In November 2018, Maharashtra passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act to grant 16% reservation to Marathas in the state. The Bombay High Court upheld the Act as constitutional. It is currently under challenge before the Supreme Court for increasing reservations in Maharashtra beyond the 50% limit established by previous Supreme Court decisions, and for creating a separate category for Maratha reservation outside the OBC category.
The Justice Gaikwad Commission report, whose recommendations supposedly formed the legislature’s basis for implementing the Act, is also under scrutiny for allegedly using unreliable and unscientific data. It concluded that the Marathas are a socially and educationally backward class whose extraordinary position justifies creating reservations beyond the 50% ceiling limit.
What is the constitutional validity of the Act? Should the Marathas be granted reservation for educational and economic upliftment? This piece curates a reading list spanning the width of the issues involved in the case.
Here are 5 must reads:
Faizan Mustafa writes that the Maratha reservation possibly violates Article 14 of the Constitution. He describes it as a a class legislation rather than a reasonable classification from the OBC reservation category. He also contends that the Bombay High Court erred in downplaying the 50% reservation limit.
Suhas Palshikar argues that the present system of deciding a community’s backwardness is uncertain and non-transparent, leading many states to circumvent the law to accommodate popular demands. He asks why and when any one community should get a separate quota outside the OBC category.
Alok Prasanna Kumar posits the constitutional rationale for reservations in India is to address historical inequalities. He asks if the principle behind the Supreme Court-imposed 50% reservation limit is arbitrary.
Malavika Prasad argues that Maharashtra’s Act is unlikely to withstand a constitutional challenge for failing to meet the ‘extraordinary situation’ justification in order to exceed the 50% reservation limit.
Rajeshwari Deshpande investigates backwardness claims made by the Marathas and compares them to those of the Lingayats in Karnataka. She frames their claims as an attempt to maintain dominance by controlling political discourse on reservations.