Judicial red flag for religion-based quota
By The New Indian Express
14th June 2012 12:54 AM
For now, the Supreme Court has refused to allow the Centre to create a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities in central educational institutions. The quota, carved out of the 27 per cent quota for OBCs, was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court last week and the Centre had rushed into an appeal against that order. Castigating the Centre for its ‘casual approach’ to such a sensitive issue, the apex court had asked it to submit the material that formed the basis of its decision. Even after this was done on Wednesday, the court has put the government’s move on hold. The immediate impact of its verdict would be on the nearly 350 IIT aspirants who had been shortlisted under the provision. The decision would also deter the Centre and state governments from adopting a similar ploy to woo minorities till the final adjudication of the constitutional validity of religion-based quotas.
From the day the government issued the order it was clear that the decision would hit a legal wall. The constitution unequivocally prohibits reservations on religious grounds. The argument that the sub-quota was for benefits to the socially and economically backward among minority communities was flawed. Socially and economically backward sections of people exist across all religions and there was no need for the government to specifically identify the lesser privileged only among the minorities.
A similar move by Andhra Pradesh government in 2007 has been struck down by the high court and the matter is pending before the Supreme Court. The Centre should have waited for its verdict before moving forward. Apparently, vote bank considerations on the eve of State Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states blinded the government to the quota’s constitutional impropriety. While the final word on the issue will come only after the court scrutinises documents submitted by the government in justification, its refusal to revive the quashed sub-quota is a warning to governments. They must desist from concocting religion-based quotas under disguise till the court settles the law.
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