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The Andhra Pradesh high court on Monday set aside a controversial central government order, providing OBC minorities a sub-quota of 4.5% in central educational institutions and public sector establishments on the grounds that it has been implemented based on religious grounds and not on the ‘backwardness’ of the intended beneficiaries.

The Centre had on December 22, 2011 issued two memos providing 4.5% reservation for OBC minorities within the 27% OBC quota in central education institutions and central government jobs. The OBCs opposed the move contending that it is pegged purely on religious grounds and eats into their share of quota.

In Andhra Pradesh, R Krishaniah of AP State Backward Classes Association filed a petition in the high court on January 2, contending that the move is discriminatory on religious grounds and hence violates the Constitution.

While disposing of the petition on Monday, the special bench comprising Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Sanjay Kumar, pointed out that the government order violates Articles 15(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution. While Article 15(1) prevents the state from discriminating against a citizen based on religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, or residence, Article 16(2) states that no discrimination on these grounds can be shown by the state in government recruitments.

The court also agreed with the petitioner that articles 15(5) and 16(4) do not support the order of reservation as contended by the government. Article 15 (5) allows the state to make special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens relating to their admission to educational institutions including private institutions. Article 16(4) allows the state to make provisions for reservation in appointments or posts in favour of any backward classes which is not adequately represented in government services. Maintaining that reservations are purely meant for emancipation of backward classes, the court noted that the Centre had failed to satisfactorily show that the intended beneficiaries were more backward than the rest of OBCs to warrant preferential treatment.

In the court order, the bench remarked, “The very use of words ‘belonging to minorities’ or ‘for minorities’ indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any intelligible basis.”

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