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Supreme Court Says States Power To Legislate “Any Backward Class of Citizens” Does Not Violate Basic Structure of Constitution of India

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Case: Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil Vs. The Chief Minister and Ors.

Facts of the case

The “Maratha” is a Hindu community that mainly resides in the State of Maharashtra. After the enforcement of the Constitution of India, the President of India in the exercise of power under Article 240 appointed a Commission to investigate the conditions of all such socially and educationally backward classes. In its report, it did not consider Maratha as another backward class community. Later, the Maharashtra Legislature passed the Act in 2014 providing 16% reservation to Maratha. On 15.08.2018 the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018 was brought into force stating the Maratha caste of citizens as a social and economic backward class of citizens with inadequate representation in services. Several Writ Petitions were then filed challenging the Act, 2018. 

Arguments presented before the Court

Several questions arose regarding the Act of 2018. It questioned the 16% separate reservation given to Maratha pleading that it amounted to the breach of Articles 14,16 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Also, an extensive challenge was made against the Backward Classes Commission Report which was the basis of the Act, 2018 pleading that the Maratha community is a powerful community in the State of Maharashtra with proven dominance. Further, a Writ Petition was also filed on behalf of medical students and aspirants who are adversely affected by the Act, 2018. It was pleaded that the enactment seriously prejudices the chances of open candidates in all fields of education as well as in service. 

Court’s Judgement

The Court stated that by the introduction of Articles 366(26C) and 342A through the 102nd Constitution of India, the President alone is empowered to identify SEBCs. The states can only make suggestions to the President for inclusion, exclusion, or modification of castes or communities in the list to be published. It was stated that a Commission set up under Article 338B shall make suggestions to the President regarding the list. Till the publication, the existing list operating in all States and Union Territories would continue to operate. This direction is issued under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Further, it was stated that Article 342A of the Constitution stating the power to legislate or classify in respect of  “any backward class of citizens” does not affect or damage the federal policy and does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

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