Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs The Chief Minister and Ors.

By:- Dhruti Dewangan

In the Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASEDr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs. The Chief Minister and Ors.
CITATIONCivil Appeal No. 3123 of 2020
DATE OF THE CASE5 May 2021
APPELANTDr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil
RESPONDANTThe Chief Minister & Ors.
BENCH/JUDGEJustice Ashok Bhushan, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta & Justice S. Ravindra Bhat
STATUES / CONSTITUTION INVOLVEDThe Constitution of India
IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ ARTICLESThe Constitution of India – Arts. 14, Arts. 16(4), Arts. 342(A), art 335

ABSTRACT

In this case, Maharashtra’s Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018 authorised up to 16 % reservation in academic institutions and indirect employment to public works and jobs each. While affirming the Act’s constitutionality, the Maharashtra High Court decreased the level of quota to educational institutions from 16 % to 12 % and government jobs from to 13%. Later that, the Petitioners challenged the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court, in which a Full Bench issued interim orders and referred the case to a larger bench. Following that, a five-judge Constitution Bench heard the case and declared the statute, which offers reserves to the Maratha community, unconstitutional for breaking the Constitution’s 102nd Amendment rights of 50% reserving limitation.

INTRODUCTION

 Casteism has been documented in India for thousands of years. Simply put, casteism is the partition of Hindus into a variety of different categories depending on an individual’s occupation and responsibilities to a certain tradition or rule. Religion, culture, and traditions are clearly the driving forces behind this decade-old caste structure. On Hindu law. Hindus are divided into four castes which are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras considering from upper class to lower class.

The top castes were granted everything according to their needs and wishes, while the lower castes were forced to face the weight of the punishment. The lower classe4s faces lots of discrimination and inequalities.  In the middle of all of this inequality, the Indian Constitution was created in Article 15, stating that caste base inequality was prohibited. Furthermore, in order to broaden the equality requirements among the categories, the authorities implemented the quota system, which involved reserving places in public offices and academic facilities for previously disadvantaged groups.[1]

The Maratha group is now classified as a Shudra agricultural community. They and other Shudra rural groups are essential to Maharashtra’s economic progress. For decades, the Marathas had fought for reservation in Maharashtra. While they are a wealthy landowner community with a long history of prosperity, farming is no longer feasible, and the Marathas argue the need for the reservation to integrate into society.

Following years of struggle, the Maharashtra government enacted a bill in 2018 allowing the Marathas a 16 % quota. The Marathas were labelled as a backward social and educational class. The quota was in addition to the state’s 52 % traditional allocation, bringing the total of reserved seats to 68%. Several applications were filed in court disputing the quota’s constitutional validity, claiming that it breached a previous judgement that specified that quotas in any state must not surpass 50%.

In the case of Indra Sawhney & Ors. vs. Union of India, the Mandal Case is another name for it. The ‘Mandal Commission Report’ designated 3743 castes as socially and educationally backward, and it advocated 27 per cent reservation of the backward classes in academic institutions and government jobs, which was upheld by a Supreme Court bench of nine judges in 1992. The Court Affirmed the Government decree instituting the reservation for other backward classes. Caste was thought to be a good indication of backwardness. A suitable ceiling of 50% was set as a fair ceiling that would achieve the goal of societal equality and above which no reservations would be granted unless in extraordinary situations. 

The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018, also known as SEBC Act, 2018 seeks to offer the Maratha Community a 16-percentage reservation in public services and higher learning, in addition to the current quotas.[2]

FACTS OF THE CASE

The present case is also known as Maratha Reservation Case. In this case, The Maharashtra Act for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes was brought before the Supreme Court, with the argument that the 50% quota norm established in the historic 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment should be followed and that the reserve should not be surpassed.

The Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission recommended that the SEBC Act be approved on November 29th, 2018. The Gaikwad Committee suggested that Marathas be given a 12 % and a 13 % quota in academic offices and government sector appointments, respectively. As a result of the Act exceeding the initial quota restriction, a slew of applications was filed in the Bombay High Court contesting the Maharashtra SEBC Act, 2018 on a variety of basis, one of it was that it violated the Supreme Court-established social barriers of 50% quota. The Bombay High Court refused to give an injunction against the legislation, instead requesting that the government cut the 16 % allocation to 12-13 %, as proposed by the Backward Class Commission.

Similar writ lawsuits and PILs contesting the Act, 2018 with the current case include Sanjeet Shukla vs. The State of Maharashtra and Dr. Uday Govindraj Dhople & Anr. vs. The State of Maharashtra with citations C.A.No.3124 of 2020 and C.A.No.3125 of 2020 respectively. Several further applications for assistance trying to defend the legitimacy of the 2018 Act were submitted during the proceeding of petition filed, and the ambit of the case was extended. These other fourteen applications were approved by the Supreme Court, and they have been ordered to be included as party respondents. The case was referred to a bigger bench of five judges in September 2020, with the unresolved subject of whether the State Legislature has the ability to define socially and economically classes following the 102nd amendment to the Indian Constitution.

According to the report presented by the Kaka Kalelkar Commission (the original National Commission for Backward Classes), the Maratha asserted to be the leading community amongst villages, dominating all others. As a result, the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission did not describe Maratha as a separate backward class community.

The Supreme Court has held that SEBC Act of 2018 breaches Article 16 of the Indian Constitution’s concept of equity. It further stated that extending the reserve limit without exceptional circumstances violates Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution, making the statute ultra vires. Several states have asked for a review of the nine-judge bench ruling, citing changes in societal dynamics and subsequent events. The court, however, remained unimpressed. The Parliament 102nd Amendment Act, 2018, has been challenged in a Writ Petition(C) No. 938 of 2020 brought under Article 32 of the Constitutional Provisions.

As Several petitions were filed against the Bombay High Court’s decision, the matter was appealed to a bigger bench of five judges in September 2020, with the unresolved problem of whether the State Government has the ability to define socioeconomic classes following the 102nd amendment. The case was heard for ten days, and the decision was postponed until March 26th, 2021. On the 5th of May 2021, an order was issued declaring the Maratha reservation invalid.[3]

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT

  • Whether the Indra Sawhney verdict should be appealed to a bigger bench or re-examined by the larger bench in light of later amendments to the constitution, judgements, and alterations in the society’s social evolution?
  • Whether the SEBC Act, 2018, which includes a 50% social quota for the Maratha Group, covered by extraordinary circumstances as envisioned by the Constitutional bench in Indra Sawhney’s case?
  • Whether the Constitution’s 102nd Amendment hinders the State Assembly of its enabling right to adopt legislation identifying socially and economically disadvantaged groups and imposing benefits on them?
  • If the State’s ability to regulate in respect to “any backward castes” under Article 15(4) and 16(4) of the Indian constitution be curtailed in any manner by Article 342(A) in conjunction with Articles 366(26c)?
  • Whether the government putting out a case of presence of unusual situation and exceptional conditions inside the State to fall within the exemptions carved at the decision of Indra Sawhney based on the Report, which is led by M.C. Gaikwad?
  • Whether Art 342A of the Constitution deprives the state of its jurisdiction to regulate or categorise “any backward class” and so has an impact on India’s federalism strategy?

