The Telangana government passed a bill on Sunday to increase reservation in jobs and education for backward Muslims to 12%, exceeding the Supreme Court’s 50% ceiling for such benefits.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government bulldozed its way, convening a special assembly session on Sunday, a holiday, to pass the bill through a voice vote after hours of intense debate and suspension of five BJP legislators who opposed religion-based reservations.
Backward Muslims in the new state — carved out of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014 — are already entitled to 4% reservation in educational institutions and government jobs.
Chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao introduced the proposed law: the Telangana backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes (reservation of seats in educational institutions and of appointments or posts in services under the state) bill, 2017.
- *In August 1994, then AP chief minister Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy issued a government order (GO) including a few categories of Muslims such as washerman and weavers into OBC list. Also constituted an OBC Commission chaired by Justice Puttu Swamy to look into the issue of inclusion of Muslims into the OBC list.
- *In 2003, Puttuswamy Commission submitted its report to the Chandrababu Naidu government, but it was pushed under the carpet
- *In July, 2004, then YS Rajasekhar Reddy government issued a GO providing 5% quota to Muslims by treating them as OBC by creating fifth category (Category-E)
- *In September 2004, High Court struck down the GO on the ground that it was against the Supreme Court’s ceiling on reservations.
- At that time, there was already a quota of 25% for OBCs, 15% for SCs and 6% for STs in Andhra Pradesh. So, giving 5% quota to Muslims would take the total quota percentage to 51.
- *In November 2004, the YSR government re-constituted the OBC Commission headed by justice Dalva Subrahmanyam
- *In October 2005, the YSR government issued an ordinance providing five percent quota to Muslims in educational institutions and state government jobs. The ordinance was replaced by an Act later
- *In November 2005, a five-member bench of the AP high court struck down the Act.
- *In July 2007, the YSR government promulgated another ordinance providing four percent reservations to 14 categories of poor Muslims well within 50% limit
- *In January 2008, the state government filed an SLP in the Supreme Court seeking implementation of the quota. SC allowed the quota pending the final verdict
- *In February 2010, the seven-member Constitution Bench, in a 5-2 majority ruling, held that the law providing 4% reservation to backward class Muslims in the state was invalid.
- *The state government files review petition in the SC, which referred the issue to a separate Constitutional bench. The hearings are now going on.
“After the bifurcation of the combined Andhra Pradesh state, the percentage of Muslims in Telangana has gone up and 90% of them are poor and socially backward. Hence, we have decided to increase the quota for Muslims, treating them as OBC (other backward class),” he said.
He dismissed allegations that his government was providing more reservation in the name of religion.
The BJP members opposed the bill, saying reservation for Muslims goes against the Constitution.
In the neighbouring southern state, 69% of the seats are reserved for SC, ST and OBC communities.
Party lawmakers trooped into the well of the House and shouted slogans, forcing legislative affairs minister T Harish Rao to move a motion to suspend them. Marshals escorted out the BJP members later.
Also, the bill sought to increase reservation for scheduled tribes from 6% to 10%. The combined increase takes the state’s total reservations to 62%, way higher than cap prescribed by the Supreme Court in a landmark 1992 ruling.
The chief minister, called KCR by his supporters, was confident of getting the enhanced quotas legalised by incorporating them in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution through a constitutional amendment.
It was done before for Tamil Nadu in 1994, where the overall quota for various groups in 69%, he argued.
The proposed law will require the state legislative council’s nod, before it could be sent for the President’s approval for inclusion in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule.
Rao said his party promised to provide 12% reservations to Muslims in its election manifesto. The hike compliments the promise.
Other opposition parties backed the bill. T Jeevan Reddy of the Congress welcomed it and said: “It’s better late than never.”
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a pro-Muslim party, suggested that the existing 4% reservation “under the BC (E) category” should be retained too.
A separate “BC(F) category” should be created to extend the benefits, the party said.