The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No thaw in Muslim quota freeze
- SC hands Andhra reservation row to Constitution bench

New Delhi, Jan. 4: The five per cent quota for Andhra Pradesh Muslims in jobs and educational institutions stays in limbo till a Constitution bench finally decides the matter, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The apex court today declined to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment quashing the ordinance that provided for the reservations, and referred the case to a Constitution bench.

“We are not inclined to stay the operation of the (high court) judgment and make it operational as it has invalidated the law,” a bench of chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal and justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveenderan said in an interim order.

But the bench gave relief to those who have already got admitted to colleges or have been given jobs under the quota.

“Status quo should continue to the extent that such persons who have been granted admission in the educational institution would continue with the course' and likewise appointment, if any, to public service is made, the same should not be disturbed,” the bench said.

Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s Congress government had introduced the quotas on July 12, 2004, less than two months after coming to power in Andhra Pradesh. The high court, however, struck down the order as “untenable” on September 21 that year. It told the state to set up a backward class commission to identify those among the Muslims who deserve reservation and work out a way to eliminate the “creamy layer” from time to time.

Based on the commission’s recommendations, the state government introduced the same quota again in October 2005 but the high court quashed it on November 7, saying the commission had given the government “defective advice”.

The survey appeared to have been done “in a haste by assessing minorities in only nine of the 23 districts of the state”, the five-judge division bench had said. It ruled that the commission had failed to prove that all Muslims of the state were socially and educationally backward.

Today, the apex court admitted a bunch of appeals, including one from the Andhra Pradesh government, against the high court verdict.

Fali S. Nariman, appearing for the state government, sought a stay on the judgment. This was opposed by Harish Salve, who argued for the students on whose petition the high court had quashed the ordinance.

The court said if the judgment were stayed, a law held to be unconstitutional would continue to operate till the Constitution bench decided the matter. The court also went through the backward class commission’s report.

Nariman argued the high court should not have quashed the ordinance and, instead, ordered the report to be sent back to the commission. Salve retorted that nobody had stopped the state from doing this.

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