Maratha quota: 50% reservation ceiling can’t be breached, SC told

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Monday was told that reservation ceiling fixed at 50 per cent cannot be breached and the court should not re-examine the Indra Sawhney case (Mandal Commission) verdict.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing petitioners against Maratha reservation, submitted before a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan whenever the Parliament wanted to overcome the Indra Sawhney case, it did by introducing amendments. Citing Article 16 (4) of the Constitution, he added that this does not use the word proportionate, but rather used “adequate representation” for socially and economically backward classes.

Datar contended that if there is any need to revisit the 50 per cent ceiling, which was pronounced in the nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case, then it can be done through a constitutional amendment. He added that the 50 per cent ceiling is important part of right to equality, taking into consideration social dynamics, and it has been maintained for close to three decades.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, also representing petitioners against Maratha reservation, cited various judgements during the day-long hearing, as he insisted there is no need to refer the matter to a 11-judge bench.

Divan argued that in PG medical courses, there was no rationality of having reservation.

“Please do not allow reservation in that category. This should be completely on merits,” he said, noting that the general category faces stiff competition as 72 percent of seats in medical PG courses are reserved for different categories.

The top court will continue to hear the matter on Tuesday.

On March 8, the Supreme Court had said the 50 per cent cap on reservation laid down by a 9-judge bench in 1992, could be re-examined in view of subsequent constitutional amendments and the socio-economic changes that has followed.

The top court posed six queries while hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Maratha reservation.

The Constitution bench headed by Justice Bhushan said: “Whether judgment in case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India needs to be referred to larger bench or require re-look by the larger bench in the light of subsequent Constitutional Amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics of the society etc?”