In a development that will fetch political dividends to the ruling BJP in forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the State, both the Houses of the Maharashtra Legislature on Thursday passed a Bill according reservations 16 per cent reservations in education and Government jobs to the community in the State, thus paving way for enactment of a law.

Given that reservations will go up to 68 per cent in the State after the impending enactment of the new law, it remains to be seen if the new law — to be known when enacted — as the Maharashtra State (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the State and for appointments in the public services and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, will stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court which has put a 50 per cent on reservations.

While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis introduced the Maratha reservations bill in the State Assembly, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil tabled it in the State Legislative Council. Both the Houses passed the bill unanimously, without a debate on the contents of the bill, amidst chants of “Chharpati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai”.

Thanking the members in both the Houses of Maharashtra Legislature for passing the Maratha reservations bill without any discussions, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on the floor of the two Houses that the elected representatives had shown that they could come together to find a solution to the social issue like the Maratha reservations.

After both the Houses of the State Legislature passed the Maratha reservations bill, the Vidhan Bhjavan complex reverberated to the echoes of slogans like ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Ki Jai’, ‘Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ raised by elected representatives belonging to all the political parties. Legislators of BJP and Shiv Sena, many of whom wearing saffron phetas (headgear), were seen distributing sweets. There were celebrations in front of the Maharashtra BJP headquarter, which is just a stone’s throw away from the State Legislature.

Earlier, ahead of introducing the Marataha reservations bill, the chief minister tabled the Action Taken Report (ATR) on the report of the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission (MSBCC) which has recommended 16 per cent reservations to the Marathas in education and government jobs.

Currently Maharashtra has 52 per cent reservations in jobs and educational institutions. Of the total 52 per cent reservations, SCs and ST communities account for 13 and 7 per cent, respectively, while OBCs have 19 per cent per cent reservations, Together, Special Backward Class and Nomadic Tribes account for 13 per cent.

The Marathas, who have now been accorded 16 per cent reservations in education and government jobs, account for nearly 33 per cent of the total 11.25 crore population of Maharashtra.

Once the Maharashtra State SEBC Act comes into force, then the total reservations in the State will go up to 68 per cent — next only to Tamil Nadu that has 69 per cent.

By seeking to enact a law granting 16 per cent reservations to Marathas and in the process exceeding the 50 per cent cap on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court, Maharashtra has taken the Tamil Nadu route of attempting to circumvent the apex court’s cap on reservations.

Though Devendra Fadnavis dispensation has not clarified as to how it face the scrutiny of the new law in the Supreme Court, it looks like the Maharashtra government will take the route taken by the Tamil Nadu government under late chief minister Jayalalithaa, which achieved its objective of increasing reservations to 69 per cent by passing the Tamil Nadu Act of 1994 and adding the 1994 Act to the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

Article 31B of the Constitution stipulates that the legislations in the Ninth Schedule cannot be challenged in courts. However, in 2007, the Supreme Court in IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu ruled that even those laws which are placed in the Ninth Schedule are subject to judicial review if the laws violate the basic structure of the Constitution. Interestingly enough, a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu Reservation policy is expected to come up for hearing before the Supreme Court in the near future.