Maharashtra reservation issue: Legal angle

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The Maharashtra state government’s decision of reserving up to 12% PG seats for the Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) in Medical and Dental colleges of the state has led to bedlam amongst the general category students appearing for the exams this year. The 12% mark was decided after a lot of detailed debate and discussion in the Bombay HC, post the state government asking for an alarming 16% reservation for the Maratha community.

This decision of the government has been lambasted by many which finally led to it being challenged in Court. The main issue which the petitioners, Mr. Amit Anand Tiwari and Mr. Vivek Singh have put forward is the upper limit of 50% reservation mark being exceeded by almost 2% due to this option of the state government. This would also lead to a clear cut violation of many fundamental rights of these aspiring doctors. This issue has been enlisted to be heard on 7th July by the Supreme Court of India. To this problem, the Bombay HC was of the opinion that the admissions in these Medical and Dental colleges this year would be based on the verdict of the SC regarding this matter of conflict.

Background

The relentless increment of reserved seats in state led educational institutes has been causing havoc amongst public for the longest time. The framers of the Constitution would have never anticipated the sharp negative toll reservation would take in the coming years. Soon after the 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) was introduced in the year 2019, a humungous toll was taken on the futures of many general category students wanting to get into various government rooted colleges all across the country. Later, the announcement of the Maharashtra state government to furthermore include the Maratha community reservation has added up to the agony even more.

Facts of the Issue

The issue of reservation in Maharashtra has been a matter of concern for many from a very long time. At present, there remains only a fraction of 26% seats for the open category, which means that the remaining 74% has been reserved for other students. Bluntly, breaking up the reservation statistics would show the following:

SC: 13%, ST: 7%, OBCs: 19%, Special Backward Classes: 2%, Vimukta Jati: 3%, Nomadic Tribes: 2.5%, Dhangars: 3.5%, Vanjari: 2%, EWS: 10% and finally, Maratha community: 12%.

This allocation of seats in the public sector controlled institutions and jobs was done on the basis of the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018. The petitioners in this case were against such reservation of seats in PG Medicine and Dental courses. They opined that the competency of the medical sector of a country cannot be compromised in times to come. Especially, when the students of this field enter into advanced courses, there can be no relaxation provided to them. With no anticipation of such a pandemic on its way, this contention of the petitioner stands stronger than ever. After long discussions, court sessions, video conferencing, the Court also stated that, “the higher the level of education the lesser should be the reservation”.

Legal Provisions/ Cases involved

This matter has led to dissatisfaction spread like wildfire amongst the public since it has led to gross violation of many fundamental rights which have been granted by the Constitution of India. Articles 14, 16 and 19 seem to have been the most hardly hit ones in this reservation mania which deal with equality before law, equal employment opportunities and protection of certain guaranteed rights to the citizens respectively.

It can be observed that this particular issue also has led to blatant violation of principle of natural justice since the earlier put forward capacity of reservation is being ruthlessly exceeded by the state government.

In the famous case, M. R Balaji v. State of Mysore (AIR 1963 SC 649), the capacity for reservation was capped up to 50% in all government funded colleges. The same was reiterated in the landmark judgment of Indira Sawhney v. UOI (AIR 1993 SC 477).  These two judgments of the SC have been made on the same lines of not crossing the already settled 50% mark of reservation in any government run institution or job post. Thus, going against these legal precedents would be unconstitutional, legally and professionally wrongful since precedents are one of the most crucial sources of law in our country.

Critical Analysis

The burning issue of reservation of seats in Medical and Dental PG courses in states requires special attention, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. It is quintessential for the central government and state governments to take a note of the alarming situation that has risen, which might only get worse if the doctors being trained are given preference more on the grounds of reservation rather than on their medical knowledge and excellence. Even in general, once the altitude of the education level goes up, it becomes necessary for the percentage of reserved seats to escalate down. The reason behind this logic is to not compromise with the country’s overall skill and caliber which fetches revenue for the country and at the same time provides service to the public.

Conclusion

After detailed interactions in Court, the plea against the 12% reservation for the Maratha community in state run Medical and Dental PG courses is all set to be heard on the 7th of July, 2020. The SC shall take into considerations from the ordinances that have promulgated by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay HC which states that the above mentioned category of colleges will not be put under the ambit of reservation under the SEBC Act, 2018.

Author: Shubhani D Krishan from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

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