Court records Karnataka govt.’s oral assurance that no appointment will take place till next hearing; State to file counter affidavit; petitioner says no empirical data collected to support move
The Supreme Court on Thursday orally told the BJP-ruled Karnataka government that its March 27 order scrapping the 4% OBC quota for Muslims and dividing it between Vokkaliga and Lingayat castes in the State is based on “absolutely fallacious assumptions”.
“For a very long period, Muslims have been treated as a ‘more backward’ community. They were sandwiched somewhere between the ‘most backward’ and ‘backward’ communities. Suddenly you have taken reservation benefits away from them… I have to speak my mind here, so that you can respond… What strikes me as a student of law is that the order is based on absolutely fallacious assumptions,” Justice K.M. Joseph, heading a Bench also comprising Justice B.V. Nagarathna, addressed Karnataka government, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Justice Nagarathna said the State has excluded Muslims from the backward classes list during the season of admissions in educational institutions. “Are you going to act on this order?” Justice Nagarathna asked the government.
Justice Joseph said the State has to give an assurance that it would not act on the order.
The court finally recorded in its judicial order an oral assurance given by the State that “no appointment or admission is going to take place till April 18”, which is the next date of hearing. The court gave the State three days to file its counter affidavit.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for petitioner L. Ghulam Rasool, said the State had removed Muslims from the backward class list and included them under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category without any empirical data collected or study done to support the move. The order was based on an “interim” report from the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission.
He submitted that the inclusion of Muslim community in the EWS list illegally implied that the community was not socially and educationally backward.
“After 50 years, they removed the reservation for Muslims overnight and gave it to somebody else. This was done just two days before the State Assembly elections were announced. You want to favour Vokkaligas and Lingayats, do that. But don’t take away reservations given to Muslims... They don’t want to displease others, but we are dispensable,” Mr. Dave submitted.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, also for the petitioner, said reports dating back from 1995 conclude that Muslims have the highest rate of illiteracy in the State and the community sees the highest dropouts from school.
Advocate Ravivarma Kumar, for the petitioner side, added that other minority communities, including Christians, Buddhists, Jain, etc., continue in the backward classes list. “All except Muslims,” he said.
Mr. Mehta submitted that the Justice Chinnappa Reddy Commission report had said Muslims were only economically backward and not socially backward.
“This is completely wrong. The Commission said the Muslims as a whole were socially and educationally backward. I have the report with me,” Mr. Dave interjected vehemently.
Mr. Mehta then said there should not have been religion-based reservation.
To this, Mr. Dave argued that the reservation in favour of the Muslim community was not on religious lines but rather on account of the community being socially and educationally backward.
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