Maharashtra passes bill for 10% Maratha reservation in education and jobs

Maharashtra passes bill for 10% Maratha reservation in education and jobs

Mumbai: The Maharashtra assembly on Tuesday passed a bill to provide 10% reservation to the Maratha community in education and government jobs, amid protests by opposition parties and activists.

The bill, titled the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (Amendment) Act, 2024, was introduced by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and cleared by the cabinet earlier in the day.

The bill seeks to extend reservation to Marathas above the 50% ceiling set by the Supreme Court, by invoking Article 16(4) of the Constitution, which allows for special provisions for any backward class of citizens.

The bill is based on a report submitted by the Maharashtra Backward Class Commission (MBCC), headed by Justice (Retired) Sunil Shukre, which conducted a survey of around 2.5 crore households and found that Marathas are socially and educationally backward.

The MBCC report also recommended that the reservation for Marathas should not affect the existing quotas for other backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and economically weaker sections.

The bill is the third attempt by the Maharashtra government to grant reservation to Marathas, a politically dominant community that constitutes 33% of the state’s population. The previous two attempts, in 2014 and 2018, were struck down by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, respectively, for violating the 50% cap and the principle of equality.

The passage of the bill was welcomed by Maratha leaders and activists, who have been agitating for quota benefits for decades. They said that the bill would ensure justice and empowerment for the community, especially the poor and the rural sections.

However, the bill also faced criticism and opposition from some quarters, who questioned its legality, validity, and necessity. They argued that the bill would dilute the existing reservation system, create further divisions in society, and invite legal challenges.

The opposition parties, including the BJP, Shiv Sena, and NCP, staged a walkout from the assembly, accusing the government of playing politics over the issue and ignoring the interests of other communities. They demanded that the bill should be referred to a joint select committee for further scrutiny and discussion.

The bill will now be sent to the governor for his assent, and then to the president for his approval, as it involves a constitutional amendment. The government has expressed confidence that the bill will withstand judicial scrutiny and pave the way for the implementation of the Maratha reservation.

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