Beyond the backwardness cap

Quota for Muslims beyond the 50 per cent ceiling in Telangana is justified

Written by Faizan Mustafa | Published:April 22, 2017 12:52 am
telangana, muslim quota bill, Telangana assembly, Telangana-muslim quota, muslim quota hiked, scheduled tribe, scheduled caste, reservation, telengana passes reservation bill, Telangana news, india news, indian express Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (File Photo)

On the day the BJP resolved in Bhubaneswar to reach out to Pasmanda (backward) Muslims, the Telangana assembly passed a law increasing the reservation for OBC Muslims in jobs and education from 4 per cent to 12 per cent. It asked the Centre to include the 62 per cent reservation in the state in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule — on the pattern of Tamil Nadu, which has 69 per cent reservation. The 50 per cent cap on reservation is a judicial innovation and is not mentioned in the Constitution. Ninety per cent of Telangana’s population is SC/ST and OBC; so, the 50 per cent limit is irrational in the state’s case. Since two five-judge benches and one seven-judge bench of the Hyderabad High Court had struck down reservation for Muslims earlier, the state government is keen to get its new reservation law inserted in Schedule Nine, which, as the law stands today, gives some protection against, but not complete immunity from, judicial review.

Technically speaking, the latest legislation cannot be called reservation for Muslims as the benefits will not accrue to all Muslims in the state. They will only be for some Muslim castes such as butchers, carpenters, gardeners and barbers. Similar occupational castes among the Hindus enjoy the benefits of reservation. The legislation passed by the Telangana assembly will thus benefit certain classes identified on the basis of social and educational backwardness. Strictly speaking, such reservation will not be against Article 15(1) of the Constitution which prohibits discrimination “only on the basis of religion”.

The Backward Classes Commission headed by B.S. Ramulu approved the findings of the G. Sudhir Commission (2016) which rightly found the 11 yardsticks for determining backwardness laid down by the Mandal Commission, and approved by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case, outdated. The parameters for reservation laid down in the Indra Sawhney case need to be reviewed.

In fact, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, is right in calling for an objective review of the reservation policy. In the Jat reservation case, the apex court has pointed out that new parameters to determine backwardness need to be evolved and we should move away from caste-centric parameters.

Accordingly, the Sudhir Commission has come up with an “index of deprivations” of all communities to show that while Hindu SCs/STs have an overall deprivation level of 82.8 per cent in Telangana, Muslims OBCs are next on the index with a score of 69.5 per cent. Hindu OBCs are doing much better with a deprivation index of 50.2 per cent — others have an extremely low deprivation index of just 20.5 per cent. Thus, on most  indicators, Muslims in Telangana have a  relatively high deprivation level.

In 2004, the Andhra Pradesh government directed its Commissionerate of Minority Welfare to submit a report on the social, economic and educational backwardness of the Muslim community. A government order was issued on the basis of the Commissionerate’s report in 2004 providing 5 per cent reservation for the entire Muslim community, treating it as a backward class. The High Court struck down this reservation in the T. Muralidhar Rao case (2004) on the technical ground that the Backward Classes Commission was not consulted.

In compliance with the directive, the state referred the issue to the Backward Classes Commission. Based on the commission’s report, the state government promulgated an ordinance in 2005, declaring the entire Muslim community as backward. It provided 5 per cent reservation to the community. The High Court again struck down this reservation in the B. Archana Reddy case (2005) on the ground that while the benefit was extended to the entire Muslim community, the Backward Classes Commission had not identified the community’s social backwardness properly. The five-judge bench, though, reiterated that there was no bar on declaring Muslims, as a community, socially and educationally backward, provided they satisfy the test of social backwardness.

To meet these gaps, the state referred the matter to the Backward Classes Commission again and legislated an act in 2007. But the High Court refused to accept the Commission’s recommendations, again arguing that it had failed to evolve scientific criteria to determine Muslim relative backwardness. However, the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case did hold that the “Muslim community as a whole may be found socially backward”.

The Backward Classes Commission’s latest recommendation has evolved scientific criteria through a “deprivation index” which demonstrates that in educational attainment, Muslims are 14 per cent behind STs and 60 per cent behind other Hindus. In work participation, they are 32 per cent below the SCs and 41 per cent below the STs. In the landholding index, Muslim community households are 60 per cent below the SCs and 70 per cent below STs. There is also the issue of social backwardness within the community. This author was told that many Muslims refuse to pray under an imam from the Noorbash caste. One hopes that the issue will not be used to polarise society for electoral benefits.

