NEW DELHI: The Meghalaya government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that reservation beyond 50 per cent is justified in the state keeping in view its extraordinary circumstances, peculiar features and a tribal population of over 85 per cent.
Arguing before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, Meghalaya's advocate general Amit Kumar said that the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment (also called the Mandal verdict) which put a cap of 50 per cent on reservations, does not require re-consideration by a larger bench.
He told the bench, also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, that population of tribals in Meghalaya is 85.9 per cent as per the 2001 census.
Referring to the Indra Sawhney verdict, Kumar argued that there are extraordinary circumstances in Meghalaya and the 50 per cent cap is rendered inapplicable in the state.
Kumar read out one of the paragraphs from the 1992 verdict which said: "While 50 per cent shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people."
"It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the mainstream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristical to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative. In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out".
The bench also heard arguments advanced by advocates appearing for several other states and parties.
The arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and would continue on Thursday.
The Centre had on Tuesday told the top court that Maharashtra has the legislative competence for granting reservation to Marathas and its decision is Constitutional as the 102nd amendment does not denude a state of the power to declare its list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Class (NCBC), and 342A dealing with power of the President to notify a particular caste as SEBC as also of Parliament to change the list.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had said that in its view the SEBC Act, 2018, of Maharashtra granting reservation to people of the Maratha community in the state in jobs and admissions is Constitutional.
"The Centre is of the view that the Maharashtra SEBC Act is constitutional. We construe Article 342A gives enabling role to Central government to determine the SEBC," Mehta had said, adding that the Centre adopts the submissions of Attorney General K K Venugopal and it should be considered as the view of the Union government.
On March 18, the Attorney General had told the top court that the 102nd amendment to the Constitution does not deprive state legislatures to enact law determining the SEBC and conferring benefits on them.
The apex court is hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the Bombay High Court verdict which had upheld the grant of quota to Marathas in admissions and government jobs in the state.
It had on September 9 last year stayed the implementation of legislation and referred to a larger bench the batch of pleas challenging the validity of law, but made it clear that status of those who have availed of the benefits would not be disturbed.
The high court, while upholding the law in June 2019, had held that 16 per cent reservation was not justifiable and the quota should not exceed 12 per cent in employment and 13 per cent in admissions.