Author :Karishma Moral, Student at Law Centre II, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi


Marathas, SEBC act, Art. 14, Art. 16(4), Art. 338B, Art.342A, Justice Gaikwad Commission.

Citation: SLP (C) 15737/2019


One may question, when everyone is given equality in our country or when everyone has the right to equality, but even after 76 years of independence there exist a reservation system in India. What could be the causes of reservation? The root cause of reservation is the age-old caste system of India. This particular section of the society has faced historical injustice due to their caste identity and the reservation can be seen as a positive discrimination for them. This article specifically discusses about the reservation of the Maratha Community by Maharashtra state. It seeks to deliver the constitutional provisions for such reservations, how they are accessed and what issues /contentions are made while making use of reservations. All the pointers would be discussed in the light of a landmark judgement titled as “Jaishri LAXMANRAO Patil v Chief Minister, Maharashtra.

Introduction and historical background:

The very origin of the Marathas community can be traced back to Shivaji known for its bravery, boldness and intellect. The entire history of Marathas plays a prominent role in the medieval history. Although they are formed from an amalgamation of families from peasants, blacksmiths, Carpenters, and Koli caste in Maharashtra. They are one of the Hindu communities with large portions of caste-like warriors and land owners. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they served in the armies of the Maratha empire founded by Shivaji they mainly resided in western and partly southern regions of India. In the state of Maharashtra, though people speak Marathi, not all Marathi-speaking people come from the Maratha community. Over some time, the Maratha community have gone through challenges like land fragmentation, large-scale agrarian distress, suicides among farmers, unemployment and lack of educational opportunities and therefore many Marathas have seen the face of social and economic backwardness. On account of these challenges, the consistent and prominent demand for reservation in government jobs and educational institutes under the category of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) arises. The power to declare the socially and educationally backward classes comes from articles 246, 248, 338B, 342A, 366 (26C) r/w Seventh Schedule of the Indian constitution, whereas Articles 15 and 16 enable to provide reservation. The contention and issues made out in the Jaishri case discuss the application of these constitutional provisions.

Details of the case- 

  1. Decided on 5th May, 2021
  2. Decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
  3. Composition of Bench- Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S Ravindra Bhat.

Facts of the case-

  1. On 09.07.2014 the Maharashtra state promulgated an ordinance which gives 16% reservation in education and public employment to the people belonging to Maratha community also 5% reservation to people belonging to 52 Muslim communities. The Bombay High Court through its interim order stayed the implementation of the ordinance.
  2. Thereafter, the State of Maharashtra introduced SEBC i.e., the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act 2014. Through this act, 16% reservation to educationally and socially backward classes in the state of Maharashtra was provided which included the Maratha community of the state. The Bombay High Court further stayed the implementation of this act.
  3. The Maharashtra government passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Act, 2018 on 29.11.2018 upon the recommendations of the Justice Gaikwad Commission which further recommends 12% and 13% reservation in educational institutions and appointment in public services respectively for the Maratha Community. The act of SEBC 2018 exceeds the recommended quota granting 16% reservation for Marathas.
  4. In the Bombay High Court by several writ petitions the constitutional validity of the SEBC Act 2018 was challenged. The Bombay High Court upheld this constitutional validity of the act on account of the reasoning as given in the “Indra Sawhney Judgement” that a 50% ceiling is the limit but only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations the relaxation can be granted justified by quantifiable data. The Bombay High Court further held the act should not provide reservations beyond the Justice Gaikwad Commission’s recommended quota of 12% in education and 13% in public employment.
  5. Therefore, an appeal was filed by Dr Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Socially and Educationally Backward Class Act, 2018 promulgated by the State of Maharashtra.

What is the Socially and educationally backward class act?

  1. The act was established in 1979 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kelkar through the Kelkar Commission or Socially and Economically Backward Classes Commission.
  2. Its objective was to identify the Socially and Economically backward classes of India, these people face social and economic injustice that prevents them fully involving in society.
  3. Through the act these people gain access to education, employment and other opportunities by the grant of quotas.

What is Justice Gaikwad Commission?

It’s an 11-member Commission which is headed by retired justice N G Gaikwad who recommended that Maratha should be given 12% reservation in educational institutions and 13% reservation and public services under the socially and educationally backward class.

Indra Sawhney Judgement 1992-

  1. In this case the Supreme Court While upholding the 27% quota for backward classes struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher caste.
  2. Here The apex court also upheld the principle of combined reservation beneficiaries not to exceed 50% ceiling limit.
  3. The judgement also discussed the ‘creamy layer’ concept. And, also provision of reservation for backward classes to be confined to initial appointments only and not to be used for promotions.

