Court order on Muslim quota a jolt to Andhra government

April 30th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by admin  

Hyderabad, April 30 (IANS) The Andhra Pradesh High Court order staying admissions to professional courses under four percent quota for backward Muslims has come as a jolt to the Congress government in the state ahead of elections next month. The government, which has been attempting to provide reservations to Muslims for the last four years, is yet to overcome the legal hurdles. Tuesday’s order by a seven-judge bench has dealt yet another blow.

The bench headed by Chief Justice A.R. Dave directed the state government to implement the stay earlier granted by the Supreme Court till the final hearing on the batch of writ petitions challenging the quota. The final hearing will begin only after summer vacations, which end in June.

As a result of this judgment, Muslim students who enjoyed reservations for two academic years will not get the benefit this year.

This will be an embarrassment to the ruling party as by-elections to four Lok Sabha and 18 assembly constituencies are scheduled next month. Assembly and Lok Sabha elections will be held early next year.

More than 10,000 students had got admissions into engineering, medical and other professional courses in 2006 and 2007.

The government, which faces allegations from a section of Muslims that it was not serious in providing reservations, is mulling to try to get the stay vacated. Minister for Minority Welfare Mohammed Ali Shabbir said the government was seeking legal opinion.

“We will leave no stone unturned to overcome the legal hurdles. We are committed to provide reservations to Muslims,” he told newsmen in Nizamabad Wednesday.

The previous two attempts by the government to provide reservations to the community were also set aside by the courts on various grounds.

The Congress in its election manifesto in 2004 had promised five percent reservations. Two months after it came to power, the government issued an order in this regard.

The high court struck down the order on a batch of writ petitions, which argued that the government can’t provide religion-based reservation.

On the court’s advise, the government reconstituted the backward classes commission and directed it to conduct a detailed survey of the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.

On the recommendations of the commission, the government issued an ordinance in 2005. Later the assembly passed a legislation for five percent reservations.

However, the high court set aside the legislation on the ground that this would exceed the 50 percent reservations limit set by the Supreme Court.

In an attempt to keep the reservations within the 50 percent limit and avoid criticism of providing quotas to the entire community, the government reduced the quantum to four percent.

In July last year, the government issued an order providing four percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions for 15 socially and educationally backward classes among Muslims.

Ignoring an edict issued by Islamic seminaries against the division of Muslims into castes for providing reservations, the government brought an ordinance, which was later replaced by a legislation passed by the assembly.

The four percent quota was also challenged in the high court. The petitioners argued that the government identified backward classes in the community without gathering scientific data.

The high court, in its interim order, permitted admissions made under the quota. The same was challenged by the petitioners in the Supreme Court. The apex court stayed the implementation of the order but left it to the high court to dispose off the batch of writ petitions.

According to the 2001 census, Muslims constitute 9.2 percent of the 77 million population of the state.

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