The Bombay High Court on Monday chided the Maharashtra government for issuing an advertisement for job recruitment under the new legislation providing reservation to Maratha community even as petitions challenging the same are pending before the court.
The HC said such “irreverent situations” should be avoided and that the government should give courts some “breathing space” to hear the petitions.
A division bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik asked the government why was it in such a rush to fill up the positions when it knew that petitions challenging the Maratha reservation decision were due for hearing on Monday.
The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions on the Maratha quota issue.
While few of the petitions challenged the government’s decision to provide 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the Maratha community, several others were filed in support of it.
Advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte, appearing in a petition challenging the legislation, pointed out to the court an advertisement issued by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission inviting applications for jobs.
“Applications have also been invited under the newly introduced Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) for the Maratha community,” Sadavarte told the court.
Senior counsel V A Thorat, appearing for the government, said only applications have been invited and that the final examination for the jobs will be held in July 2019.
“The entire process of filling up the posts will take more than six months,” he said.
The court, however, sought to know why the government was in such a rush to issue the advertisement.
“The government knew that the petitions challenging the legislation would be heard today. You (government) could have waited for a few more days to issue the advertisement,” Chief Justice Patil said.
He said the government was not technically wrong in doing so, but considering the seriousness of the issue in hand, the government should have waited.
“This is a serious matter affecting millions of people, both for and against the reservation. In such matters, such irreverent situations should be avoided. The government should give courts also some breathing space to hear the petitions and pass interim orders,” Chief Justice Patil said.
Several people will send their applications for the jobs not knowing that the issue was being challenged, the court noted.
“We do not want youngsters who have sent applications to wait endlessly. There has to be a balanced approach in such matters,” the court said.
The bench directed Thorat to take instructions from the government on whether the state would recruit people under the quota pending hearing of the petitions.
The court then posted the petitions for further hearing on December 19.
After the petitions were adjourned, Sadavarte was assaulted and abused by a person shouting “Ek Maratha Lakh Maratha” in support of the quota outside court premises when he was speaking to the media.
While the man was whisked away by police, Sadavarte came back to the bench and informed it about the incident.
He further told the court that in the last one week, he received several threat calls and that he and his family were being followed by two unknown men.
“This morning, I went to the local police and gave a complaint letter,” he said.
Chief Justice Patil directed state Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to look into the issue and give the lawyer police protection if required.
Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao had earlier this month approved and signed the Maratha Reservation Bill after the state Assembly unanimously passed it.
The State Backward Class Commission had last month submitted a report to the government recommending reservation in government jobs and educational institutes to members of the Maratha community.
Advocate Pradeep Sancheti, appearing for petitioner Sanjeet Shukla who has challenged the reservation, told the court on Monday that the decision was violative of the Supreme Court’s previous orders mandating that caste and community-based reservation in states should not exceed 50 per cent.
“The state government cannot concentrate on one caste alone. The commission should have been asked by the government to look into all castes. Why only the Maratha community?” Sancheti said.
Senior counsel Shrihari Aney, appearing for another petitioner challenging the reservation, said the creation of a separate category for the Maratha community under the name of ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ was not justified.