MUMBAI: By creating a special category for grant of reservation to the Marathas, the Maharashtra government is giving them special treatment, petitioners opposing the quota argued in the Bombay High Court Thursday.
A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre is hearing arguments on petitions challenging the quota for the politically dominant community in jobs and education.
By creating a special category -- Socially and Educationally Backward Class -- for the Marathas, the government is giving them special treatment, the petitioners' lawyers claimed.
"Maratha reservation is exclusive. This one community has been treated as special," said senior counsel Srihari Aney, appearing for Uday Dhople, one of the petitioners.
"There are impoverished and socially and educationally backward people in each caste, not just the Maratha community, and hence Marathas cannot get anything special," Aney said.
Further, an introduction of a special category for the Maratha community was "Constitutionally" wrong, he said.
"People from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can say they are from that caste, but a person included in the new category of Socially and Educationally Backward Class cannot say they are from that 'caste'. SC and ST is a caste but SEBC is a class," Aney said.
A person may be socially and educationally backwards but may not remain so in future, Aney said, asking why such a person should get a "permanent concession" by way of reservation.
Aney, a former advocate general, added that by creating new categories and increasing the overall reservation to 78 per cent, the state government is doing exactly the opposite of what was envisaged in the Constitution.
He further argued that the government cannot rely on Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution which allows measures for "advancement" of any caste deemed to be socially and educationally backwards and not having adequate representation in state services.
"The word used in these Articles is an advancement. Advancement need not necessarily mean reservation. Tomorrow, Brahmins might also come and say their caste does not have adequate representation in state services and hence, seek reservation," Aney argued.
Senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for petitioner Sanjeet Shukla, said the Constitution does not give state governments the power to make provisions for a community which it feels needs recognition or advancement.
"Article 342(A) clearly says that a notification has to be issued by the President after consultation with the concerned governor if a state wants to include any caste in the list of Backward Class," Datar said.
The decision granting reservation to the Marathas was a classic case of a "communal" act by a government, he said.
"A law meant for only one particular community is Constitutionally wrong and illegal historically and geographically speaking, the Maratha community cannot be said to be a backward class," Datar argued. The court will continue hearing the arguments on Friday.
On November 30, 2018, the Maharashtra legislature passed the bill giving 16 per cent quota to the Marathas following an intense agitation by the community.