The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday received a major boost with the Supreme Court, in an interim order, upholding the validity of four per cent reservation provided to backward members of Muslim community in the State.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices J.M. Panchal and B.S. Chauhan, however, referred the issue to a Constitution bench to examine the validity of the impugned Act since it involved important issues of the Constitution.

The bench passed the direction while dealing with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the government against an order of Andhra Pradesh High Court which had earlier struck down the provision as being unconstitutional.

A seven-judge Constitution bench of the High Court had by a majority judgement of 5:2 held the Andhra Pradesh Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007 “unsustainable” and violative of Article 14 (equality before law) and other provisions pertaining to prohibition of discrimination by State on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

The High Court, while setting aside the state Act, had also quashed a subsequent 2007 government order allocating four per cent reservation to Muslim groups in educational institutions and jobs.

The State had moved a bill in the Assembly on the basis of a report submitted to it by Andhra Pradesh Commission for Backward Classes (APBC). The bill was later passed by the Assembly.

The report had recommended that the socially and educationally backward should be adequately represented in the State.

The High Court held that the recommendation made by the APBC was unsustainable as it failed to evolve and spell out proper and relevant criteria for identification of social and educational backwardness and inadequate representation in public employment among classes or persons belonging to Muslim community.

It said the data was not collected properly by the APBC for determining the social and educational backwardness of the Muslims in the state.

The High Court said the Commission relied on data collected and observations made by Anthropological Survey of India which was meant to make an anthropological profile of Indian population and has no relevance to the affirmative action or reservation under Article 15(4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution which enables a State to make law on reservation.