Andhra High Court quashes reservation for Muslims


Hyderabad : The Andhra Pradesh High Court Monday quashed a legislation providing four percent reservation to Muslims in education and jobs, terming it unconstitutional. The state government has decided to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.

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Delivering the much-awaited judgement, the seven-member constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice A.R. Dave ruled that reservation cannot be provided on the basis of religion.

It was a majority judgement. Five judges, including Dave, opposed the reservation while two differed with their opinion.

The court verdict has come as a big blow to the Congress government, which had brought the legislation in 2007 providing four percent reservation to certain backward groups among Muslims.

Some individuals and organisations had challenged the act, contending that the reservations were unconstitutional. This is the third time since 2004 that the high court has quashed quota for Muslims.

Ramakrishna Reddy, counsel of one of the petitioners, told reporters that the court upheld their argument that the survey conducted by the state backward classes commission to identify backward groups among Muslims was not scientific.

The bench observed that the survey on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims was conducted only in six districts and that the backward classes commission relied only on the report of the Krishnan commission appointed by the government.

Immediately after the high court verdict, the government decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah directed the state advocate general to file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court.

In 2004, then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had provided five percent reservation to Muslims but the high court had quashed the order.

On the court’s advice, the government reconstituted the backward classes commission. Based on its recommendations, the government issued an ordinance in 2005 and subsequently the assembly passed the legislation for five percent reservation.

But the high court set aside the legislation saying that its would exceed the 50 percent total reservation limit set by the Supreme Court.

In an attempt to keep the reservations within the 50 percent limit, the government issued an order in 2007 providing four percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions for 15 socially and educationally backward classes among Muslims.

The government brought an ordinance, which was later replaced by a legislation passed by the assembly.

The four percent quota was also challenged in the high court. The petitioners argued that the government identified backward classes without gathering scientific data.

The high court, in its interim order, permitted admissions made under the quota. This was challenged in the Supreme Court. The apex court stayed the implementation of the order but left it to the high court to dispose off the batch of writ petitions.

Meanwhile, opposition parties termed the verdict as “unfortunate” and urged the government to take steps to protect the reservations.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) staged a protest outside the state secretariat demanding that the government take immediate steps to protect the four percent reservation. Police arrested MIM legislators and supporters when they tried to forcefuly enter the secretariat.

Former minister and Congress party leader Mohammed Ali Shabbir clarified that the reservation was provided only to the economically and socially backward classes among Muslims and not to the entire community.

Main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) vice-president Lal Jan Basha said the government was not sincere in providing reservation to Muslims.

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) legislator Harish Rao said a constitutional amendment should be brought for the providing quota to Muslims. He said TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao had already promised 12 percent reservation to Muslims in the proposed Telangana state.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the court verdict. “Our stand that reservation should not be provided on the basis of religion stands vindicated,” said BJP state president Bandaru Dattatreya.