Hyderabad: In a significant development, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday rejected the Centre’s move to create a sub-quota for minorities on religion basis.
A division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice PV Sanjay Kumar said that there was no rationale in providing reservation to minorities on the basis of religion.
The division bench passed its order in response to a PIL challenging the creation of a 4.5% sub-quota for notified minority groups, including Muslims, out of the 27 percent reservation meant for OBCs (Other Backward Classes).
The December 22, 2011 OM for a subquota of 4.5 per cent for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens belonging to minority communities out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions and jobs was announced by the Centre ahead of the Assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
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, the bench observed while setting aside the sub-quota.
Shortly after the verdict was pronounced, the Congress treaded cautiously, saying the court judgement has to be read and understood.
"You cannot react to court judgments until you have perused, read, understood and appreciated..(We can comment)....After we receive copy of the judgment", party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters in Delhi.
Setting aside the OM, a division bench consisting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Sanjay Kumar said, "In fact, we must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the central government."
"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.
"We must, therefore, hold that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) do not form a homogeneous group but a heterogeneous group," it observed.
According to K Ramakrishna Reddy, senior counsel who argued for the petitioner R Krishnaiah-- a backward caste leader from Andhra Pradesh, the judgement may affect the admissions that have already been made in central educational institutions such as IITs.
We have, therefore, no option but to set aside the
carving out of a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent in favour of backward classes belonging to minorities out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in both the OMs dated 22.12.2011 and the Resolution dated 22.12.2011. We do so accordingly," the court said.
The first OM states that the 4.5 per cent sub-quota is carved out of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens "belonging to minorities" as defined in Section 2(c) of the NCM Act.
The resolution and the second OM created a sub-quota "for minorities".
Backward community leader R Krishnaiah and others had filed separate petitions in the HC challenging the central government’s decision to create sub-quota.
The Centre has earlier defended its decision stating that reservation to minorities was provided based on their backwardness but not on basis of religion and the sub-quota was meant for equitable distribution of benefits amongst communities concerned.
With PTI inputs