ARGUMENTS FROM APPELANT SIDE

  • Shri Arvind Datar, distinguished senior advocate, contends that have no need to send the Indra Sawhney judgement of this Court’s Constitution Bench to 11 judge Bench because no decision of this Court has questioned its validity.
  • The Ruling of this Court established a fifty percent reservation restriction in Indra Sawhney, is important part of the trinity of Articles 14, 15, and 16, of Constitution.
  • Shri Datar has particularly referred to decision in M. Nagaraj vs. Union of India, in which it has been decided that if the 50% ceiling restriction is surpassed, Article 16’s equality framework will collapse.
  • It is argued that a 50% limit is a fundamental entitlement on the part of equality, is part of the basic framework. Even Backward Classes people who satisfy on merits can continue to profit from merit quotas.
  • Shri Shyam Divan, distinguished senior counsel, contends that the Maratha society’s position has been investigated by Commissions and found not to be worthy of reservation as a backward class. He considered Kalelkar Commission Report, Mandal Commission Report and National Backward Class Commission Report.
  • Mr. Pradeep Sancheti, a prominent advocate, said that 3 National Backward Class Commissions and State Backward Class Commissions each and they did not consider the Maratha to be a backwards, and that Gaikwad Commission’s conclusions and explanations could not be trusted.
  • He also submitted numerous data on Maratha participation in occupations, it is obvious that the Maratha community is properly represented in public services, and therefore there is no necessity for giving quota under Article 16 (4).
  • Dr. Dhavan contends that the core of the 102nd Amendment, as embodied in Article 342A, leads in a control of recognition, despite the fact that application is entrusted to the states.
  • Shri Amol B. Karande contends that if Article 342A of Constitution removes the State’s ability to recognise a backward class, the Change will be in violation of the Constitution’s core characteristic of Federalism.
  • He further claims that Government’s ability to act under numerous Entries within Lists II and III was stripped away by the New Amendment, and that it was thus necessary to follow the procedure as laid forth.
  • Attorney General Shri K. K. Venugopal stands up for the constitution 102nd amendment.
  • He also submitted that President has powers under Constitutional scheme and state has no concern at all with SC or ST.

ARGUMENTS FROM RESPONDENT SIDE

  • Shri Rohtagi argues there are various reasons why Bench’s decision in Indra Sawhney should be reconsidered, and he provides ten reasons for doing so.
  • The concept of judicial review of a Commission’s report, according to Shri Patwalia, is quite restricted. This Court will not evaluate the facts in order to reach a different decision. The Gaikwad Commission report, he claims, is a clear review.
  • Shri Shekhar Naphade went into great detail on this Court’s decision in M. R. Balaji (Supra). He claims that all subsequent rulings establishing a 50% limit are built on Balaji’s case, and that because the aforementioned judgement has multiple errors, the issue should be moved to a bigger bench.
  • In addition, he elaborates on his views on Article 342A, claiming that the State has parliamentary authority to impose reservations on the backward classes.
  • Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi contends that the state’s authority was never meant to be taken off, and that evidence, including debate in Select Committee findings, is entirely acceptable and should be used to determine the direction and significance of a Constitutional provision.
  • All of the state’s attorneys claimed that there still are two lists, the Central List and the State List. Any alternative interpretation, it is said, would be in violation of the Indian Constitution’s federal framework.
  • Respondents’ senior advocate, Shri C.U. Singh, has cited to the Gaikwad Commission’s findings in great length. He has pointed to evidence collected and represented in the study, claiming that the Commission judged Maratha to be a socially and educationally backward caste based on measurable data.
  • Shri C.U. Singh claims that participation in the public sector does not reflect the percentage of the Maratha community. He claims that backwardness is caused by a low standard of life and a lack of employment.
  • He also claims that Marathas are more involved in agriculture and farming labour. we must analyse the whole scenario.

Constitution of India –

Article 14– Equality before law – Under India’s territories, the state shall not deny anybody equal treatment under the law or equal protection under the law. Discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, gender, or birthplace is prohibited.

Article 16(4) – Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.

Article 342(A) -Socially and educationally backward classes. — (1) The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify 6 [the socially and educationally backward classes in the Central List which shall for the purposes of the Central Government] be deemed to be socially and educationally backward classes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be. (2)

Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the Central List of socially and educationally backward classes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any socially and educationally backward class, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.] (3) Notwithstanding any contained in clauses (1) and (2), every State or Union territory may, by law, prepare and maintain, for its own purposes, a list of socially and educationally backward classes, entries in which may be different from the Central List.

