SC declares Maratha quota law unconstitutional

A separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) 21 (due process of law), says the top court.

The five-judge Constitution Bench of Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the Maratha quota law as unconstitutional.

The five-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan concluded that there was no "extraordinary situation" or "exceptional situation" which required the Maharashtra government to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community.

The Bench also comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat also struck down the findings of J. Gaikwad Commission which led to the enactment of Maratha quota law.

It held that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) 21 (due process of law).

The five-judge Bench unanimously agreed that there was no need to re-visit the 1992 Indira Sawhney judgment which fixed the reservation limit at 50%.

"We don’t find any substance to revisit the Indira Sawhney judgment or referring it to a larger bench. The judgment has been upheld by at least four Constitution Benches," said Justice Ashok Bhushan reading from the lead judgment.

Ratio of Indira Sawhney judgment fully applicable to Article 15, he added.

All appointments made under the Maratha quota following the Bombay HC judgment endorsing the State law will hold, but they will get no further benefits. Students already admitted under the Maratha quota law will continue to get the benefits.

Those students who have been admitted to postgraduate courses will not be affected since they have not been given reservation, the judgment read.

102nd Constitution Amendment Act

Although all judges were unanimous on declaring Maratha quota law unconstitutional, Justice Bhat differed with Justice Bhushan on the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act.

Justice Bhat held that only the President can make changes to the Central List of socially and educationally backward classes based on data given from various sources, including the National Commission for Backward Classes. The States can only make suggestions. The final exercise of including castes and communities is done by the President alone, he said.

The opinion is in the majority as Justices Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta supported him.

Justices Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer held the "different view" that Parliament did not intend to take away from the States its power to identify their backward classes. However, they too upheld the Amendment Act, but only differed on the actual legislative intent behind it.

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