‘Marathas aren’t socially backward’
Justice Sawant says there are legal hurdles in the way of Marathas getting the reservations they are demanding. Excerpts...
Why is it difficult for Marathas to get reservations?
As far as reservations in education and government jobs are concerned, the Marathas are not considered a socially backward community. This is because of their presence in a number of elected bodies. They constitute the majority in the state—the largest majority in any state of the country. However, in a democracy, the majority community will always have greater representation. That does not mean the community is not economically or educationally backward. A good illustration of this is that both the minister and his peon belong to the same class. Therefore to consider them ‘socially forward’ is an injustice to a majority of the population.
What is the provision for quotas in the Constitution?
The Constitution is against specific quotas for any caste or community. Reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs are not to particular castes or communities. Article 15(3) says there shall be reservations in education for SCs, STs and socially and educationally backward groups, which are today called OBCs. Marathas won’t get reservations in education unless they are considered both educationally and socially backward. For many reasons, they are not considered socially backward. Hence, you have to create a new backward class—namely, economically backward— and include it in Article 15 (4) by amending the Constitution. Otherwise, they can’t get reservations. If, however, they are considered ‘socially backward’, they will be included in the OBCs and they will get a share in the quota meant for the OBCs.
Article 16(4), which talks about reservations in jobs, says that ‘any backward class’ which does not have adequate representation in jobs can get reservations. However, there is no definition of ‘backward class’ given in the Constitution. This class may include groups that are only educationally, economically or socially backward, as well as SCs, STs and OBCs. Hence, under this clause, even the state government, by notification, can include castes and communities like the Marathas on the grounds that they are economically, educationally, or socially backward.
Can the percentage of quotas then be extended beyond 50 per cent?
The Supreme Court has ruled that the percentage of reservations in education and government jobs should not exceed 50 per cent. At present, it is 52 per cent in Maharashtra. A challenge to the excess reservation is pending in the SC. My view is that the SC has laid down this limit on the ground that reservations are exception to the general rule. On the same grounds, there is scope for extending the limit of reservation to backwards, since in our country, not less than 85 per cent are backward and 15 per cent are forward. Therefore, in our country, backwardness is the rule and forwardness, the exception. Hence, the limit can be extended beyond 50 per cent.