its ire on this issue by staging 58 massive ‘silent rallies’ in the past. It is pointless coming out in the streets now that the issue is being fought on legalities,” said Mr. Sambhajiraje.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Minister Ashok Chavan, who headed the Cabinet Sub-committee on the Maratha reservation issue, said the court verdict had made clear that the ball was now in the Centre’s court.

“Only the Centre can take a decision. Our expectation will be that the Central government without delay recognise the need for promptly and proactively taking up the quota issue,” Mr. Chavan said.

The Supreme Court, while rejecting the Centre’s review petition, had further stated that there was no need to re-consider Maratha quota petitions which means that the State had no right to determine whether or not the Maratha community fell under the ambit of socially and educationally backward classes.

‘Set up panel’

Maratha community coordinator Vinod Patil, a respondent in the case, said the State government must immediately work towards setting up a backward class commission and appoint members form the Maratha community on it.

“A sub-committee must also be set up in connection with this, which would collect data in a time-bound manner and prepare a fresh report which should be placed before the Cabinet and then the State legislature. The legislature should approve it and send it to the Centre, which now has to take the final call on the matter,” he said.

However, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s Leader of the Opposition, said the ruling MVA government should not shirk its responsibilities by placing the onus of the reservation issue on the BJP government at the Centre.

“The State government must take steps to prove conclusively the backwardness of the Maratha community. It cannot merely thrust the issue on the Centre and do nothing,” Mr. Fadnavis said, warning that the longer the State government delayed the process of constituting the backward class commission, it would provoke greater restiveness among the Maratha community.

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