Article 335 – Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts. —The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.[4]

JUDGEMENT

The Supreme Court recognized both sides’ submissions for nearly ten days before issuing its decision. The five-judge panel issued a 569-page decision, ruling out the necessity to reconsider the legitimacy of the 1992 Indra Sawhney decision, which established the 50% allocation requirement. The Apex Court also stated that the 2018 Act breaches Article 14 of the Constitution’s equity guarantee. The surpassing of the reserve quota without rare situations is a violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, rendering the statute facially unconstitutional. The 102nd amendment, which gave the National Commission for Backward Classes legal standing, was affirmed by the Supreme Bench.

The criteria for a 50% quota ceiling under Article 16(4) was not met in awarding 12 % and 13 per cent quota to Marathas in work and education, according to Justice Bhushan, who chaired the Constitutional seat. Senior Advocate Pradeep Sancheti was tasked with proving that the Gaikwad Commission’s report warranted unusual conditions. He pointed out that the Gaikwad Commission’s report lacked adequate evidence or analysis for two reserving criteria. The following were the two prerequisites for the Gaikwad Commission Report:

  1. Article 16(4) made it an obligation to determine if there was an inequality of community representation. Upon it, the Commission’s data was incorrect. It also overlooked the fact that the Marathas were a powerful ethnic group.
  2. Another obligation of Article 335 was to examine administrative efficiency. The report made no reference of this.

“There is often no tussle that nation changes, legislative changes, and individual change,” wrote Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, “but it doesn’t mean that something pleasant and played a vital role in maintaining balance within the public at large should try and be altered in the way of progress by itself.” “The depiction of Marathas socially rewards in Grade A, B, C, and D, which comprises 33.23 %, 29.03 %, 37.06 %, and 36.53 %, respectively, registered from open categorization filled jobs, is an adequate and appropriate picture of the Maratha group,” it said.

Other members on the bench, Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and S. Ravindra Bhat, concurred that the Maratha restriction was illegal, and that there was no need for a review of a 50% ceiling.  The other three justices, however, disagreed with Justices Bhushan and Nazeer, who believed the state had the authority to identify the backward group for reservation purposes. According to Justice Rao, there is no ambiguity in Article 342 A (1) rather, it is extremely apparent that the President ought to be able to issue a single list of socially and educationally backward groups.

   As a result, the Maharashtra law granting reservations to the Marathas was overturned by the Supreme Court. The decision is likely to have an effect on other reserving regulations that fall within the definition of exceptional circumstances, including on financially deprived people with access to the 50% restriction. Various committees have previously rejected the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018, and the request for the quota of the Marathas had previously been denied. It’s a political problem that’s come up several times lately. The issue of quotas continues to lead the political scene, with parties offering the group allocations. The Maharashtra government has to think hard about this decision and the next steps.[5]

CONCLUSION  

As far as I’m aware, Justice Ashok Bhushan’s reasoning appears to be fairer and more truthful. The affidavit of the Attorney General in the present case establishes the Government’s objective behind the 102nd amendment, which is the most important point to remember. The Law is not to be construed in a fixed and inflexible manner; rather, it is an organic and living document that must be understood in accordance with the Constitution’s basic values and aims.

I believe that if the reserve exceeds the 50% level, it will be a tricky issue since the political pressure will make scaling down equal difficult. This, in my opinion, is a critical problem. Aside from that, the decision is significant. Does this imply that the ancient Indian caste system has been entirely forgotten? Not at all. Caste prejudice and the caste system are widespread. As a result, many problems go overlooked. People’s thoughts and things will not improve until and until people’s mindsets shift. When it comes to the quota system, there will still be opposing viewpoints.


  1. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2019/23618/23618_2019_35_1501_27992_Judgement_05-May-2021.pdf
  2. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/189806642/
  • See Constitution of India, 1950, Art 14
  • See Constitution of India, 1950, Art 16(4)
  • See Constitution of India, 1950, Art 342(A)
  • See Constitution of India, 1950, Art 335
  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/189806642/
  2. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2019/23618/23618_2019_35_1501_27992_Judgement_05-May-2021.pdf
  3. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/16422437/