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SC refuses to stay HC ruling
Andhra quota for Muslims
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 4
The Supreme Court today referred to a Constitution Bench the controversial Andhra Pradesh law providing five per cent reservation to the Muslims, but declined to grant interim stay on the state high court order striking it down as “unconstitutional”.

Admitting an appeal of the Andhra Pradesh Government, challenging a five-judge judgement of the state high court, quashing the reservation law passed by the state in October last year replacing an ordinance issued to this effect on June 20, 2005, the apex court, however, gave interim relief to those Muslim students admitted under the quota to various educational institutions, saying they would continue with their studies without any disturbance.

A Bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Mr Justice C K Thakker and Mr Justice R V Raveendran, further said that if any appointment to the government job was made under the five per cent quota by the state, the same "shall” also not be disturbed till the final disposal of the case by the apex court. But it was informed that so far no appointment had been made under the law.

Describing the matter as of a “great public interest and complex”, requiring examination by a Constitution Bench, the apex court rejected the plea of the Andhra Pradesh Government counsel Fali S Nariman for the stay of the high court order, saying if this was allowed then it would tantamount to continuing the reservation even when the matter is pending before the apex court for examining its’ constitutional validity.

Questioning the judgement of the high court mainly on the ground that it had not spelt out any reason for the rejection of the AP Backward Class Commission report which formed the basis for providing 5 per cent reservation to the backward Muslims, Nariman pleaded for the stay of the impugned judgement citing the provision of Article 16(4) of the Constitution, empowering states to pass a law to provide reservation to the people who were socially and economically backward.

But this was strongly countered by senior advocate Harish Salve, counsel for B Archana Reddy, who had challenged the validity of the Act before the high court stating that the totality of the circumstances under which the law was passed by the Congress government in the state should be taken into consideration.

He said the language of the ordinance and the subsequent Act made it clear that the law was not mainly intended to provide the reservation to the Muslims based on their social and economic backwardness, but to the community as a whole, which was against the provision of Article 15(4) of the Constitution, which prohibits any reservation based on religion.

“This Article does not allow distribution of seats according to communities so as to discriminate between classes who are not backward,” Salve said adding that the ruling Congress during campaign for Assembly elections had promised to provide reservation to the Muslims.

But the court made it clear that it would not go into any “political issue” and would examine the matter purely on “constitutional validity” while taking into consideration the A P Backward Class Commission report.

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