MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court Wednesday said it would commence final hearing from February 6 into a bunch of petitions challenging the Maharashtra government's decision of granting 16 per cent quota to Maratha community in state-run jobs and education.
The state government shall till then not make any appointment in any of its departments under the new legislation, the court said.
A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre said it would decide on January 28 whether the petitioners should be given the entire copy of the report on Maratha quota submitted by the Backward Classes Commission or a truncated version.
Government counsel V A Thorat and state Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni had expressed apprehensions over giving the entire report to the petitioners.
"We are ready to submit the entire report, running into 4,000 pages to the court. However, there are some 20 pages in the report pertaining to Maratha community's history which we do not wish to put in public domain. We fear it would create communal tension and law and order problem," Kumbhakoni said. The bench directed the state to submit the whole report to the court on Wednesday.
"We will peruse it and then decide on January 28 whether the petitioners should get the whole report or a truncated version," Justice More said.
"We will start the final hearing into the petitions from February 6. The state government shall till that date continue its statement that no appointments would be made," the court said.
On the last date of hearing on December 19, 2018, Thorat had made a statement on behalf of the government that no appointments shall be made till January 23.
Thorat Wednesday told the court that the government was not willing to continue with this statement.
"There is a massive backlog of vacancies in government jobs which needs to be filled immediately. We will make appointments, but they shall be subject to final orders of this court," he said.
The bench, however, rebuked Thorat and said if the government was not willing to continue its statement, the court would be compelled to pass orders.
Thorat then agreed to continue the statement till February 6. The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions on the Maratha quota issue.
While few of the petitions challenged the government's decision to provide 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the Maratha community, several others were filed in support of it.
On November 30, 2018, the Maharashtra legislature had passed a Bill proposing 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Marathas, declared as socially and educationally backward class by the government.
The government had last week filed its affidavit in the petitions and justified its decision by saying that it was meant to alleviate the community from its social and economic backwardness.
Marathas, a politically-influential community constituting around 30 per cent of the state's population, have been demanding reservation in jobs and education.