Govt in fast lane on Muslim quota

via Courtesy:Daily Pioneer published on March 11, 2010

New Delhi : Amid growing clamour for Muslim sub-quota in women’ reservation Bill, the Congress-led Andhra Pradesh Government represented by Attorney General of India on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to fast-track the State’s appeal against quashing of its controversial Muslim reservation law by the State’s high court.

With appeals generally taking a month or two to get filed in the apex court and another month or two to be listed, the order passed by the court was as unusual as the request made by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati, appearing for the State.

Vahanvati requested the court to give an early hearing to decide the fate of the State legislation providing four per cent reservation for Muslims in admissions and public jobs, rendered infructuous by a seven-judge AP High Court order of February 8.

The Bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justices RM Lodha and BS Chauhan allowed the matter to be taken up for hearing on March 22.

The Government’s urgency to push for an early hearing of the case even caught the petitioners opposing the Muslim quota law by surprise. Senior advocate Ravi Shankar Prasad appearing for one of the petitioners in the HC wondered the cause for urgency. But the Attorney General shot back, “There is urgency as admissions have begun.”

The controversial legislation titled The Andhra Pradesh Reservation in Favour of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007 had proposed to allocate four per cent seats in the State-run educational institutions and public jobs to 15 Muslim groups identified as backward by an Expert Commission in 2007.

After a prolonged hearing, the AP High Court on February 8 had set aside the legislation as arbitrary and unconstitutional by a 5:2 majority. It failed to approve religion as a ground to classify backwards. The high court further noted that inherent in such a classification was a lurking danger encouraging conversion to Islam for securing reservation benefits.

The State Government further argued that over the years the reservation benefits had not percolated down to the Muslim community, which constitutes 9.2 per cent of the State’s population. The State contended that Muslims as a separate category must be considered for reservation.

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