Maharashtra has the legislative competence for granting reservation quota to Marathas and its decision is constitutional as the 102nd amendment does not denude a state of the power to declare its list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC), the Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The 102nd Constitution amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Class (NCBC), and 342A dealing with power of the President to notify a particular caste as SEBC as also of Parliament to change the list.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that in its view the SEBC Act, 2018, of Maharashtra granting reservation to people of the Maratha community in the state in jobs and admissions is constitutional.
“The Centre is of the view that the Maharashtra SEBC Act is constitutional. We construe Article 342A gives enabling role to Central government to determine the SEBC,” Mehta said, adding that the Centre adopts the submissions of Attorney General K K Venugopal and it should be considered as the view of the Union government.
On March 18, the AG had told the top court that the 102nd amendment to the Constitution does not deprive state legislatures to enact laws determining the SEBC and conferring benefits on them.
Mehta said that the Article 342A inserted by the amendment is an enabling provision and does not denudes the states of power to declare SEBC.
The bench however asked Mehta as to why no notification of SEBCs has been issued till date by the Centre under Article 342A as the President in consultation with the governor has to issue the list.
“Will you not make it a dead letter by not issuing the notification for all times to come? Doesn’t it means that there is a blank slate as of now?” the bench asked Mehta, to which he replied that the existing list of SEBC continues.
In that case, the existing list of SEBC has to be a part of the Constitution Amendment Act itself, the bench said, adding that it is not clear as of now as to what will be the correct interpretation of Article 342A, and what will be the effect of not having a list.
Mehta said that all these questions will be answered when the top court will consider the petition challenging the validity of 102nd Constitution Amendment.
The bench said it will hear the submission of Mehta again on this aspect when those petitions are considered.