Mumbai, Jul 5 (PTI) The Maharashtra legislature on Monday passed two crucial resolutions, seeking removal of the Supreme Court-set 50 per cent cap on caste-based reservations in jobs and education, and asking the Centre to provide the 2011 Census data to the state on the first day of the monsoon session which also saw the suspension of 12 MLAs of the oppositon BJP for one year for alleged misbehaviour.
The Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government brought the two resolutions to send out a clear message that it was committed to Maratha reservation and political quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local body elections despite setbacks on the twin issues in the Supreme Court.
One of the resolutions urged the Centre to bring a constitutional amendment to remove the 50 per cent ceiling on caste-based reservations set by the Supreme Court as it is coming in the way of granting quota to the SEBC category comprising Marathas.
As per the resolution moved by PWD Minister Ashok Chavan, without relaxing the 50 per cent limit on caste-based reservations, the quota for the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) cannot be granted.
The second resolution asked the Centre to provide the 2011 Census data to enable the State Backward Class Commission to prepare empirical data of the OBC population, in a bid to restore political reservations for its members in local bodies.
The Supreme Court on May 5 struck down the Maharashtra government's 2018 law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs while hearing a batch of petitions that challenged the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018.
The SC had said it would breach the ceiling of 50 per cent quota limit imposed by itself in a landmark verdict in 1992.
Members of the BJP were not present in the House when Chavan moved the resolution. Members of the Maratha community have been staging protests across Maharashtra demanding reservation in jobs and education.
The resolution on OBC quota in local bodies was moved separately in the Legislative Assembly by NCP leader and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and in the Legislative Council by Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif, where they were passed by a voice vote. The Lower House saw two adjournments over the issue.
The opposition BJP termed the move as 'politically motivated' and accused the MVA government of shirking its responsibility towards the cause of the quota.
BJP members trooped into the well of the Assembly and shouted slogans against the state government as Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said the resolution will 'serve no purpose'.
'To restore the reservation to the OBCs in local bodies elections, a State Backward Class Commission (SBCC) has been set up. The required social, economic, and caste-based 2011 Census data of OBC population is available with the Centre, but despite repeated requests, the information was not shared with the state government,' Mushrif told the Council.
He said the Census data is crucial for the SBCC for preparing the empirical data of the OBC population.
'Thus the legislative council is moving a resolution recommending the Centre to make the information available to the state government,' Mushrif said.
Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar (BJP) later criticized the government on the resolution, saying the state was passing the buck to the Centre.
'This resolution shows that the state government does not want to do anything for the OBC quota and is passing the responsibility to the Centre,' Darekar told reporters.
Darekar said there was no need to seek the empirical data from the Union government as the 2011 Census data was collected when the Congress was in power had 8 crore discrepancies.
'Using this erroneous data for the OBC reservation will be incorrect,' he said.
The Supreme Court earlier this year quashed quota for the OBCs in local bodies after observing that the total number of seats earmarked for various communities, including the SCs and STs, should not exceed 50 per cent of its total strength.
In the Assembly, Fadnavis said the Supreme Court had asked the Backward Class Commission to conduct an empirical inquiry to ascertain the political backwardness of the OBCs.
The BJP leader accused the state government of doing nothing on what the court had sought.
Fadnavis said the 2011 census data had 'eight crore mistakes', while the (census) data from Maharashtra had '69 lakh mistakes'. Hence, it was not given.
To this, Bhujbal asked, 'If there are mistakes in the data, why wasn't the rectification and correction done? Why were you sitting over the data for six years? If the data is used for central schemes like Ujjwala gas, why isn't it being given for the OBC (quota issue).' Speaking to reporters outside the House, Fadnavis said Bhujbal has not given factual information in the House. 'The central government hasn't used census data for its schemes,' he said.
The opening day of the two-day monsoon session witnessed high drama as 12 BJP MLAs were suspended from the Assembly for one year after the state government accused them of 'misbehaving' with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker's chamber.
Leader of Opposition Fadnavis termed the allegation as false and said Jadhav's account of the incident was 'one-sided'.
The motion to suspend the MLAs was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab and passed by a voice vote.
The 12 suspended members are- Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Parag Alavani, Harish Pimpale, Yogesh Sagar, Jay Kumar Rawat, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty Bhangdia.
Parab said during the period of suspension, the 12 legislators will not be allowed to enter the Legislature premises in Mumbai and Nagpur.
Objecting to the decision, BJP members, led by Fadnavis, said the opposition would boycott the House proceedings.
'This is a false allegation and an attempt to reduce the numbers of opposition benches, because we exposed the government's falsehood on the OBC quota in local bodies,' Fadnavis said.
He said the BJP members had not abused the presiding officer. 'It was Shiv Sena MLAs who used abusive words. I brought our MLAs out of the Speaker's chamber,' Fadnavis said.
Earlier, NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik accused the BJP members of misbehaving with Jadhav.
Malik and Shiv Sena member Sunil Prabhu demanded that action be taken against the opposition members for their behaviour with Jadhav.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called Jadhav in his chamber to seek information on what had happened.
When the House reassembled after the fourth adjournment, Jadhav was in the Speaker's Chair and gave a detailed account of what had happened.
'Today is a black day for me. Abusive words were directed at me. Some people are saying I made uncharitable remarks. Let there be a probe into it after checking the CCTV footage. If I have used any inappropriate language, I am ready to face any punishment,' Jadhav said.
Meanwhile, PWD Minister Chavan told the Assembly that candidates belonging to Educationally and Socially Backward Class (ESBC) category, who were given a temporary appointment of eleven months in 2014 by the government before the Bombay High Court stayed the quota, will be regularised.
Chavan said Maharashea Public Service Commission (MPSC) has been directed to complete the pending recruitment process by allowing SEBC (Maratha) aspirants to opt either the EWS or general category.
Chavan also said the state government has decided that the age limit for the government job aspirants from the SEBC category will now be 43 years and their exam fee is also reduced.
The issue of MPSC recruitment came into focus following alleged suicide by a 24-year-old aspirant in Pune over the delay in conducting the final job interview.
Leader of Opposition Council Darekar expressed concern over the suicide of the MPSC aspirant, Swapnil Lonkar, who hanged himself last week, and asked the government to explain its stand over the issue of pending public service commission exams and appointments of eligible candidates.
The state government tabled supplementary demands worth Rs 23,149.75 crore, including Rs 1402.51 crore for procurement of medicines and equipment required for COVID-19 treatment.
The demands were tabled by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who also holds the finance portfolio, in both houses of the legislature.
Out of the total Rs 23,149.75 crore, Rs 6,895.42 crore has been earmarked for mandatory expenditure, Rs 12,190.51 crore for various state schemes and Rs 4,063.81 crore for implementation of centrally-sponsored programmes.
The demands include Rs 1402.51 crore for procurement of medicines and equipment required for COVID-19 treatment, while Rs 1,200 crore has been allotted for interest payment of loan raised for the Nagpur-Mumbai expressway.
A sum of Rs 1,150 crore has been allocated for construction of roads and bridges under hybrid annuity scheme.
Fadnavis targeted the MVA government over the MPSC aspirant's suicide and the short duration of the monsoon session.
The BJP leader demanded that House members be allowed to use all legislative tools to highlight various issues and all questions submitted be answered.
Earlier in the day, the Assembly expressed grief over the deaths of 19 leaders, with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav reading out the condolence motion. PTI MR SPK BNM NSK VT GK RSY RSY