AP Muslim quota gets SC nod

Constitution bench to review

AP Muslim quota gets SC nod

While staying an earlier order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan referred the issue to a Constitution Bench to examine the validity of the impugned law since it involved crucial constitutional issues. The Bench will hear the matter in the second week of August.

The reservation privilege will be provided to 14 sub-sections of the community that were identified by the Congress regime in Andhra Pradesh. Some sections that have been excluded include the Khans, Syeds, Pathans and Mughals.

Impact

The Supreme Court order will have a significant impact on the West Bengal government’s decision to grant reservation to Muslims, a policy measure which chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced a few weeks back.

On its part, the Andhra Pradesh government had challenged the high court’s judgment that had struck down the Andhra Pradesh Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007, describing it “unsustainable” and violative of Article 14 (equality before the law) and other provisions pertaining to prohibition of discrimination by the state on grounds of religion, race, caste sex or place of birth.

“The government is of the view that certain sections of the Muslim community are socially and educationally backward. What is wrong in it? It is only a question as to how you identify them...It is not a question as to whether they are Hindus or Muslims but the question is social and educational backwardness. Merely because they are Muslims they cannot be denied,” the Bench observed while passing the order.

Identification

The decision came on a special leave petition filed by the state government challenging the ruling of a seven-judge bench of the high court which had quashed the impugned policy as being unconstitutional on the ground that reservation cannot be extended on the basis of religion.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati argued that the high court did not properly apply its mind while passing the judgment as it failed to consider the fact that identification of the most backward groups among Muslims was done by the State Backward Commission.

Appearing on behalf of some of pro-reservationists, senior counsel K Parasaran argued that while barbers, washermen and those working in cremation grounds in the Hindu community were extended reservation benefits as members of the backward class, similarly placed groups in the Muslim community were deprived of the same.

However, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of T Muralidhar Rao and other anti-reservationists, cautioned that extending “religion-centric” reservations posed a grave “danger of fissiparious tendencies developing in the country.”

Rao, who had challenged the Andhra Pradesh government’s law reserving jobs for Muslims in professional colleges, senior advocate Ravi Shankar Prasad submitted that the high court had already delivered its final verdict.

The high court, while setting aside the state Act, had also quashed a subsequent 2007 government order allocating four per cent reservation to Muslim groups in educational institutions and jobs.

The state  government had moved a bill in the Assembly on the basis of a report submitted by Andhra Pradesh Commission for Backward Classes.

The bill was later passed by the Assembly. The report had recommended that the socially and educationally backward should be adequately represented in the state.

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