On 30 November, the governor of Maharashtra granted his assent to the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018. The Act reserves 16 percent of seats in educational institutions, as well as vacancies in public services, for the Maratha community. The report by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission that forms the basis of the Act was submitted to the state government around fifteen days before the law was passed. The government did not table the report in the legislature.
The Maratha community’s demand for reservation began around 1990, on the heels of the report of the Second Backward Classes Commission, popularly known as the Mandal Commission. The commission proposed a 27-percent reservation for India’s Other Backward Classes, but did not include the Marathas in its list of OBCs. In August 1990, the central government accepted the report, a decision that was challenged before the Supreme Court amid violent and widespread protests. In the ensuing case, Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court specified the basis on which reservations would be permitted. In a landmark verdict, seven judges of the court recognised that reservation could only be restricted to 50 percent of the available seats or posts.
Prior to the new Act, Maharashtra had already exceeded the 50-percent cap by two percentage points. Multiple inquiries have concluded that the Marathas are not a socially and educationally backward community, including those conducted by the National Commission for Backward Classes in 2000 and the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission in 2008—specialised bodies constituted to hear complaints of non-inclusion into the central and state OBC lists after the Indra Sawhney judgment.