The Supreme Court on Thursday okayed religion-based reservation in government jobs and educational institutes in Andhra Pradesh but referred the matter to a constitution bench to decide on its constitutional validity. Act of faith
In an interim order, a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan extended the benefit of four per cent reservation in jobs and education to 14 other backward classes of Muslims in the state. In the process, it stayed the February order of the state high court that had quashed the Andhra Pradesh Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007.
But the apex court refused to grant quota benefit to a 15th category of Muslims mentioned in the Act as the social groups were not specified.
It also made it clear this was a temporary measure. The constitution bench is expected to take up the case in August.
“The government views certain sections of Muslims as backward and wants to give reservation. What’s wrong with it?” the CJI asked Harish Salve, counsel for Murlidhar Rao, one of the petitioners.
Salve criticised the government for bringing in a law that gave priority to religion over class. Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, representing the state, said the Act wasn't religion-specific; its criterion was socio-economic backwardness.
According to Andhra, the reason for giving four per cent quota to backward Muslims was because they constitute 5-6 per cent of the state's population. The creamy layer — those who earn over Rs 4 lakh annually, children of class-I officers working with the state/central governments and those who hold constitutional posts — are not entitled.
All parties barring the BJP welcomed the decision.
Inputs from HTC Hyderabad