Maratha Reservation in Maharashtra: Legal and Social Insights

Image of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, driving the legal and social insights behind the Maratha Reservation in Maharashtra
Maratha Reservation in Maharashtra: Legal and Social Insights

The Maharashtra government, led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, has given its approval to the draft bill proposing a 10% reservation for the Maratha community in both educational institutions and government jobs.

In response to longstanding demands from the Maratha community, the government convened a special session of the Vidhan Sabha to table this bill, which aims to provide separate reservation beyond the existing 50% limit mandated by the Supreme Court.

However, previous attempts to extend reservation to the Marathas faced legal challenges. In 2018, a similar initiative was undertaken by the state government, but it was challenged in court for exceeding the 50% reservation cap established by a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.

In 2021, the Supreme Court of India invalidated reservations for the Marathas in college admissions and jobs, citing the lack of exceptional circumstances justifying a breach of the 50% reservation limit. Despite the state's efforts, including a review plea and a curative petition, the court upheld its decision.

The recent decision to extend reservation to the Maratha community is based on recommendations from the Maharashtra Backward Class Commission (MBCC), chaired by Justice (Retired) Sunil Shukre. The commission conducted a comprehensive survey of approximately 2.5 crore households within nine days, highlighting the social and educational backwardness of the Maratha community.

The MBCC proposed a 10% reservation for the Marathas in both education and employment, providing quantifiable evidence to support this deviation from the 50% reservation norm.

Additionally, the Maharashtra government is examining reservation models adopted by other states, particularly those pertaining to economically weaker sections (EWS), to ensure legal compliance while addressing community-specific concerns. However, there are concerns that diluting the original welfare principle may undermine the effectiveness of such measures.

The Maratha Reservation Bill shares similarities with the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018, introduced during the tenure of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Notably, Maharashtra already has a 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), with the Maratha community being the primary beneficiaries, accounting for 85% of reservations.

This latest development underscores the ongoing efforts to address social and economic disparities within Maharashtra, while navigating the complexities of legal scrutiny and community representation.

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