The Bombay High Court on Thursday voiced dissatisfaction over the Maharashtra government’s delay in filing affidavit and other submissions in a matter pertaining to reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state for the Maratha community.
A division bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and G S Kulkarni had last month directed the government and all other respondents to file their affidavits, replies and written submissions by today following which the court would fix a date to hear the matter finally.
Senior counsel V A Thorat, appearing for the government, told the court that while their affidavit was ready, they needed time to collect data and other information to support their case.
The court, while adjourning the matter till December 7, said this was the last chance it was granting to the state.
The government told the HC that “Maratha community comprises people belonging to various castes and since the country doesn’t conduct caste-based census anymore,” it was proving rather “difficult” to get hold of the requisite data.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the 16 per cent Maratha reservation decision.
The petitioners objected to the adjournment, arguing that the state was “employing tricks to delay the matter,” but the bench said that at this stage, it had “no choice but to believe” the government.
“We have already given a lot of time to the government to file their affidavit and written submissions in the case,” the HC said, adding that the Supreme Court had earlier stated the matter should be heard and decided as expeditiously as possible.
“It is obvious that the government will have lots to say on this complex issue. Let them have time to complete all pleadings and file their additional affidavit. This is the last chance we are giving to the government to file their affidavit. We’ll verify their claims once the arguments begin,” the bench said.
The court is hearing two PILs opposing the then Congress- NCP government’s 2014 decision to grant 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, and also a bunch of applications in favour of the reservation.
One of the petitioners, Ketan Tirodkar contended that the decision to term the Maratha community as socially and educationally backward is a “fraud” committed upon the country and the Constitution.
In November 2014, the HC had stayed the implementation of the controversial decision of the erstwhile Congress-NCP government.
While staying the 16 per cent Maratha reservation, the HC had held that the Supreme Court had already laid down the law for reservation which cannot exceed 50 per cent of the total seats.
In Maharashtra, 52 per cent seats in government jobs and educational institutions were already reserved for various backward groups and by introducing the 16 per cent Maratha and 5 per cent Muslim reservation, it was raised to 73 per cent.
The high court had also held that the Maratha community cannot be regarded as Backward Class and that the National Commission for Backward Class and the Mandal Commission had concluded that the Maratha community is socially advanced.