New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it will hear from March 17, all pleas challenging Maharashtra’s Socially and Educational Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which, among other things grants the state’s powerful Maratha community reservation in education and jobs.

The Bombay High Court had, in June 2019, upheld the constitutional validity of the law, which was passed by the Maharashtra Assembly in November 2018. Last July, the apex court had said that it would take up petitions challenging the Act.

A total of five petitions were filed in the top court against the Bombay High Court ruling, including by the NGO Youth For Equality. In its plea, the NGO argued that the Act breaches the 50% ceiling on reservation, as fixed by the apex court in its landmark judgment in the Indira Sawhney case, more popularly known as the ‘Mandal verdict.’

At the time of the passing of this Act by the erstwhile BJP government under Devendra Fadnavis, the total quantum of reservation in Maharashtra was already 52%, 2% more than the SC-mandated ceiling. The Act granted the Marathas 16% reservation in education and jobs, taking the total quantum of reservation to 68%, a whopping 18% more than the ceiling.

On being challenged in the High Court, while the constitutional validity of the Act was upheld, the quantum of quota was reduced from 16% to 12% and 13% in education and jobs respectively.

The influential Maratha community held as many as 58 silent marches in the state, between August 2016-August 2018, demanding reservation in education and jobs.