Hyderabad, Sept. 21: Andhra Pradesh High Court today struck down the state government's order providing 5 per cent reservation to Muslims in jobs and educational institutions.
The court said the July 12 order was 'untenable' and directed the new Congress government led by Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy to set up a backward class commission within three months to identify sections among minorities deserving reservation.
The bench directed the government to ensure that the new backward class commission evolves a mechanism to eliminate the creamy layer from time to time to maintain the 50 per cent reservation limit as directed by the Supreme Court in 1992.
The verdict has come at a wrong time for the Congress, which has fielded a defector, D. Nagender, for the Asifnagar Assembly byelection. A former Congress member, Nagender had switched loyalties to the Telugu Desam Party but changed camps again after Desam's rout in the last polls.
Reddy shrugged off the court order, saying nothing was lost and reaffirmed the party's pre-poll commitment to the minorities. 'We had well-meaning intentions. It is only a technical setback. The advocate-general is reviewing the situation,' he said.
The chief minister said his government did not consider Muslims a religious minority. 'They are among the poorest of the poor in the state as a fallout of the derailment of the Nizam's rule. They deserve all support and promotion.'
The verdict came on a public interest litigation filed by Muralidhar Rao, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary. The court had initially stayed the operation of the government order.
The bench said the method of assessing 'backwardness' among Muslims was not 'scientific and rational'. It said the minority commission report, on which the government order was based, was 'not in order' and did not meet the requirements of a proper survey and the state did not consult the backward class commission before issuing the order, which is mandatory.
MIM leader Assauddin Owaisi said the verdict was expected. 'It is the same old story of reservations' for backward classes made by the NTR government in the past which were also set aside on the same lines,' he said.
Accusing the Congress of deliberately putting up a weak defence in court, he said: 'Justice does not come easy for weaker sections.'
BJP state president . Indrasena Reddy said the verdict has exposed what he called the half-hearted measure of the Congress government. 'Instead of hastily taking up reservation, the government should have reconstituted the backward classes commission and sought a report at the earliest,' he said.