Holding that the Centre acted in a "casual manner", the Andhra Pradesh High Court today quashed the 4.5 per cent sub-quota to minorities carved out of 27 per cent OBC reservation--a verdict that may affect admissions already made in central educational institutions such as IITs.
In a setback to the Centre over the sub-quota issue, the Court said the Office Memorandum(OM) creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other consideration.
The December 22, 2011 OM for a subquota of 4.5 per cent for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens belonging to minority communities out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions and jobs was announced by the Centre ahead of the Assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The very use of the words "belonging to minorities" or "for minorities" indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any other intelligible basis, the bench observed while setting aside the sub-quota.
Shortly after the verdict was pronounced, the Congress treaded cautiously, saying the court judgement has to be read and understood.
"You cannot react to court judgments until you have perused, read, understood and appreciated..(We can comment)....After we receive copy of the judgment", party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters in Delhi.
Setting aside the OM, a division bench consisting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Sanjay Kumar said, "In fact, we must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the central government."
"No evidence has been shown to us by the learned Assistant Solicitor General to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogeneous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.
"We must, therefore, hold that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) do not form a homogeneous group but a heterogeneous group," it observed.
According to K Ramakrishna Reddy, senior counsel who argued for the petitioner R Krishnaiah-- a backward caste leader from Andhra Pradesh, the judgement may affect the admissions that have already been made in central educational institutions such as IITs.
"We have, therefore, no option but to set aside the carving out of a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent in favour of backward classes belonging to minorities out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in both the OMs dated 22.12.2011 and the Resolution dated 22.12.2011. We do so accordingly," the court said.
The first OM states that the 4.5 per cent sub-quota is carved out of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens "belonging to minorities" as defined in Section 2(c) of the NCM Act.
The resolution and the second OM created a sub-quota "for minorities".