The writer is vice chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. Views are personal

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    Aariz Mohammed
    Apr 25, 2017 at 9:35 pm
    See-4 [ last part] Keeping the legislative body ignorant of these issues and enacting such a law amounts to violation of Democratic principles. Earlier on this issue the AP High Court made serious observations and it seems the advisors to CM simply ignored this. It seems, as some of the advisors are against Muslim reservations in the earlier case, they have vested interested in making the issue more complicated hence misguided the CM.
    Reply
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      Aariz Mohammed
      Apr 25, 2017 at 9:34 pm
      After 3 Part [ I tried to post it on the same day but the site didn't allowed me post ] The Apex court is clear about overriding 50 cap and asks for quantifiable data proof for such action. The CM used this word several times but the report won’t have such data in comparison. Firstly it should be the job of BC Commission to have Comparative data of Existing BCs with Muslims, SCs and STs and propose recommendation which was absent and there was no BC Commission Report as it was not circulated in the embly on the day of discussion. Secondly even the Sudhir Commission Report couldn’t have such data. The criteria followed to identify BCs in Mandal case needs to be revisited as the society is dynamic and such criteria needs to be evolved either by the governments or by respective commissions and Court commented on this in Jat reservations case, yet such criteria was not evolved or placed before the legislative body. See-4
      Reply
      1. V
        Vinay
        Apr 23, 2017 at 10:28 pm
        Time for quotas is over. Now it's time to deliver results. Whatever background you are , you need to deliver .
        Reply
        1. N
          nirupam
          Apr 23, 2017 at 9:34 pm
          This is hallmark fo muslims that for self cause they overlook condition,supreme court and give false message to their m es . When turned down by courts they create hysteria and see cause of Darul Harab Muslims should be evacuated from India
          Reply
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            Aariz Mohammed
            Apr 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm
            3:- The due process requires recommendation of the ST commission also in the case of STs While addition or deletion in the list. The government added two communities into the state ST list without even having ST commission in the state which was a fallacy and a violation of cons utional procedure. Thirdly, How can the ST reservation and BC reservations can clubbed together and enhanced through one act is another procedural laps. The BC reservations are in the ambit of State and the ST reservations are a centers affair. Further, it was understood that the BC commission endorsed Sudhir Commission report on Muslim case how fall in BC[E] category where the methodology couldn’t prove the Backwardness of the said cl es in comparison with existing BCs. The sociological Backwardness, Educational Backwardness were not defined in the Sudhir Commission though it has to be done by BC Commission.
            Reply
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              Aariz Mohammed
              Apr 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm
              - see2 On the premise of such act the government should have asked the relevant commission to meet the requirements of their statutes by that addition and deletion of the respective lists that is SC, ST, BC list could have undertaken. Unfortunately, neither in the case of ST quota extension nor in the case of BC[E] quota extension the procedure is ignored. This may appear to be a bias towards one particular community, in this case Muslims. Secondly, BC Commission is mandated to recommend reservations to Backward cl es as per Article 340 of the Cons ution and the Government neither placed the BC Commissions Report in the embly or its recommendations while proposing the enhancement of BC[E] category reservations. Same is the case with ST enhancement also. Though the ST enhancement has cons utional obligation the methodology needs to be followed which was ignored here.
              Reply
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                Aariz Mohammed
                Apr 23, 2017 at 1:24 pm
                The contentions of the TRS Government and the commitment of KCR to address the Backwardness in the state through cons utional means is clear by this act. But the Courts look into the the cons utionality, procedure and the technicalities that needs to be followed as mandated. On these front either the advisors missguided the CM or the flaws were fallacies. First thing is : Government should have come out with a Reservation policy given the birth of new state and the demographic shift. This needs the cons ution of a body with stakeholders that is SC, ST, BC commissions that could undertake the challenge of increasing reservations beyond 50 with necessary dataproof as asked by the Supreme court in many judgements. After a due discussion on the floor of embly the Government might have come up with an enactment of extending the reservations to the required number to accommodate different categories of 'Backwards". - see 2.
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                  Antony
                  Apr 23, 2017 at 11:18 am
                  India will never become a developed country unless the reservation system based on caste and religion is not stopped by this ic politicians!
                  Reply
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