The Supreme Court has reserved its decision on petitions questioning the constitutionality of a Maharashtra law that gives the Maratha community preferential treatment in education and jobs. A five-judge Supreme Court Constitution Bench has also reserved its decision on whether the top court’s 1992 decision capping reservation at 50% needs to be re-examined.
Justice Ashok Bhushan said during the hearing on Thursday that all reservations could be eliminated, leaving only EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) to remain. “You may be right. This might be the start. Only EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) can remain after all reservations have been cancelled. But these are policy issues,” Bhushan said in response to Advocate Shriram P Pingle’s argument that caste-based reservations were politically motivated.
“The elephant in the room that needs to be discussed is caste,” Pingle told the bench. He said that while the Indra Sawhney decision recognised caste as a basis for expanding reservations, he believes that caste-based reservations should be phased out. The bench replied that while these “thoughts” were “very progressive and nice,” it was up to the government to determine if caste and reservation should be abolished. “That is a matter for Parliament and the legislature to determine. It’s a good idea… The aim of the Constitution was to create a caste-free, egalitarian society, according to Justice Bhushan.
In addition, according to Pingle, the Mandal Commission list was used to include castes that did not exist in the state. He said that more than 100 castes were included after the Indra Sawhney decision. He claimed that over-reservation was anti-reservation, and that because the current case had a greater impact on the country’s social life, it would be reasonable to consider all pending cases and take a holistic approach.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, who represents the petitioners who oppose the Maratha reservation rule, said the Sawhney decision does not need to be reconsidered.