Why is it in news?
- The Supreme Court (SC) is set to commence the final hearing on the batch of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs-Article 136) against Maratha reservation in Maharashtra.
- The apex court will also hear a petition challenging admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses under the quota in the state.
What are various issues related with this?
- The SLPs challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) decision, which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the state’s socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
- The SEBC Act provides for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for reservation of posts for appointments in public services and posts under the state.
- Maharashtra is one of the few states which have more than 50% reservation. Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Telangana also exceed the reservation cap. Indra Sawhney case 1992 ruled that the total reservation for backward classes cannot go beyond the 50% mark.
What was the Bombay High Court observation in this issue?
- A group of aspiring medical students challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to the SEBC Act, 2018 allowing Maratha reservation for 2019-2020 admissions to MBBS courses.
- In July 2019, the Bombay HC dismissed the petition.
- The SC refused to stay the judgement and have, time and again, refused to put an interim stay on the quota.
- Recently, the SC refused to grant interim stay on a plea by medical students, seeking a direction that the 12% quota not be made applicable for admissions in postgraduate medical and dental courses for the academic year 2020-21.
Who can be defined as Marathas under this SEBC Act?
- It is a politically dominant community in Maharashtra comprising mainly peasants and landowners and forms nearly one-third of the population of the state.
- Majority of the Chief Ministers of the state have been from this community since the formation of the state in 1960.
- Marathas are mostly Marathi-speaking but not all Marathi-speaking people belong to the Maratha community.
- Historically, they have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land-holdings.
- While the division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a decline of prosperity among the middle class and lower-middle-class Marathas, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.
What is Bombay High Court Ruling in this case?
- In July 2019, it ruled that the 16% quota granted by the state was not ‘justifiable’ and reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by the 11-member Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).
- The limit of the reservation should not exceed 50% but in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporary data reflecting backwardness, the inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
- While the backwardness of the community was not comparable with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), it was comparable with several other backward classes, which find a place in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) pursuant to the Mandal Commission.
What are the Findings of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission?
- It surveyed about 45,000 families from two villages from each of 355 talukas with more than 50% Maratha population.
- 76.86% of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labour for their livelihood. Nearly 70% reside in Kachha dwellings.
- Only 35-39% have personal tap water connections.
- During 2013-2018, total 13,368 farmers committed suicides and 23.56% of them were Marathas.
- 88.81% of Maratha women are involved in physical labour for earning a livelihood, besides their physical domestic work.
- 13.42% of Marathas are illiterate, 35.31% primary educated, 43.79% Secondary and Higher Secondary educated, 6.71% undergraduates and postgraduates and 0.77% technically and professionally qualified.
- 93% of Maratha families have an annual income of Rs. 1 lakh, which was below the average income of middle-class families.
- 37.38% of families were Below Poverty Line (BPL) against the state average of 24%.
- 71% own less than 2.5 acres of land, whereas only 2.7% of big farmers own 10 acres of land.
The commission submitted its report on 15th November 2018 in which it established that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards and also established inadequacy of representation of the Maratha community in public employment in the state.