J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on March 22 an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government against a judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court holding as unconstitutional the four per cent quota provided for Muslims in educational institutions and employment.

A three-Judge Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice B.S. Chauhan fixed the date of hearing after Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the State pleaded for early listing since there was some urgency in the matter. Senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad, appearing for the respondents said there was no question in this matter as “religion based reservation has no place in the Constitution.”

No discrimination

Assailing the High Court judgment dated February 8, the State in its SLP said the court had erred in considering the Muslim quota legislation to be a case of discrimination on the basis of religion. The SLP said, “It is not a case of discrimination on the basis of religion. On the contrary, the legislation had removed the discrimination on the basis of religion that existed against the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEdBCs) of Muslims of A.P.”

It pointed out that while providing reservation for SEdBCs belonging to the Hindu community the corresponding and comparable social groups in the Muslim community had been denied reservation in education and employment till the legislation was brought. The legislation was intended to remove the inequality on the ground of religion and to provide equal treatment for SEdBCs of the Muslim community and corresponding or comparable SEdBCs of the Hindu community.

The State pointed out that the petitioners before the High Court had not produced any material to show that the classification of SEdBCs of Muslim community by the impugned Act was unwarranted. It said an invidious discrimination that de facto existed against these social groups of the Muslims all along compared to similarly situated and comparable SEdBC social groups of Hindus had been removed.