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The Andhra Pradesh High Court Monday quashed a legislation providing four percent reservation to Muslims in education and jobs, terming it unconstitutional.

Delivering the much-awaited judgement, the seven-member constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice A.R. Dave ruled that reservation cannot be provided on the basis of religion.

It was a majority judgement by the seven-judge bench. Five judges, including Dave, opposed the reservations. Two judges differed with their opinion.

The court verdict has come as a big blow to the Congress government, which had brought the legislation in 2007 providing four percent reservation to certain backward groups among Muslims.

Some individuals and organisations had challenged the bill, contending that the reservations were unconstitutional. This is the third time since 2004 that the high court has quashed quota for Muslims.

Ramakrishna Reddy, counsel of one of the petitioners, told reporters that the court upheld their argument that the survey conducted by the state backward classes commission to identify backward groups among Muslims was not scientific.

The bench observed that the survey on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims was conducted only in six districts and that the backward classes commission relied only on the report of the Krishnan commission appointed by the government.

In 2004, the state government had provided five percent reservation to Muslims but the high court had quashed the order.

However, on the court’s advice, the government reconstituted the backward classes commission and directed it to conduct a detailed survey of the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.

On the recommendations of the commission, the government issued an ordinance in 2005 and subsequently the assembly passed legislation for five percent reservation.

However, the high court set aside the legislation on the ground that this would exceed the 50 percent total reservation limit set by the Supreme Court.

In an attempt to keep the reservations within the 50 percent limit, the government reduced the quantum to four percent and issued an order in 2007 providing four percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions for 15 socially and educationally backward classes among Muslims.

The government brought an ordinance, which was later replaced by a legislation passed by the assembly.

The four percent quota was also challenged in the high court. The petitioners argued that the government identified backward classes in the community without gathering scientific data.

The high court, in its interim order, permitted admissions made under the quota. This was challenged by the petitioners in the Supreme Court. The apex court stayed the implementation of the order but left it to the high court to dispose off the batch of writ petitions

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