Bombay High Court
Bombay High CourtWikiCommons/Michael Siegel

Five months after the controversial decision by the Maharashtra government to provide 16% reservation for Marathas and 5% for Muslims in the state, the Bombay High Court on Friday quashed the quota.

While it stayed the government's decision to provide reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and public service, it allowed the reservation for Muslims only in education institutions, cancelling the quota for public service.

Freshly-elected chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that he will take the case to the Supreme Court. 

The previous Congress-NCP government had brought in reservations in June this year ahead of the assembly elections in the state held last month, promising 16% reservation for Marathas and 5% for Muslims in educational institutions and government jobs in the state.

With that, the reservation quota in the state reached a staggering 73%, leaving only 27% in jobs and education open to the general public.

The quota was well beyond the Supreme Court mandate of 50%, and the state even surpassed Tamil Nadu, which has 69% reservation. In 1992, the Supreme Court's Constitution bench had set a ceiling of 50% on all types of reservation.

"The Maratha community is being treated as educationally and socially backward and 16% quota has been fixed for them. The quota for Muslims is not religion-based but on the criterion of social and economic backwardness," former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had said.

A PIL had been filed against the quota in the Bombay High Court, challenging the definition of Marathas by the government as 'educationally and socially backward'.

The PIL filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar had argued that most chief ministers of the state have belonged to the Maratha community, while the community members also run educational institutions and control about 85% of sugar factories and cooperative banks. It also said that Maratha is not a caste but a linguistic group.

According to the PIL, "Ninety-nine percent of the former chief ministers of the state hail from the same community... 85% of the sugar factories in the state are owned/controlled by Marathas, 75% and more land is owned by the Maratha community in the state, more than 72% of co-operative institutions are controlled by Marathas." The PIL also claims that between 1962 and 2005, 55% of the MLAs (1200 out of 2000 MLAs) have been from the community.