In the recent past, this man, Manoj Jarange Patil, who works in a small hotel, has hit the headlines for calling a Maratha protest. Patil started off as an activist for the Congress but subsequently broke off from the party to set up his own organization called Shivba Sanghatna that was meant for the empowerment of the Maratha community.
Since 2014, Patil has gone on countless agitations seeking reservations for the Maratha community, but those were not hyped or picked up by the media. Patil’s fresh hunger strike has, however, set off chaos in the state, sparking violence in parts of Maharashtra and anger within the Maratha community after Patil’s supporters and the Jalna Police clashed with each other. Patil hails from Beed, but now he has been shifted to Ambad in Jalna to make a living. Patil has since 2014 undertaken various hunger strikes and marches to push for reservation for the Maratha community. Most of his protests, however, did not find resonance beyond Jalna district.
Opposition party leaders accused Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of using “force” to lathi charge protestors, whereas Devendra unconditionally rendered an apology on behalf of his government and condemned the action that was not taken on his instructions. There have been numerous agitations from the Maratha community demanding reservation, but the police have never had to use force. The NCP and Congress are hell-bent on attacking Devendra in particular because their anger at Fadnavis for pulling them out of power has yet to subside.
The Marathas have been demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for a long time. 32 years ago, the first protest was held by Mathadi Labour Union leader Annasaheb Patil in Mumbai. Since 1981, the Maratha reservation has become an integral part of politics in the state and a cause for mass dissent. In the past six decades, Maharashtra, which has always been politically dominated by Marathas, has failed to find a concrete solution to this burning problem.
Finally, in November 2018, the Maratha community was given reservation under the Maharashtra State Socially and Educationally Backward Act. The legislation proposed by the then-BJP-Sena government got unanimous support from the Congress and NCP. However, the reservation was challenged in the Bombay High Court. The court, while upholding the reservation, said that instead of 16 per cent, it should be reduced to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs. Accordingly, the Act was implemented, with Maratha students availing themselves of the quota in educational institutions and jobs.
On September 9, 2020, the Maratha reservation was taken back as the Supreme Court stayed its implementation and referred the case to the Chief Justice of India for a larger bench. As a result, Marathas could not avail themselves of quota benefits, either in education or jobs, until the final verdict came out. But those who had been given the quota advantage till date remained the same, they are still enjoying those benefits. On May 5, 2021, the Supreme Court quashed the reservation. The Supreme Court struck down the provisions of a Maharashtra law providing reservation to the Maratha community, which took the total quota in the state above the 50 per cent ceiling set by the court in its 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment.
The judgment had come on a batch of pleas challenging the Bombay High Court verdict, which had upheld the grant of reservation to Marathas in admissions and government jobs in the state as per the provisions of the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018. Reservation implies a separate quota that is reserved for a special category of people. In India, reservation was introduced with the aim of progression and suitable illustration for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, or any other socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or economically weaker sections.
The Indian Constitution contains provisions for the right to Equality in Articles 14 to 18. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution also provides for the right to equal status and opportunity for the citizens of India. The Right ensures equality before the law and equal protection of the law irrespective of race, religion, caste, place of birth, or gender of the citizens. Article 14 forms the foundation of Articles 16, 17, and 18 of the Indian Constitution.
In 1979, the Government set up the Mandal Commission to identify the socially and academically backward classes of India and advocate a reservation policy for them. Reservations under the Mandal Commission were challenged in court in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217, wherein a 9-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the 50% ceiling, denied reservations in promotions, and laid down indicators to ascertain backwardness. Further, the Court overruled Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 246, wherein it was held that reservations in appointments or posts under Article 16(4) included promotions. However, the Parliament, through the Constitution (Seventy-Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995, and the Constitution (Eighty-First Amendment) Act, 2000, inserted Articles 16 (4-A) (Reservation in matters of promotion with consequential seniority) and 16 (4-B) (Carry Forward Rule), respectively.
In 2019, Parliament passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, which does not mandate but enables 10% of reservations for economically weaker sections, in addition to the existing reservations. Reservation to SCs, STs, and OBCs in cases of direct recruitment on an all-India basis by open competition is given at the rates of 15%, 7.5%, and 27%, respectively. Otherwise, open competition reservations for SCs, STs, and OBC are 16.66%, 7.5%, and 25.84%, respectively. Reservation in promotion by non-selection method is available to SCs and STs in all groups of services.
Inputs from various agencies