lifts stay on Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh
Refers the matter to a Constitution bench
New Delhi: In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court on
Thursday permitted Andhra Pradesh to provide four per cent reservation in jobs
and education for backward members of the Muslim community, but referred to a
special bench the issue of its constitutional validity.
Lifting the stay on the State government's decision, a
three-judge bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices J.M. Panchal
and B.S. Chauhan said, “since it involves important questions of Constitution,
we are referring the matter to a Constitution bench” for hearing in the second
week of August.
As many as 14 Muslim groups, identified as socially and
educationally backward sections by the State Backward Commission, will now be
eligible for the benefit.
“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.
Special leave petition
The decision came on a special leave petition filed by the
State government, challenging the ruling of a seven-judge bench of the Andhra
Pradesh High Court, which had quashed the impugned policy as being
unconstitutional on the ground that reservation cannot be extended on the basis
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 the
Muslims was done by the State Backward Commission.
Appearing on behalf of some pro-reservationists, senior
counsel K. Parasaran argued that while hairdressers, dhobis and those working in
cremation grounds in the Hindu community were extended reservation benefits
under the backward class, similarly placed groups in the Muslim community were
deprived of the benefits.
However, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing on behalf
of Muralidhar Rao and other anti-reservationists, cautioned that extending
“religion-centric” reservation posed a grave “danger of fissiparous tendencies
developing in the country.”
The State had
moved a Bill in the Assembly on the basis of a report submitted to it by Andhra
Pradesh Commission for Backward Classes (APBC). The Bill was later passed by the