By granting reservation to the Maratha community, the Maharashtra government has given them permanent crutches which they will never be able to shed, anti-quota petitioners argued in the Bombay High Court on Friday.
The government has destroyed the concept of equality by setting up a special category – Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC)- for the Maratha community, the petitioners argued.
A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre heard arguments for the third day on a bunch of petitions challenging the state government’s decision granting 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions.
“Reservation cannot be mistaken for a privilege. The state government by trying to bring the community up has given it permanent crutches. At some point, they need to shed the crutches,” senior counsel Shrihari Aney, appearing for one of the petitioners Uday Dhople, argued.
He added that through this decision, the government has destroyed the concept of equality in the society.
“The Constitution of India has a golden thread by way of Article 14, which speaks of right to equality. Maharashtra government’s decision is an attempt to assault and destroy this Article,” Aney said.
“The government cannot divide the nation/society into small fragments. This decision of the state is a prime example of erecting narrow silos that shuts doors for people to have equal opportunities at jobs and education,” the senior counsel, who was formerly state advocate general, argued.
He added that as per the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission report, Marathas and Kunbis are one and the same caste.
“Kunbis are already included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) and hence even Marathas should have been included in the same category of OBC instead of creating a special category of SEBC,” Aney said.
To this, Justice Dangre said, “Presently, only the Marathas may be included in the SEBC category. However, in future if the government feels that some other caste or community is also backward, then that caste or community could also be included in the SEBC.”
Aney argued that the state government cannot go beyond the 50 per cent rule for reservation.
“All other states have been very careful to not exceed the 50 per cent cap for reservation. Maharashtra presently has 78 per cent reservation. On this basic principle itself the decision of the government should be quashed and set aside,” Aney said.
The government cannot encroach upon the 50 per cent earmarked for the open category.
He also questioned the commission’s report on the basis of which the government took the decision. He claimed the commission’s data collection was contradictory to its conclusion that the Maratha community was educationally backward.
“The data collected by the commission by way of survey has no reference to the educational backwardness of the community. In its final conclusion, the commission has said that the community is socially as well as educationally backward,” Aney said.
Arguments in the case will continue next week.
On November 30, 2018, the Maharashtra Legislature had passed a bill proposing 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Marathas, declared as socially and educationally backward class by the government.