The Andhra Pradesh government on Friday defended its Muslim quota law in the Supreme Court saying there was nothing wrong in including the community in the state's Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) list and providing them reservation.
In an affidavit submitted to the bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice RV Raveendran, the state government contended that its method of categorising and sub-categorising the state's SEBC list is over three decades old and perfectly legal.
It contended that the method has been legally upheld by various courts, including the Supreme Court.
It added that in its 1993 ruling on the Indira Sawhney case on implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations for jobs for other backward classes, the apex court had upheld this concept of categorisation among SEBC, saying "there is no legal or constitutional bar to a state categorising the backward classes as backward and more backward".
The affidavit also added that other states like Kerala and Karnataka too have adopted the method of categorising their SEBC list.
It said Andhra Pradesh has only added Muslims as a fresh category to the backward classes list for the purpose of affirmative action.
"The strategy of categorising and sub-categorising within the SEBC is intended to ensure that the benefits of reservation are more equitably spread among different classes and groups," the affidavit said.
It added, "This methodology recognises the fact that even among the Backward Classes, some are more backward than others and as such to ensure inter se representation among SEBC, it is necessary to sub-categorise them."
Citing the government's experience this year in providing reservation to Muslim students in the state's engineering college, the affidavit said that "a number of seats, which had been reserved for Muslim students, could not be filled up and the same had to be released for the general category students".
"This only goes to show that despite four per cent reservation, the Muslim community is so backward that even the four per cent seats could not be filled up as they are yet unable to avail of the benefit," the affidavit added.
The bench, however, could not take up hearing of the case on Friday as the state government filed the affidavit minutes before the bench was to take up its hearing and the document could not be served to all contesting parties.
Accordingly, the bench adjourned the matter for October 12.
The apex court is examining the legality of the Andhra Pradesh law for an exclusive four per cent reservation for Muslims in state jobs and educational institutions on a petition filed by T Murlidhar Rao, a resident of the state.