SC directs Karnataka not to implement scrapping of 4% quota for Muslims till 9 May; Amit Shah defends Karnataka

A bench said the earlier regime will continue until the next hearing, without any prejudice to the raised contentions.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 25, 2023 | 1:55 PMUpdatedApr 25, 2023 | 3:19 PM

The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 25 April, directed the Karnataka government not to implement till 9 May its decision to scrap the four percent quota for backward class Muslims as the state sought time to file its reply.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said the earlier regime of four percent quota to Muslims will continue to hold field till 9 May, when the matter will be heard next, without any prejudice to the contentions to be raised by the state government.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, said he would be filing the reply during the day.

“I will be filing it today, but the problem is I (solicitor general) am in personal difficulty as I am arguing before the Constitution Bench which is hearing pleas related to same-sex marriage. Kindly put the matter for some other day,” he told the bench.

Related: Karnataka seeks more time, assures SC no appointments will be made

‘Already deferred four times’

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners, opposed the request for adjournment by Mehta and said the hearing has already been deferred four times.

Mehta countered by saying the interim order passed by the court was already in the petitioners’ favour.

Dave requested the court to record the submission of Mehta that the impugned order, scrapping the quota for Muslims, will not be implemented and the earlier order of 30 March, 2002, granting the quota will hold the field till the next date of hearing.

The bench agreed with Dave and recorded the submission, while posting the matter for further hearing on 9 May.

On 18 April, the top court had deferred till 25 April the hearing on a batch of pleas challenging the scrapping of the four percent OBC Muslim quota.

It had recorded the assurance given by the state government on 13 April that no quota benefits in admission to educational institutions and appointments in government jobs will be given to Vokkaligas and Lingayats till the next date of hearing.

Amit Shah defends the decision

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday defended the decision of scrapping four percent quota for Muslims saying the party never believed in religion-based reservation’.

The former BJP chief also took a dig at Congress for its stand that the quota would be restored if it is voted to power in the state after the 10 May Assembly polls.

“There was a religion based reservation of four percent for Muslims. Without falling for the vote bank politics, the BJP government abolished the Muslim reservation,” he said addressing a public meeting at Terdal in the Bagalkote district.

“We believe that religion based reservation should not happen,” Shah opined.

The minister added that after abolishing Muslim reservation, the BJP government increased the reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Vokkaligas and Lingayats.

Referring to the Basavaraj Bommai government’s decision to increase the SC reservation from 15 percent to 17 percent, Shah noted that the internal reservation of SC (Left) now stands at six percent, SC (Right) 5.5 percent and other SCs 5.5 percent.

Responding to Congress president DK Shivakumar who has promised to restore the Muslim reservation if his party comes to power, Shah sought to know whose quota the party will scrap if it manages to form the government in Karnataka.

“Whose reservation will be decreased if four per cent reservation for Muslims is restored? Will it be Vokkaligas or Lingayat, Dalits, Scheduled Tribes or the Other Backward Castes?” the minister asked.

Related: Will abolish reservation for Muslims in Telangana: Amit Shah

‘Highly shaky ground’

On 13 April, the Karnataka government’s decision to scrap the four percent Muslim quota ahead of the Assembly polls came under the scanner of the Supreme Court, which questioned the government order and said prima facie it appeared to be on a “highly shaky ground” and “flawed”.

Taking note of the observations, the Karnataka government had assured the top court that it will put on hold its 24 March order by which it had given quotas in admission to educational institutions and appointment in government jobs to Vokkaligas and Lingayats, till the next date of hearing.

The four percent reservation for OBC Muslims was to be equally split between the two communities.

The top court said from the records tabled before it appears that the Karnataka government’s decision is based on “absolutely fallacious assumption”.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave and Gopal Sankarnarayanan, appearing for members of the Muslim community from Karnataka, said no study was conducted and there was no empirical data available with the government to scrap the quota for OBC Muslims.

Related: SC says decision to scrap reservation for Muslims seems ‘flawed’

Takes away Muslim reservation

The BJP-ruled government on 24 March, decided to do away with the four percent reservation quota for the OBCs among Muslims under the 2B category of reservation for backward communities.

After making the 2B category redundant, the four percent reservation exclusively for OBC Muslims will now be divided into two equal parts and will be added to the existing quota for the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats for whom two new reservation categories — 2C and 2D — were created during the Belagavi Assembly session in December last year.

Bommai said the religious minorities will be going from the four percent category to the 10 percent pool of the EWS group without any other changes.

The Cabinet, during the Belagavi Assembly session in December last year, did away with the 3A and 3B categories of reservation for Vokkaligas and Lingayats, respectively, placing them in the two new categories of 2C and 2D.

Backing the decision to take out religious minorities from the 2B reservation category, which is for the moderately backward community, Bommai said there is no constitutional provision for reservations for religious minorities.

In Andhra Pradesh, when the reservation for minorities was implemented, the court had struck it down, the chief minister said, adding that the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, too, had said that reservation was only for castes.

Also read: K’taka scrapped OBC quota for Muslims, can it be implemented? 

‘Based on social, educational backwardness’

Amit Shah had defended the BJP state government’s decision earlier also, insisting that the Constitution doesn’t allow for reservation on the basis of religion.

Experts have pointed to how the statement is misleading.

“Does the Union home minister not know that there are no reservations at all based on religious minority status?” asked Dr CS Dwarakanath, former chairman of the Karnataka Backward Class Commission.

“From the Nagana Gowda Commission report, Havannur Commission report, Justice Chinnappa Reddy Commission report to the Venkataswamy report, all of them categorise Muslims under backward classes. There is no religion or caste, but they used the word ‘class’,” he pointed out.

Dwarakanath added that the community was deemed “backward” because of its social and educational backwardness, not just economic backwardness.

“Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution point to the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth; and equality of opportunity in matters of public employment,” he told South First.

The Havanur Commission report — a thoroughly scientific report that even became the prelude to the Mandal commission — identified the Muslim community as a socio-economically backward class and recommended up to six percent reservation.

The community’s religious minority status was not the grounds on which these recommendations were made.

The Justice Chinnappa Reddy Commission deemed the Muslim community “More Backward” and included it in its Category II of OBCs along with 114 groups, including Buddhists and SC converts to Christianity, with a recommended reservation of 28 percent for the category.

The yardstick, once again, was social and educational backwardness.

(With PTI inputs)