YSR caught between HC ruling and poll promise on Muslim quota

Hyderabad | Updated: Nov 14 2005, 06:05am hrs
The decision of the five-judge bench of Andhra Pradesh (AP) High Court to quash, for the second time, the Muslim Reservation Ordinance, has set off a debate on the constitutional validity of such a basis for reservations.

Though the state government has immediately decided to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court in the next couple of days, the issue troubling the government now is the fate of admissions already done in academic institutions on the basis of the ordinance. Admissions for engineering and medical collages have already been completed, and the fate of over 3,000 engineering and medical students now hangs in balance.

Meanwhile, at high-level ministerial meetings held for over the last three days at the chief ministers chambers, officials were not able to come up with any full-proof solution, especially in a situation where the Supreme Court agrees with AP HCs decision. Sources in the Higher Education Council said if need be, the government could resort to creating a supernumerary quota to accommodate Muslim students.

Chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, however, maintains that reservations to Muslims is a pre-poll promise and we will keep it. Dr Reddy is vocal on the judgement, terming it a subjective decision. I am happy that the bench has agreed that Muslims as a class can be given reservation, he said. He said the judges had only pointed out that the methodology followed by the commission headed by former HC judge D Subrahmanyam was not proper.

It may be recalled that the Backward Classes Commission, headed by Justice Subrahmanyam, appointed by the government following the HC, had struck down the reservation order of July 2004, terming it as contrary to the Supreme Courts judgement. The earlier order also said that only a competent statutory commission could include any community into the backward class list. Interestingly, the HC struck down the ordinance for second time, pointing out that data was not properly collected in determining the socio-economic status of Muslims.

The Commission had conducted field studies in just eight Telangana and one Rayalaseema district before submitting its recommendations. The Commission has largely relied on published data of the National Sample Survey Organisation, sources said. The bench was divided 3:2 on whether the Muslim community could be granted reservation as a whole under the backward classes quota. The government offered 5% quota under BC-E category, taking the total reservations to 51%, which itself was a violation of the Constitution, says a senior counsel.

Interestingly, Muslims constitute about 9.5% of the total population in AP. Politically, the issue is gaining importance at the central-level Congress too, especially when other states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are proposing to offer similar sops to poorer sections of the Muslim community. However, the BJP has been opposing such reservations which, it feels, will spark off religious conversions.

Meanwhile, Majlis Ittehudul Muslimeen (MIM) leaders are rallying around the chief minister to protect the interests of the students. Now is the time for all political parties to prove their sincerity to the cause of the development of Muslims, MIM MP, Asaduddin Owaisi said. They want the government to come out with a solution, irrespective of the Supreme Court decision, which may be delayed.