The most significant feature of the quota system is that it gives a voice to the marginalized and the oppressed. A compensation for years of injustice, albeit incomparable. Mainstream groups competing among themselves leave little to no scope of upliftment of others.
But the public remains divided regarding the alleged pros and cons of reservation.
This is where the Court comes in. On Monday, the Supreme Court decided to re-examine the Indira Sawhney verdict of 1992, (roughly 3 decades old) that fixed the quota for the marginalized and poor at 50% concerning government jobs and educational institutions.
According to the verdict, “50% shall be the rule, only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas’ populations into mainstream said 50% rule can be relaxed”.
The Court addressed the ‘Laxman Rekha’ that had been determined for reserving 50% seats, lest ‘extraordinary circumstances’ emerge.
But the quota has gone up to as far as 60% in some states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu over the years as per new laws.
Challenging The Maratha Quota Law
On 8th March, Monday, a 5-judge bench under Justice Ashok Bhushan was established to hear the challenge to the Maratha Quota Law. The jury decided upon extending the question of this unattended stream of quota being granted more than what was decided earlier on (50%).
According to the jury, not only Maharashtra but all states need to be held accountable and duly questioned regarding the same. The question being whether the reservation should continue at its 50% bar or not.
Commencement Of The Hearing
The hearing is to be held from March 15 onwards since other states might require some time to prepare their respective arguments. The question of whether a larger jury needs to be fixed is also under consideration at the Court for this hearing.
Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018, which provides a 12-13% quota benefit to the Maratha community is also under scrutiny since it too has lent a hand in the overflowing of the pre-decided quota.
Whether the aforementioned comes under the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ or not is yet to be decided after the hearing.
The Bombay HC in June 2019 subtracted the quota recommended by the Gaikwad Commission from 16%, straight to 12% in education and 13% in employment.
As per the laws, it is upon the Parliament to include a community in the Central List for socially and backward classes for grant of reservation benefits, and so, the Court stands conflicted on whether Article 342A strips State Legislatures of their discretionary power to include their backward communities in the State List.
The Court will decide now whether the 50% mark is sufficient and suitable for all or not.
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