Recently, the State Government has notified a decision taken by the cabinet to scrap the 4% backward classes quota for Muslims in Karnataka.
About the move:
The government's decision to scrap the 4% backward classes quota for Muslims as they have been recognised as a backward class in Karnataka for more than 100 years and to reallot the Muslim OBC quota to the two most dominant communities in the state, Lingayats and Vokkaligas.
Earlier, in October 2022, the government had increased the quota for SCs and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in government jobs and education by 2% and 4% respectively.
On October 9, the government accepted the recommendations of the Justice Nagamohan Das Committee, set up in 2018 — to increase SC and ST quotas.
The Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or posts in the services under the state) Bill, 2022, subsequently raised the SC quota from 15% to 17%, and the ST quota from 3% to 7%.
The government has asked the Centre to include the changes in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to prevent their overturning by the courts.
On March 24, 2023, the cabinet stopped recognising Muslims as a socially and educationally backward class.
Whereas, they divided their 4% OBC quota equally among Lingayats and Vokkaligas, socially dominant communities.
Why the court has challenged the decision:
The combined 6% SC-ST quota enhancement takes the total reservations in Karnataka to 56% (OBCs 32%, SCs 17%, and STs 7%), well above the 50% ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court in Indira Sawhney (1992).
Quota issue for minorities:
The government has cited a 2010 judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which struck down reservations for Muslims under the OBC quota as unconstitutional.
It has been argued that there was no empirical data to back the decision of the government to include Muslims in the OBC category in 1994.
Various commissions like the Miller Commission (1918), Chinnappa Reddy Commission (1990) etc. — recommended that Muslims should be classified as a backward community based on their social and educational backwardness.
Indra Sawhney Judgement:
Division of Backward Classes: Backward classes can be divided into backward and most backward classes, according to Article 16(4).
The promotion does not include any reservations.
Article 16(4) does not provide an exception to the general rule (1).
Article 16(4) defined socially and educationally backward classes differently than Article 15(4) defined socially and educationally backward classes.
The reservation’s Maximum Limit is 50%.
The backward classes must not include the creamy layer.
The Constitution Bench Judgment in M. Nagaraj (2006):
SC laid down certain conditions which included the collection of “quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment”
Jarnail Singh vs LachhmiNarain Gupta (2018):
The constitution bench invalidated the requirement to collect quantifiable data about Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but upheld the principle of applicability of the creamy layer aboutScheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
JaishriLaxmanraoPatil vs Chief Minister (2021):
Despite the Indra Sawhney ruling, there have been attempts on the part of many States to breach the rule by way of expanding the reservation coverage (e.g. Maratha reservation law)
The Supreme court had shut down Section 4(1)(a) and Section 4(1)(b)of the Maratha reservation law which provided 12% reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and 13% reservation in public employment respectively, citing the breach of the ceiling.