Hyderabad: Taking a cue from the landmark verdict of the Bombay High Court on the reservation for Marathas which took the state’s total reservation quota beyond the Supreme Court-mandated 50 per cent cap, the Telangana state government is taking steps to examine the possibility of legal recourse to fulfill its promise of providing 12 per cent reservation to Muslims.
The Maharashtra Act, referred to as the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, passed by the Assembly on November 29, 2018, granted 16 per cent reservation to Marathas. The court ruled that the reservation should not exceed 12 per cent in government jobs and 13 per cent in educational institutions, as recommended by the Maharashtra Backward Classes Commission.
With 16 per cent reservation to Marathas, the total reservation in Maharashtra has reached 68 per cent. After the court verdict, the overall quota now stands at 62 per cent for jobs and 63 per cent in education.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which had promised 12 per cent reservation to Muslims during the 2014 elections, had on April 16, 2017, passed the Bill in a special session of the Assembly to allow a 12 per cent quota for the socially and economically backward classes among Muslims in both educational institutions and government jobs.
The government forwarded the Muslim Reservation Bill to the Centre with a request to incorporate the same in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution. It also passed a resolution asking the Centre to clear the Bill. The Centre categorically refused the request of the state government, stating that it cannot allow religion-based reservations.
The TS government has been arguing that they’re providing reservations to Muslims on the basis of the social and educational status of the community and that the reservation was finalised after duly constituting the Backward Classes Commission as the per the Constitution.
Telangana Backward Classes Commission chairman B.S. Ramulu said that after conducting the inquiry and collecting the data about the status of the state’s Muslim community, the commission has recommended reserving only nine per cent for Muslims while the state government had promised to reserve 12 per cent.
In view of the Bombay High Court’s verdict of upholding the reservation quota for Marathas, the commission will look into the legal aspect of the verdict and accordingly request the government for permission to implement the proposed reservation.
He pointed out that with the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, which came into force with effect from August 2018, the Centre has been arguing that the legislature was stripped of its power to declare a particular class to be socially and educationally backward.
In view of the Centre’s argument, the commission has to take opinion from legal experts before approaching the government.
However, the Bombay High Court in the Maratha reservation case examined the restriction imposed by the Centre under the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act and held that "the restriction imposed that it is only the Parliament which is empowered to include or exclude communities should apply to the Central list only".
The Bombay High Court pointed out that "the existence of the Central list of backward classes is distinct from the list of the State, which is prepared by the State for translating the enabling power conferred on it and in any contingency, Article 342(A) cannot be read to control the enabling power conferred on the state under Article 15 and 16".
The total percentage of reservations in Telangana state is currently 50 per cent including the four per cent reservation to Muslims under the BC-E category. If the Telangana state government provides 12 per cent reservation to Muslims, then the state’s total reservation percentage will climb to 58 per cent. In the case of nine per cent reservation, the state’s total reservation percentage will reach 55 per cent.
Senior counsel of the Supreme Court Sarasani Satyam Reddy said that although Maharashtra succeeded in the court of law, it cannot become the precedent for the Telangana state government to provide 12 percent reservation to the Muslims. He said that the Constitution does not allow religion-based reservations and explained that in Maharashtra’s case, the government provided reservations to the Maratha community only because it is a backward caste.
Senior counsel said that the verdict will have to stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.