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Maratha reservation: Supreme Court dismisses review filed by Centre challenging interpretation of 102nd Constitutional Amendment

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has dismissed the review petition filed by the Central government challenging the top court’s interpretation of 102nd Constitutional Amendment in the Maratha reservation judgment delivered on May 5 this year (Union of India v. Shiv Sangram & Ors).

We have gone through the review petition filed against the judgment dated 05.05.2021 in Writ Petition (C) No.938/2020. The grounds taken in the review petition do not fall within the limited ground on which review petition can be considered. The various grounds taken in the review petition have already been dealt with in the main judgment. We do not find any sufficient ground to entertain this review petition. The review petition is dismissed,” reads the review order.

The Supreme Court had ruled that after the insertion of Article 342A in the Constitution through the 102nd Amendment, it is the Central government alone that is empowered to identify Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), specifying SEBCs in relation to each state and union territory.

The states can, through their existing mechanisms, only make suggestions to the President or the Commission under Article 338B for inclusion, exclusion or modification of castes or communities, in the list to be published under Article 342A (1), the Court had ruled.

“By introduction of Articles 366 (26C) and 342A through the 102nd Constitution of India, the President alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs in relation to each state and union territory for the purposes of the Constitution,” the Court had held.

Except with regard to identification of SEBCs, the states’ power to make reservations in favour of particular communities or castes, the quantum of reservations, the nature of benefits and the kind of reservations, and all other matters falling within the ambit of Articles 15 and 16 will, however, remain undisturbed, the Court clarified.

The judgment was delivered by a Constitution Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat by 3:2 majority.

Justices Rao, Gupta and Bhat supported the proposition while Justices Bhushan and Nazeer dissented.

This crucial ruling came as part of the judgment of the top court striking down the reservation introduced by the Maharashtra government through the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which extended reservation to the Maratha community in public education and employment.

Article 342A was inserted into the Constitution by way of 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act. It reads as follows: “(1) The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the socially and educationally backward classes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be socially and educationally backward classes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be. (2) Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the Central List of socially and educationally backward classes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any socially and educationally backward class, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.”

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