Monday’s ruling of the Andhra Pradesh high court has questioned not just the "procedure" adopted but also the very "principle" behind the 4.5% minority sub-quota, making this potentially one of the toughest reservation-related decisions to defend, analysts say. When Andhra Pradesh granted a 4% quota specifically for backward Muslims of the state in 2005, the same court had struck it down thrice in different cases, but it did not fault the rationale behind the move, unlike in the case of the 4.5% sub-quota.
The Andhra quota is now under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s constitutional bench. Even though the apex court has yet to decide the case, the SC has allowed the reservation benefits to continue.
Sources said the UPA government too hopes to achieve a similar outcome when it files a special leave petition in the case of 4.5% sub-quota.
The Congress-led UPA government had sought to create a sub-quota of 4.5% within the 27% quota for other backward castes (OBCs).
Questioning the rationale applied by the Union government while introducing the sub-quota, the bench headed by chief justice Madan Lokur expressed its "anguish" and criticised the UPA for the "casual manner" in which it was rolled out.
The court has deemed the quota as based on religious lines, saying the very use of the words "belonging to minorities" or "for minorities" indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out on religious lines.
Moreover, in para 29 and 31, the ruling said the five national minorities — Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — are not homogeneous groups and therefore cannot be clubbed together.
Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Itehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddibn Owaisi said: "This is erroneous. The homogeneity lies in their backwardness and the discrimination minorities face."
The Ranganath Misra-led National Commission on Backward Religious and Linguistic Minorities recommended 15% reservation for minorities — of which 10% for Muslims —in education and jobs.