SC struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for SEBC Act 2018

Synopsis:

The SC has struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018. The judgment would prevent realization of unjust benefits by the reservation. It would also encourage states to work on core supply-side issues in education and public employment which would curtail unnecessary demand for reservation.

Background:
  • The five-judge bench of SC has struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
  • The act provided reservations for the Maratha community in public education and employment.
About the SEBC Act 2018:
  • It provides 16 percent reservation to the Maratha community in jobs and admissions.
  • The law views the Maratha community as a socially and educationally backward class (SEBC).
Genesis of SEBC Act 2018:
  • It was an outcome of a prolonged political campaign by the dominant Maratha community and significant support by the political parties. The community possesses a strong foothold in state politics, the running of cooperatives and educational institutions, and ownership of land. 
  • The issue of reservation was rejected by at least three national commissions and three state commissions in the past.
  • However, in 2018, the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (headed by Justice M.G. Gaikwad) recommended reservation for the Marathas. The Commission believed that extraordinary circumstances existed for a Maratha quota.
Judgment of SC:
  • The court held that the 2018 act goes against Articles 14 and 15 (right to equality and protection against discrimination) of the Indian Constitution. It exceeds the ceiling of 50% reservation set by the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment.
  • Further, the act fails to prove the existence of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ under which the 50% limit can be breached. The data collected and presented by the (Justice Gaikwad) Commission proves that the Marathas are not socially and educationally backward.
  • The court held that the 102nd Constitution Amendment has taken away the power of states to identify Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs). It means that the power to identigy SEBC lies with the Centre. 
    • The States could only make suggestions to the President or the statutory commissions for inclusion, exclusion, or modification in the SEBC List.
Way Forward:
  • Firstly, the judgment should act as an eye-opener for other dominant communities that are demanding reservation. Eg – Patidars in Gujarat.
  • Secondly, the Maharashtra Government can undertake a fresh study to support the Maratha claim for backward status and affirmative action. However, a more prudent approach would be to solve supply-side issues in education and employment. This would curtail unnecessary demand for reservation.
  • Thirdly, a review of inclusion/exclusion power in the SEBC list can be held as some experts believe that participation of states ensures better recognition.
  • Source:The Indian Express
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