Verdict on Maratha reservation ignores inequality within intermediate castes
The Supreme Court rendered a unanimous verdict on the validity of the SEBC Act, 2018 that was to grant reservation to Marathas.
The court held that the classification of Marathas as a socially and educationally backward class was unreasonable.
Court held that Maratha belonged to a politically dominant caste with significant economic resources.
The court also concluded that the majority opinion in the Indra Sawhney case was correct and that the limit of 50 per cent for caste-based reservation did not need consideration by a larger bench.
The court justified the fixed quantitative limit on caste-based reservation by postulating that it was intrinsic to the fundamental principle of equality.
The court highlighted the need to safeguard the interests of unreserved sections and said that all sections have progressed after 70 years of independence.
Based on this, the court rejected the state’s argument that the breach of the limit was necessitated by the fact that the population of backward classes was over 80 per cent.
Issues with the judgment
The Court refused to recognise the need for positive discrimination of the lower classes of the dominant castes which continue to be seen as a dominant bloc.
The judgement also raises the issue of judicial supremacy in the broad area of social policy as it could lead to undesirable exclusion of beneficiaries.
It fails to admit the complexity that the role of class has introduced in post-liberalisation India.
This is unequivocal confirmation of a dated approach to social realities and a purely arithmetic limit that finds no expression in the Constitution.
The court seems to have forgotten its own observation in NM Thomas case that functional democracy postulates participation of all sections of the people and fair representation in administration is an index of such participation.