Allows reservation to Muslims in educational institutions, Chief Minister evades comments on Muslim reservation but says the state will challenge the decision in SC.
Mumbai/Agencies: The Bombay High Court Friday put a hold on Maharashtra government’s decision to give 16% reservation to Marathas in public service and educational institutions. The High Court also stayed the state government’s decision to provide 5% reservation to Muslims in public service, but allowed them reservation in educational institutions.
On June 25, 2014, with an eye on the state assembly elections, erstwhile Congress-NCP government had approved 16% reservation for Marathas and 5% for Muslims in government jobs and education institutions.
While hearing the PILs challenging reservation for the two communities filed by social activist Ketan Tirodkar, an NGO Youth for Equality, Anil Thanekar, I S Gilada of Indian Health Organisation and others, the bench concluded it was not up to the state to treat the Maratha community as a ‘backward class’.
“Rather, the National Commission for Backward Classes and the Mandal Commission has concluded the Marathas are a socially-advanced and prestigious community,” the court said, citing the findings of the Mandal Commission (1990), the National Commission for Backward Classes in February 2000 and a July 2008 report of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (Bapat Commission).
The bench noted several flaws in the report of the Narayan Rane Committee that had recommended the inclusion of the Maratha community in the socially- and economically-backward class, and which forms the basis of the 16 % reservation in favour of the community.
The bench observed that the Rane committee did not refer to important rulings of the Supreme Court and findings of other commissions.
The state government, however, has decided to challenge this decision in the Supreme Court, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis saying he will take all possible steps to remove the stay on the Maratha reservation. But, he did not comment on reservation for Muslims as the BJP has been opposed to it.
“The state government is fully supportive of Maratha quota. We will appeal in Supreme Court on the High Court ruling. We will take measures to ensure that the quota remains,” Chief Minister Devednra Fadnavis told reporters on the sidelines of an event in suburban Vile Parle.
Fadnavis further added, “If the court has pointed out any discrepancy in law, we will remove any lacunae in law during the winter session of the State Legislature in Nagpur.”
The court was of the view that the comparative data provided by the government justified its decision to introduce reservation for Muslims in government educational institutions. It, however, excluded private educational bodies from the purview of reservations for the minority community.
The government defended its decision on reservation to Marathas and Muslims contending that the two communities were socially and educationally backward and also economically poor. It said the decision was based on the report of a committee headed by former minister Narayan Rane set up to look into the issue.
The government said it had taken into consideration recommendations of Rajinder Sachar Committee and Mahmoodur Rahman Committee, both of which had recommended reservation for Muslims, while arriving at the decision to provide quotas for them.
Former journalist Ketan Tirodkar is his public interest litigation (PIL) noted that Marathas have been wrongly categorised as socially and educationally backward. It claims Marathas are not a caste, they comprise a linguistic group. Tirodkar adds Marathas are a dominant community, not a backward one.
52% seats in government jobs and educational institutions were already reserved for the targeted groups and the Congress-NCP government had, in the run up to the Assembly poll, raised it to 73 per cent by announcing 16 per cent quotas for Marathas and five per cent for Muslims.
Reservation already exists among OBCs for a section of Marathas known as Kunbis. Maratha Kunbis, who are largely agriculturists, constitute 31.5 per cent of the total Maratha population and have a large presence in Vidarbha and Konkan.
Apart from former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, a majority of the education barons — DY Patil, Patang Kadam, Kamalkishore Kadam and Pawars of Vidya Pratishthan — belong to the Maratha community.