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'We will appeal to the Supreme Court to lift the stay'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
October 29, 2020 16:44 IST
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IMAGE: Maratha Kranti Morcha activists protest for reservations for the Maratha community at the district collector's office in Pune in 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

Public and Works Department Minister Ashok Chavan heads the Maharashtra cabinet's sub-committee on Maratha reservations.

In this interview with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com, Chavan takes on Vinayak Mete of the Shiv Sangram Party and a member of the Maharashtra legislative council who has demanded the minister's resignation even as the Supreme Court in its hearing on October 28 adjourned the hearing on the state government's plea to vacate the stay on the Bombay high court judgement that upheld the validity of reservations for the Marathas.

The Maratha Kranti Morcha spearheading the demand for reservations for Marathas has hardened its stance and has said it will launch an agitation from November 1, unless their demands are met by October 31.
With the Supreme Court adjourning the Maharashtra government's plea for another four weeks, how are you planning to handle the MKM agitation?

I am trying to understand against whom are they planning to launch their agitation. The matter is in the court (Supreme Court) and the court has to take a call on this.

The Maharashtra chief minister has been on record saying very categorically that we are all together on this issue and we are supporting this cause (of the reservations for Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions).

Yesterday (on October 28, a three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao adjourned the matter for another four weeks where the Supreme Court referred it to a larger bench), the matter was also referred to a five-judge bench as per what was listed in the business.

The matter will be now before a bigger bench and there is no timeframe for the matter to be heard (when the final decision will come).

Our plea in the Supreme Court was about vacating the stay on the Bombay high court judgement that would have allowed the state government to implement the quotas for the Maratha community and give relief to those people whose jobs and admissions have been affected because of the interim order.

Vinayak Mete is demanding your resignation. He thinks you are not doing justice to the cause of the Maratha community's demand for reservations.

Why should I respond to Vinayak Mete? He is the BJP's man out there, playing politics with the demand for Maratha reservations.

He is following the BJP's agenda of not helping the cause of Maratha reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.

His only concern is playing politics all the time. If he is so concerned about the issue, then why didn't he take the matter to the court?

There is a clear division in the MKM over granting economically weaker section status to the Marathas till the time the Supreme Court gives its final decision in vacating the stay over the Bombay high court judgment of June 27, 2019. What is the stand of the state government in giving EWS status to Marathas?

We were ready to give the EWS facility, but Sambhaji Raje Bhosale, the member of Parliament from Kolhapur, and Vinayak Mete opposed the move (Mete has reportedly supported granting of EWS status to Marathas whereas Rajendra Kondhare, an important member of the MKM, had opposed it saying the Supreme Court could then question the enactment of the Socially and Educational Backward Communities law for Maratha reservations). That's why the government has put it on hold.

Isn't Vinayak Mete in favour of the move?

No. In the meeting with the chief minister, these two gentlemen categorically mentioned that they are not in favour of EWS status for Marathas.

How is the state government planning to take up the case legally now that the Constitutional validity of the Socially and Economically Backward Classes Act (2018) passed by the Maharashtra government to grant reservation to the Maratha community has been challenged by a couple of petitions in the Supreme Court under the premise that it exceeds the 50 per cent cap imposed by a previous Supreme Court order?

The matter is sub judice now and our legal team comprising of senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi is doing their best to argue the matter in the court. They will put forth our side based on the legalities concerned.

I don't see any way out of that. Moreover, whatever facilities (had to be extended; EWS) had already been extended by the earlier cabinet. We have already done that.

What are the exceptional circumstances under which the 50% cap on total reservations could be exceeded as per a judgement of the Bombay high court issued on June 27, 2019?

See, the Backward Commission report is there, which the (Bombay) high court has accepted and the cabinet and the House (the Maharashtra legislative assembly and legislative council) have unanimously approved it.

The (nine member M G) Gaikwad Commission report is also there supporting the facts about the backwardness of the Maratha community. The cabinet has accepted the report and the houses have unanimously passed a law about this.

Now, we are looking forward to the case in the Supreme Court where the matter is pending and our stand is to request the lifting of the stay on the Bombay high court judgement.

That stay has stopped everything (implementation of reservations to Marathas). We will appeal to the Supreme Court to lift the stay and other legal issues can be argued on merits at large.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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