Bombay High Court Judgement-

The constitutional validity of the socially and economically backward Classes Act was challenged before the court by three lead petitions the main arguments of the three lead petitions were: –

  1. The act exceeds the 50% ceiling limit provided by the Indra Sawhney Judgement therefore it becomes unconditional.
  2. The reservation under the act follows Justice Gaikwad Commission report which has an absence of reliable, scientific and adequate data to justify the backwardness of Marathas or special conditions which leads to the increase of reservation in Maharashtra from 52% to 68%.
  3. The act violates articles 14, 16 and 19 of the constitution as it creates a special reservation for Marathas which falls outside the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  4. The given act overrules the ruling of the High Court provided in the 2014 and 2016 orders.
  5. No procedural requirements were fulfilled mandated by the 102nd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018.

The Maharashtra state government contended that they have used extraordinary circumstances like land fragmentation, suicide, unemployment lack of education opportunities which led to deteriorating income among Maratha families thus justifying the enactment of the act. Further on 27th June 2019 the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutionality of the act providing the following reasons:

  1. The state government can increase the reservation beyond the ceiling limit of 50% in extraordinary circumstances as provided by the Indra Sawhney judgement.
  2. The court held Justice Gaikwad Commission justified.
  3. The state government did not overrule the rulings of the High Court it just removed the basis of the court’s earlier order by repealing the 2014 ordinance and act.
  4. The court held that the newly identified class of Marathas were rightly given the reservation and they were historically incorrect to deny the reservation.

Further, an appeal was filed before the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court judgment and on 12th July 2019 Supreme Court admitted an appeal. To the Bombay High Court decision.

The issue before the Supreme Court-

Whether the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018 granting 12% and 13% reservation in addition to 50% social reservation come under exceptional circumstances as stated in Indra Sawhney’s Case?

Supreme Court observations: –

  1. The Supreme Court observed that while exercising the extraordinary situations as stated in Indra Sawhney’s Judgement extreme caution has to be observed and a prominent case must be made out to exceed beyond 50% ceiling. The ceiling limit was also given in M. Nagaraj (Supra).
  2. The court can grant interim relief if it is convinced that the statute is ex-facie unconstitutional and factors like the balance of convenience, irreparable injury, and not in public interest are in favour of passing of an interim order. There’s always a presumption to consider the constitutional validity correct.
  3. The Supreme Court observed that the state of Maharashtra could not prove the extraordinary situation for which reservation could be exceeded beyond the 50% limit as quoted in the Indra Sawhney v Union of India 1992 case. They cannot be compared to marginalized sections of society dwelling in remote areas of the state.
  4. The Supreme Court further observed that allowing the act for the usage of admission and educational institutions and appointment to public posts during the pendency of this appeal will cause a huge loss to the candidate coming from the general category.

Judgement of the case-

The decision to the case came out on 26th March 2021 following the hearing in the issue for 10 days from March 15th to March 26th,2021 and on 5th May 2021 final orders were issued by the apex court declaring the Maratha reservation unconstitutional and provided for the following reasoning:

  1. The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat held that 50% limit reservations should not be considered. As none out of Justice Gaikwad Commission, The Bombay High Court and SEBC act justified the extraordinary situations which could fall in exception to the given limit. Therefore, the reservations granted to Marathas through the SEBC Act were struck down.
  2. The apex court further held that the 102nd Amendment Act did not take away the state’s power to declare the Backward Classes. The 102nd constitutional amendment act enacted articles 338B and 324A in the constitution which provides the establishment of the National Commission for Backward Classes and empowers the President to specify the socially and educationally backward communities in our state respectively. The act further says that it is up to the Parliament to include or exclude any community under the Socially and Backward Classes for granting reservations. Thus, the amendment did not violate the basic structure doctrine.
  3. The Supreme Court stated that without proving any extraordinary situation and providing for reservation exceeding the recommended limit violates Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian constitution thus the Hon’ble Supreme Court disposed of the appeals.  


Equality is the right to common not the right for few as comprehended by Art. 14 of the Constitution. Various loopholes ought to be filled to cover the gap. The 1992 judgement can be reviewed and thereafter reservation can be fetched. Reservation is a fair system as far as it provides for positive discrimination for uplifting the disadvantaged people of society. It can act as a remedy for all the adverse effects of the downtrodden society. All this can be done by maintaining the lens of the federal structure of the country by looking to fill the gaps of historical injustice done to disadvantageous communities and simultaneously not neglecting the merit. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *