‘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.

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