The Supreme Court on Thursday, 13 April, expressed its inclination to stay a Government Order (GO) passed by the Karnataka government scrapping the four percent reservation for Backward Class (BC) Muslims.
The apex court bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said that prima facie, the Cabinet's decision appears to suggest that the foundation of the decision-making process is "highly shaky and flawed," LiveLaw reported.
This came after a petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka government's decision to scrap the three-decade-old four percent BC reservation provided to Muslims under Category 2B.
After the Supreme Court expressed its inclination to stay the government order, the Karnataka government assured that no admissions or appointments would be made in pursuance of the GO, till 18 April – the next date of hearing.
What Transpired in the Courtroom
Justice Joseph, remarking on the withdrawal, said, "On the face, they (Muslims) have been enjoying this position for a very long time...On basis of documents produced, Muslims are backward and then suddenly it is changed," LiveLaw reported.
He added, "This is the season of admissions. Schools reopen in June or even earlier. Whether they are going to act on this report, we must know."
Senior Advocates Dushyant Dave and Kapil Sibal appeared for the Muslim community.
Dave said that the interim report cited by the government itself advised against altering the existing status of reservation without proper study. However, he added, the government proceeded to withdraw reservation for Muslims by "falsely claiming" there is no empirical data.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed that as per Justice Chinappa Reddy report, Muslims are only educationally backward.
This was disagreed with by Dave, who said that the report clearly states that Muslims are socially and educationally backward.
He was further quoted as saying:
"My reservation is removed and given to some else few days before elections. They have removed four percent reservation for Muslims in Karnataka. It's completel against a series of SC judgements. Completely unconstitutional! Why is it done overnight? On the eve of election? Without any report? It's against theIt's against the 1996 Statute."
The New Reservation List Explained
Just before the Assembly elections were announced, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai's Cabinet on 25 March, increased reservation, provided under the BC list, for the Panchamasali Lingayats and Vokkaligas. The state also clearly demarcated sub-caste reservations among Scheduled Castes.
To increased the reservation for Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the cabinet scrapped reservation for Muslims in the state, who will now have to claim reservation under the EWS quota and not 2B category of the BC list.
The government included the Panchamasali Lingayats under the new 2D category of the BC list and increased their reservation from 5 percent to 7 percent.
The government included the Vokkaligas under the new 2C category of the BC list and increased their reservation from 5 percent to 7 percent.Expand
Muslims' Transfer to EWS Category 'An Eyewash'
Speaking to The Quint, Nizam Pasha, an advocate representing the Muslim community, said:
"There are a lot of factual inaccuracies in the government's order. The order of the AP High Court that has been relied upon in the government order has been stayed by the SC. Further, it’s completely wrong to say no study was done at the time of granting the reservation. Also, saying that the basis for reservation was religion is incorrect (as stated by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on 25 March). Religion was only the parameter for identifying the communities that were surveyed. The reservation was on the basis of backwardness. The Justice Chinappa Reddy report in 1990 clearly found that Muslims were an educationally and socially backward class."
The state government had cited an interim report of the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes as basis for their decision.
The Supreme Court stated that the Karnataka government could have waited for the final report before revoking the reservations provided to Muslims, LiveLaw reported.
The advocate added:
"Finally, the transfer of Muslims from OBC to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) is an eyewash. The benefit of belonging to the EWS category is given to individuals from the general category on the basis of family income, landholding etc. The benefit of EWS quota cannot be given to an entire community without reference to individual income. This is a withdrawal of reservation, not a transfer.”