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Friday, April 19, 2024, 5:59 pm

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Legal muster may not be met by the bill granting reservations for Marathas.

reservations for Marathas
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Any call for a shift in public policy must have a good reason for existing policies, not just a strong base of support. The higher judiciary has reversed or nullified the decisions of States that have yielded to public calls for reservation to social groups who were not previously considered backward for a cause. The Maharashtra government has already approved laws granting the Maratha community reservation, and this has been the case. On February 20, the State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill giving Marathas a 10% quota in government employment and education, demonstrating the community’s political supremacy. Such community-focused legislation has been enacted for the third time in ten years; the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena partnership previously passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018. While there are similarities between the two pieces of legislation, the present Bill is based on a report by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, which raises the overall quota for reservations to 72% and adds 10% for Marathas following the application of a “creamy layer” criteria. A 10% reservation is also included for “Economically Weaker Sections,” which target the impoverished Maratha community members.

It is easy to see why Maharashtra’s political elite has opted for the simpler—though legally questionable—path of increasing the share of reservations.
OBC organisations have long expressed objection to the other option, which was to consider Marathas as a community of backward classes and provide reservations from the 19% quota for OBCs. However, if and when the law is challenged in the Supreme Court, issues are sure to arise. In May 2021, the Supreme Court invalidated the 2018 Act, citing the 1992 Indra Sawhney ruling that set a 50% reservation cap. The court further held that the Union government alone possesses the authority to identify socially and educationally disadvantaged classes and add them to a central list for reservation purposes. However, the Court’s ruling in November 2022 maintaining the 10% quota for EWS over and above the 50% cap has unlocked a number of restrictions. In addition to the delayed decennial Census, there is a case for a comprehensive socio-economic census given the difficulties in meeting the demands of politically powerful groups like the Marathas, who have stratified due to notable intra-community variations in income and educational outcomes. Such a census will pinpoint the actual causes of prejudice and backwardness in each state, and it may even make clear new ways to provide affirmative action based on the facts while upholding social justice ideals.

 

Abhishek Verma

 

 

 


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