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Bombay High Court Confirms Maratha Quota, But Says 16% Not Justifiable

The Bombay High Court today upheld the Maharashtra government's decision to provide reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions. However, the court cut down on the quantum of 16 per cent approved by the government on the grounds that it was not "justifiable". 

The verdict passed by the division bench, comprising Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre, came on a petition claiming that the Maharashtra government's decision amounted to providing the Maratha community with "permanent crutches". The petitioners also maintained that it would violate the cap of 50 per cent fixed on reservations by the Supreme Court.

"We hold and declare that the state government possesses legislative competence to create a separate category of the Socially and Educationally Backward Class and grant reservation," news agency PTI quoted the court as saying. The bench, however, ordered that the quota percentage be reduced from the government-approved 16 per cent to 12-13 per cent as per the State Backward Classes Commission's recommendation.

The state legislature had passed a bill granting 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Marathas, declared a socially and educationally backward class by the administration, on November 30 last year. This was supposed to be in addition to the existing 52 per cent overall reservation in the state, thereby raising it to 68 per cent.

 

The Maharashtra government's decision to provide reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to Marathas was spurred by an violent agitation taken out by the community through July and August last year. The movement was called by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups.  

The petitioners, while challenging the government decision in the high court, had also claimed that it goes against every principle of equality. "The government cannot divide the nation/society into small fragments. This decision of the state is a prime example of erecting narrow silos that shuts doors for people to have equal opportunities in jobs and education," senior counsel Srihari Aney, appearing on their behalf, argued before the division bench earlier this year.

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