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Monday, 28 May 2012

Andhra HC spikes UPA’s minority sub-quota

Five months after the Congress-led UPA Government rolled out 4.5 per cent reservation benefit for minorities in central admissions and jobs, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday called its bluff on the “casual” policy terming it as based on religious grounds having no justification.
The HC bench of Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Sanjay Kumar struck down the office memorandum (OM) and resolution adopted by Cabinet in this regard on December 22, 2011 terming it as being unconstitutional.
In a stinging criticism of the Centre’s lack of preparedness in designing this welfare scheme, the bench said the very use of the words “belonging to minorities” or “for minorities” indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any other intelligible basis.
“We must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the Central Government,” it stated.
The decision came as a huge blow to the Congress which harped on the benefits available under this policy to Muslims. The Centre had come out with it just before the UP Assembly polls and the likes of Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid wooed Muslims by doling out this sub-quota bait.  The Election Commission too had subsequently intervened and put on hold the decision.
The 4.5 per cent minority reservation was carved out of the existing 27 per cent OBC quota that had earlier received Supreme Court nod. A PIL filed by R Krishnaiah, backward caste leader from AP, questioned its constitutional validity since it pandered to appeasement of a particular religion.
The bench found substance in the petition as the judgement said, “No evidence has been shown to us by the learned Assistant Solicitor General to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogeneous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.”
With the judicial pronouncement coming just before Assembly election in Gujarat later this year, the Centre’s credibility to pursue the deal as an affirmative action for the minorities, rather than a short-term policy designed to benefit the party during polls, has come under cloud.
Court had earlier shot down Muslim quota
New Delhi: The Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order striking down a Central law providing 4.5 per cent reservation to minorities as a whole comes just in time when a similar decision passed by the same court on February 8, 2010 striking down a four per cent Muslim quota brought in by the State Government is under Supreme Court scrutiny.
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is yet to decide the validity of the AP High Court decision passed by a majority verdict of 5:2. In March 2010, an apex bench headed by then CJI KG Balakrishnan had lifted the stay on the HC ruling on the ground that the set of 15 Muslim groups sought to be benefited under this law should not be deprived till the time a final decision from the court is pronounced.
The controversial legislation titled — The Andhra Pradesh Reservation in Favour of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007 — had proposed to allocate four per cent seats in State-run educational institutions and public jobs to the 15 Muslim groups identified as backward by an Expert Commission in 2007.
In AP, Muslims constitute 9.2 per cent of the total population, of which the State claimed that majority was found to be socially and educationally backward.
Vindicated, says BJP
The Congress remained tightlipped on the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order quashing the Centre’s decision to carve out a 4.5 per cent minority sub-quota within the OBC reservation while the BJP described the order as a “good development”.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the party would react only after studying the judgement. Incidentally, the party  had unsuccessfully used minority sub-quota to woo the Muslims in the recent UP Assembly polls.
BJP, which had earlier opposed the Government’s move, maintained its stand had been vindicated with the order. BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “When these reservations were announced we had clearly said it is against the Constitution.”
However, National Commission for Backward Classes Shakeel Ansari termed the court verdict unfortunate and urged the Centre to take up the matter in the court in an effective manner so that the final decision was favourable.

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