From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : 102nd Amendment
Mains level : Paper 2- Maratha quota judgement
- A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community.
- The court had framed six questions of law on the issue.
- The court unanimously agreed on three of those issues, while the verdict was split 3:2 on the other three.
Issue 1: Whether Indra Sawhney judgment needs to be revisited
- One of the key issues was to examine whether the 1992 landmark ruling by the nine-judge bench in Indra Sawhney v Union of India had to be revisited.
- First, it said that the criteria for a group to qualify for reservation is “social and educational backwardness”.
- Second, it reiterated the 50% limit to vertical quotas reasoning that it was needed to ensure “efficiency” in administration.
- However, the court said that this 50% limit will apply unless in “exceptional circumstances”.
- The Maratha quota exceeded the 50% ceiling.
- The arguments by state governments before the court was that the Indra Sawhney verdict must be referred to a 11-judge Bench for reconsideration since it laid down an arbitrary ceiling which the Constitution does not envisage.
- The court said that the 50% ceiling, although an arbitrary determination by the court in 1992, is now constitutionally recognized and held that there is no need to revisit the case.
Issue 2 and 3: Does Maratha quota law come under exceptional circumstances
- The state government’s argument was that since the population of backward class is 85% and reservation limit is only 50%, an increase in reservation limit would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance.
- All five judges disagreed with this argument.
- The bench ruled that the above situation is not extraordinary.
Issue 4,5 and 6: Validity of 102nd Amendment
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018 gives constitutional status to the National Backward Classes Commission.
- The Amendment also gives the President powers to notify backward classes.
- The Bench unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd Amendment but differed on the question of whether it affected the power of states to identify socially and economically backward classes (SEBCs).
- Attorney General, appearing for the central government, clarified that this was not the intention of the law.
- The Attorney General argued that it is inconceivable that no State shall have the power to identify backward class”.
- The Attorney General explained that the state government will have their separate list of SEBCs for providing reservations in state government jobs and education.
- The Parliament will only make the central list of SEBCs which would apply for central government jobs.
- However, the Supreme Court held that “the final say in regard to inclusion or exclusion (or modification of lists) of SEBCs is firstly with the President, and thereafter, in case of modification or exclusion from the lists initially published, with the Parliament”.
- This raises a question: How does this impact interventions by other states to provide reservations for other communities, for example Jats in Haryana and Kapus in Andhra?
- The majority opinion essentially says that now the National Backward Classes Commission must publish a fresh list of SEBCs, both for states and the central list.
- The Supreme Court also issued a direction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India which says that till the publication of the fresh list the existing lists will continue to operate.
- National Commission for Backward Classes is a constitutional body (102nd amendment 2018 in the constitution to make it a constitutional body) (Article 338B of the Indian Constitution).
- It was constituted pursuant to the provisions of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.
- According to Article 338B, Commission shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other Members and the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members so appointed shall be such as the President may by rule determine. The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.