The Bombay High Court Thursday upheld Devendra Fadnavis government’s decision to grant quota to the Maratha community in Maharashtra. The decision extends the 50 per cent constitutional limit, which the court said can be done “in exceptional situations”. Communities like Patidars in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh have led violent campaigns in the past demanding quota, but courts have rejected their petitions citing the limit.
ThePrint asks: 50% cap breached with Maratha reservation: Will this reignite quota politics across India?
Clear grounds to breach 50% cap: 1931 Census didn’t call Marathas forward Hindus but intermediate
Maratha quota petitioner
There were clear exceptional circumstances to breach the 50 per cent quota ceiling in case of Marathas. In 1920, the British gave 7 per cent reservation in politics to the community because of their social and economic condition.In 1942, the government issued a notification for reservation in public services, saying Marathas are on par with the OBCs.
But post-Independence, Marathas were deprived of the benefit without any explanation. In 1979, the Mandal Commission termed the Marathas as a forward Hindu community, referring to the 1931 caste-based Census, and all other commissions and reports followed it. But when we checked the records, the 1931 Census had termed Marathas as an intermediate Hindu community and not a forward Hindu community.
A state-appointed commission headed by retired Justice MG Gaikwad had last year declared the community as socially and educationally backward.
The ‘50 per cent ceiling’ for reservations needs to be debated. With the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, the Union government itself has crossed it by provisioning an additional 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections from the general category. The court did not stay it. So, if the rule is not in existence, how can we say it is breached?
The Maratha quota may ignite the reservation debate but states will take decisions based on the condition of communities in their respective state. In most cases, state governments are likely to accommodate demands under the 10 per cent EWS quota.
Yes to Marathas and no to Jats show court judgments on quotas politically manipulated
President, All India Jat Reservation Agitation Committee
We fail to understand what the judiciary and the politicians really want. The Maratha reservation has been upheld by the Bombay High Court — even though it breaches the 50 per cent ceiling placed by the Constitution. This limit has been cited time and again as the reason to not give quota benefits to the deserving Jats in Haryana. The Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the reservation bill passed by the state assembly in 2016 citing the so-called 50 per cent cap.
This tells us that, ultimately, these judgements are a result of political manipulation. I completely accept that the Marathas in Maharashtra deserve this; they too have been fighting for their rights for long. But the court passed the order in their favour because the politicians in their state wanted such a reservation to be put in place. Politicians in Haryana do not want the Jats to get reservation and that’s why the judiciary isn’t allowing it. Over the past 15 years, reservation policies have been successfully implemented every time the government of the day has wanted it. Are we to conclude that the judiciary and the governments work in tandem?
After the Bombay High Court’s verdict, will we approach our lawyers again. Jats in eight states enjoy the provision of reservation, so why are only Jats in Haryana being denied the benefit?
Bombay HC’s decision will strengthen the resolve of social groups that have been denied reservation
Director, G.B. Pant Social Science Institute
The decision of the Bombay High court granting 12 per cent quota in government jobs and 13 per cent in education to the Marathas will be in addition to 52 per cent that already exists.
This will have far-reaching impact. Our democracy proposes the idea of social justice for backward and oppressed groups but it also lays emphasis on social justice for all. Whether extending the boundary of reservation will bring dissatisfaction among the unreserved social groups is not known. However, the decision will certainly strengthen the resolve of these social groups whose reservation demands have either been rejected or are pending in the courts.
Jats in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have been demanding reservation under the OBC category. Gujjars in these states also keep hopes of getting reservation. In many Hindi-speaking states, OBCs have been calling for the end of limited and fix percentage of quota. Similarly, there are socially and economically backwards, and Dalit groups agitating for quota within quota for the most backwards and most marginalised Dalits in several states.
So, this decision of the Bombay High court upholding the Maharashtra government’s proposal will once again open the Pandora box on caste and identity-based reservation politics, protests and agitations. But I think this is the path of democracy which we have carved in Indian Society which may invite serious debates on the politics of quota and reservation.
Hope the long-standing demand of the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh also manages to get some impetus now
Assistant Professor, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences
The decision on Maratha reservation gives enough confidence to the intermediate castes like the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh and the Patidars in Gujarat. At some point, it will become a populist scheme that political parties will use for their own electoral gain.
But caste system itself is a problem. Also, if members of any community genuinely face difficulty in finding employment opportunities, then such interventions certainly become a necessity. What must be addressed then is the need to find better opportunities for those who fall in this category.
Personally, I think the judiciary is unnecessarily intervening in the social background of communities. Political parties will try and exploit this decision like they have been doing for a long time. I am sure such judicial interventions help the communities and the causes they fight for; I just hope it doesn’t become a political symbol.
I hope the quota demand of the Kapus also gets some impetus. The previous government in Andhra Pradesh had included Kapus in the EWS. But now with a new government in, certain obligations and reservations have come from economically weaker groups. So, I am expecting there will be more movement and friction in the Kapu reservation demand.
Fadnavis govt ensured quota demand meets technical requirements to stand court scrutiny
In 2014, when the Congress-NCP alliance government took a decision to give reservations to Marathas and Muslims, the court stayed it, but allowed a 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in education. This means, the court showed preparedness to breach the 50 per cent ceiling from the Indra Sawhney case for education even back then. It is a different argument whether a high court can go against a Supreme Court decision.
We will have to see what the top court rules now. Another factor is that the 50 per cent line has already been crossed with the 10 per cent quota for the economically backward classes.
However, the Maratha quota will surely set a precedent for communities agitating for reservations in other states. The Gujjars, Jats, Patels may pressurise their respective state governments even more now.
In Maharashtra, the high court’s decision will give a major political advantage to the BJP. If the court had ruled against the quota, there could have been a backlash close to elections.
The Congress-NCP government’s decision regarding the Maratha quota was rejected not on merit, but on a technicality. This government ensured that it meets all the technical requirements for the reservation to stand court scrutiny.
CM Devendra Fadnavis very skillfully balanced the demands of the OBCs, one of the BJP’s largest support bases, and Marathas without antagonising either of the two.
Quota debate will be meaningless unless India conducts a caste census
The only way to engage with the quota demand is to have a caste census.
The last word on Maratha reservation has yet not been said. Though this quota has passed the judicial scrutiny at the level of the Bombay High Court, the debate on moral and philosophical grounds will continue. This order will, in all probability, be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The corollary to this verdict can be the resurgence of demands for reservation by Patidars, Kapus, Jats and numerous other such intermediate castes.
According to the Article 16(4) of the Constitution, all demands for reservation should pass two tests: social deprivation and under representation.
The Modi government has already messed up this philosophical idea by inserting a new criterion: economic backwardness. Economically weaker section quota is already under judicial scrutiny and may be struck down.
To prove socio-economic backwardness, as envisaged in Article 340, the prerequisite is caste data. We have not collected this data after the decadal census in 1931. Many communities are claiming to be in the backward list. The government can’t refute their claim, as it does not have the empirical data.
The only way to settle this is to have a proper enumeration of all castes and to have information on their under- or over-representation as well as their relative deprivation.
By Fatima Khan, Manasi Phadke and Rohini Swamy.