The Supreme Court has overruled the Maratha quota reservation, relying heavily on reports submitted by the Gaikwad Commission in 201

The Maharashtra Act, passed by the State Assembly in 2018 for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC), granted a 16 percent reservations to the Maratha community also know as the Maratha quota. The Supreme Court has however ruled to invoke the reservation, relying heavily on reports submitted by the Gaikwad Commission in 2018.

The Maratha community counts for over 32 percent of Maharashtra’s population. Once a community of warriors, with flourishing wealth and vast lands, have now been economically divided. The issues over land and agriculture have majorly contributed to the reduction of wealth and prosperity, especially among the lower-middle-class and middle-class population of the community.

Speaking to The Wonk SAF Scholar and journalist, Rahul J. Bhise stated, “Constitutionally speaking, reservation is positive discrimination. Which is only given to the community which have been historically kept behind. It’s given on a social basis, it’s not a poverty alleviation program, it’s not given just because that community is poor or that community. That is not the basics for reservation. The basics of the reservation are the long historic injustice towards certain communities in the Indian context.

Maratha Quota and the Maratha Kranti Morcha

The politically strong and dominant community of Marathas have a long history of struggle, regarding their economic position in society. Whereas on one hand, 11 out of Maharashtra’s 19 Chief Ministers have been Marathas, on the other hand, a part of the community struggles to maintain their daily lives properly.

The demand for reservations was loud and clear when Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) led 58 silent protests demanding reservations in 2016-17. While no action was taken post the protests, Maharashtra saw multiple suicides in the next phase of protests. The highest number of suicides came from the backward region of Marathwada.

The Mandal Commission: backward or not?

The Mandal Commission, also known as the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC), was established on January 1, 1979, by the Janata Party government, under the premiership of Morarji Desai. The main motive of the commission was to identify the socially or educationally backward classes of India.

The commission, headed by B.P. Mandal, took 11 different indicators to determine the socially and economically backward classes in India.

The report by the Mandal Commission was completed in 1983, and according to it, the report concluded that 55 percent of India’s population belonged to the other backward classes category. It stated that 128 communities all over India are in the ‘backward’ category.

The Mandal Commission concluded the Marathas to be in the ‘forward’ category. Hence, Marathas were not entitled to reservations of any kind.

The Khatri Commission (1995)

After the Mandal Commission refused to recognize Marathas as a backward community, the Maharashtra government constituted another commission in 1995 to look into the matter, and see if the the community could be included in the other backward classes category. The commission was named, The Khatri Commission.

According to the report submitted by the Khatri Commission, concluded that the entire Maratha community could not be included as Kunbi (a generic term for the castes of non-elite farmers in India) in the other backward classes (OBC) category, as the community has a lot of economic diversity.

But the report said that if a segmentation could be done, then the group which needs the reservations, can be included as Kunbi-Maratha or Maratha-Kunbi, and they would be entitled to the same benefits as others in the list of OBC.

The conclusion report presented by the Khatri Commission was not accepted in the 2000s, hence the Marathas were denied to be treated as Kunbi and hence did not become a part of the OBC category as well.

Later, in 2008, another commission, namely, the Bapat Commission reported that it would not be recommended to pass the Marathas in the OBC category, from the perspective of social justice.

Following this, the Maharashtra Government constituted another non-statutory committee, headed by Narayan Rane. The Committee reported that the findings of the Bapat commission were not at par with the quantifiable data and hence should not be accepted.

The committee collected fresh data and concluded that the Maratha community is educationally, socially and economically backward. The committee also recommended that the Maratha Committee be included in the OBC category and get a separate 16 percent reservation for their upliftment.

Kateekal Sankaranarayanan, the former Governor of Maharashtra, then publicized the decision of including Maratha community in the Educationally and Socially Backward Category Ordinance (ESBC) in 2014. The ordinance included that Marathas would get reservations from the state’s educational institutions and also from public services in the state.

The ordinance took place as an Act passed by the Maharashtra Government in 2015. The act was called the Educationally and Socially Backward Category Act. The Bombay High Court stayed the implementation of the Act.

On this, Rahul J. Bhise further expressed his views stating, “Reservation is not the answer, it is not the solution, the real need is to create more government-run educational institutions and jobs. The more government colleges/ schools we have, the more seats we will have, which will result in more opportunities for people.”

The Maharashtra Act 2018

A series of multiple protests followed, silent and violent from the Maratha community, requesting an addition to the reservation list in 2016-17.

The Maharashtra Government passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act in 2018. According to which, the Maratha community was entitled to a 16 percent reservation known as Maratha quota.

The Maharashtra Government also mentioned that the act was only applicable to people in the Maratha community who are not part of the ‘creamy layer’ of the community. The government also included the decision of not disturbing the rest of the reservations.

Following the Act, the Bombay High Court heard petitions challenging reservations for Marathas. According to the high court, the given percentage of reservations to the Marathas was not justified. It ruled in favour of reducing the reserve percentile to 12 percent for education and 13 percent for a government job.

The court also ruled that the overall reservation in the state “should not exceed the 50 percent mark, but in exceptional circumstances, the limit can be crossed on the basis of appropriate quantifiable data depicting the backwardness of a community.

Supreme Court decision 2020 on Maratha quota

Several petitioners challenged the decision in the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court held a hearing on the case on Wednesday, ruling to uphold the decision and invoke the act for the time being.

According to the data, the population of SCs is 13%, population of STs is 11%, and population of OBCs concluded that Maharashtra already has a reservation of 52% and the addition of Maratha reservation was added to it, bringing it to 64 percent – 65 percent.

The court ruled that there will be no Maratha quota for jobs and college applications for now. The final decision is to be taken by SA Bobde, the Chief Justice of India. The court said that people who have already taken admission or given the entrance under the quota will not be affected by the decision.

The main notion of the decision of the court is that the reservations preceded the 50 percent limit in Maharashtra.