Day 1 Arguments – Constitution BenchMaratha Reservation
March 8th 2021
In 2018, the State of Maharashtra passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018 (‘SEBC Act’) to extend reservations to the Maratha community. Specifically, the State Legislative Assembly granted Marathas 16% reservations in education and public employment.
Various litigants challenged the SEBC Act before the Bombay High Court. After 40 days of oral arguments, the High Court delivered its judgment in 2018. It upheld the Act but reduced the percentage of seats reserved for Marathas to 12% in education and 13% in public employment, as per the recommendations of the Gaikwad Committee. Now, the case has moved to the Supreme Court. A three-judge Bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao heard Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) challenging the Bombay High Court’s judgment. One of the key legal issues was whether the State has the power to exceed the 50% reservation ceiling set by the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. With the introduction of the SEBC Act, over 70% of seats in Maharashtra are reserved.
The preliminary issue that came up was regarding the need to refer this case to a larger bench, as it involved substantial questions of law around the interpretation of the Constitution. After hearing both the parties, the Court on 09 September, in its brief, non-reportable order, referred the case to a larger bench.
In a Brief Hearing, Respondents Seek all States to be Impleaded
Sr. Adv. Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Maharashtra state, argued for all states to be made a party to this case: the legal issues in the present case would impact the law-making abilities of the states on matters relating to reservation. He urged that all States be issued notice. K K Venugopal, the Attorney General, supported Rohatgi’s request. He too believed that the outcome of the present case would affect all the states.
On the other hand, the counsel for appellants including senior advocates Arvind Datar and Gopal Sankaranarayanan objected. They believed that this was another tactic to delay the proceedings.
However, the Bench sided with the respondents and issued notice to all 28 states.