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Interim order on Maratha reservation on July 15: SC

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On July 15 the Supreme Court will have the final hearing and pass interim orders on whether a challenge to a Bombay High Court decision of upholding a state law, providing reservation to the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, was tenable.

There has been a batch of appeals on this subject.

The initial idea, floated today (July 7) was that a three-judge bench, led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao would be hearing the pleas on merits on a day-to-day basis from early August. However, Senior Advocates Shyam Divan, Mukul Rohatgi and P.S. Patwalia felt that virtual court hearings may not be sufficient, considering the complicated nature of the case.

Divan pressed for a physical court hearing in a controlled atmosphere, while Rohatgi asked for the case to be heard in September, rather than August.

Finally, Justice Rao acquiesced to the lawyers and said the case would be listed on Wednesday next week, before the virtual court, for passing interim orders.

Divan had urged for interim orders, saying the postgraduate exams in Maharashtra are due on July 31 and should be extended to September 30. He said the total quota now in Maharashtra was 72 percent.

The court asked parties in the matter to give their written submissions and specify the time each will take. It suggested lawyers appearing for all the parties to hold a video conference among themselves to discuss the issue.

Justice Rao asked counsels to not press for an immediate date. “A five-judge bench cannot sit now,” he said, and therefore it will pass an interim order on Wednesday.

Earlier, the top Court had refused to pass interim order on the stay of the Bombay High Court order and had posted the matter for final hearing on March 17, which couldn’t taken place due to the spread of COVID-19.

The bench was hearing two appeals, including one filed by J Laxman Rao Patil, challenging the Bombay High Court order that upheld the constitutional validity of the quota for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra.

The petitioner had earlier sought a stay on the High Court order as the reservation today is at 65 percent in education and 62 percent in jobs, exceeding the 50 percent cap in total reservation.

The Bombay High Court on June 27, 2019, had said the 50 percent cap on total reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be exceeded under exceptional circumstances.

Another appeal filed by advocate Sanjeet Shukla, a representative of ‘Youth for Equality’, said the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, enacted to grant reservation to the Maratha community people in jobs and education, breached the 50 percent ceiling on reservation fixed by the top court in its judgment in the Indira Sawhney case.

-India Legal Bureau

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