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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

AP HC quashes Muslim quota

By Ibrahim Usmani

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on 21st September quashed the AP government’s quota for Muslims stating that it was unconstitutional and directed the government to reconstitute Backward Classes Commission and identify the backward classes and the creamy layer. 

The decision was passed on a writ petition filed by Muralidhar Rao, a VHP activist, challenging the government order passed on 12th July giving five percent quota in government jobs in educational institutions. 

AIMMM welcomes AP court ruling
Syed Shahabuddin, President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), issued the following statement on 24 September:

The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) regards the Judgement of the A.P. High Court declaring the G.O. on Reservation for Muslims ultra vires as a temporary setback and, in fact, a long-term victory for the cause of reservation for Muslims all over India.

The A.P. High Court has struck down the G.O. on purely technical grounds which, the AIMMM hopes, the State Government shall take immediate steps to remedy: the reconstitution of the A.P. Backward Classes Commission and finalization of a Scheme to bar the Creamy Layer from the benefit of reservation.

On the other hand, the A.P. High Court has upheld, in principle, reservation in favour of the Muslim community, if it is found to constitute a Backward Class. This is in line with the Supreme Court Judgement in the Inder Sawhney Case and the opinion of the Justice Venkatachalliah Commission.

The AIMMM reiterates that the demand for reservation for Muslims is based on the fact of their educational, social and economic backwardness, as a group, which stands established in Census 2001 and can be verified by systematic surveys based on nationally accepted parameters.

In effect, the A.P. High Court has ruled that religion should be treated on par with caste as a basis for classification and reservation on the basis of religious identity is equally permissible as the basis of caste identity, subject to the common condition of Backwardness. The AIMMM, therefore, welcomes the A.P. High Court Judgement and appeals to the Central Government as well as the Governments of other States of Muslim concentration like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra etc. to introduce reservation for the Muslim community, as a community, in proportion to its population and level of backward as compared to SC/ST.

Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy delivered the judgement stating that sec 11(2) of the act 20 of 93 was mandatory and the government was bound to consult the State commission before undertaking any revision of the backward classes list. It was categorically declared that "in the absence of such consultations, the state government in issuing the impugned GO acted in contravention of the mandatory provision of law. The GO is therefore ultra vires."

In a series of direction given to the state government, the bench asked it to complete the process of reconstruction of the commission of Backward Classes within three months. It also declared that the government shall initiate process of consultation and seek the opinion of the commission for the inclusion of the Muslim community in the list of backward classes. 

There was a mixed response from different sections. All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen’s MP Asaduddin Owaisi said that they would file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the decision. He said that AIMIM would be organizing a conference of leading Muslim scholars, activists and politicians to chalk out measures as it has become a national issue. 

Information Minister, Mohammed Ali Shabbir, said that the verdict has not questioned the constitutional validity of reservation for Muslims or the possibility of crossing the 50 percent mark in reservations and thus the "setback was temporary," he argued.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has welcomed the decision and termed it as a slap on the face of those who indulge in vote bank politics. State BJP President N. Indrasena Reddy said that religion based reservations would lead to partition of the country and if the government promulgates an ordinance, the BJP will not keep quiet and will fight tooth and nail.

The Opposition leader, N. Chandrababu Naidu said that the State government had taken a hasty decision in taking a decision. He said that the Telugu Desam Party had maintained that it would lead to legal tangle. 

Awaaz, a forum for the development of minorities, aired its disappointment at the verdict. The Forum President and MLA, M.A. Ghafoor said that the High Court had failed to understand the reality of the Muslims in the State who are backward in all fields. 
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