Focus: GS-II Social Justice, Governance
Why in news?
The Supreme Court bench said that No ‘extraordinary situation’ is shown by Maharashtra Government to go beyond 50% ceiling while referring to a larger bench certain questions arising out of a challenge to the Maratha reservation law.
- Pointing out that any departure from the 50 per cent ceiling rule for reservation was permissible only in “extraordinary situations”, the Supreme Court has said that it is of the “prima facie opinion that the State of Maharashtra has not shown any extraordinary situation for providing reservations to Marathas in excess of 50 per cent”.
- The court said that it raises a “substantial question of law” on interpretation of Articles 338-B and 342-A, inserted by Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018.
- The 102nd amendment deals with the constitutional status of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Article 338B deals with the structure, duties and powers of the Commission while 342-A speaks about the power of the President to notify a class as Socially and Educationally Backward (SEBC) and the power of Parliament to alter the central SEBC list.
- The court disagreed with the argument that the matter be referred to a larger bench to settle the question of breach of the 50 per cent ceiling, but it agreed to refer on the question of the 102nd amendment.
- The Supreme Court said that in the Indra Sawhney case it was held that reservations should not exceed 50 per cent except in certain extraordinary situations” and that extreme caution has to be exercised and a special case must be made out for this.
Situation of Marathas
- The Marathas are a politically dominant community who make up 32% of Maharashtra’s population.
- They have historically been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large landholdings.
- Eleven of the state’s 19 chief ministers so far have been Marathas.
- While division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a decline of prosperity among middle- and lower middle-class Marathas, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.
Indra Sawhney Case
Regarding cap on reservation quota
- The Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India had ruled that the total number of reserved seats/places/positions cannot exceed 50% of what is available, and that under the constitutional scheme of reservation, economic backwardness alone could not be a criterion.
- While 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.
- It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the main stream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristic to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative.
- In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.
- On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.
- The validity of the 77th and 85th amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
- In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
- It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment.
It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
- Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions.
- But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
- The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.
-Source: Indian Express, Times of India