New Delhi/Hyderabad, June 13 (IANS) In a major setback for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) central government, the Supreme Court Wednesday rejected its plea to stay an Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict quashing a 4.5 percent sub-quota for religious minorities.
An apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice J.S. Khehar said the 4.5 precent sub-quota within the 27 percent reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was "not in conformitywith Article 15 of the Constitution".
The court questioned the government whether it can provide a quota on the basis of religion.
The centre had issued an Office Memorandum (OM) on Dec 22, 2011 providing the sub-quota for minorities in jobs and central educational institutions like the IITs. The apex court, however, said the OM had no constitutional and statutory support.
The bench was not satisfied with the data and the documents submitted by the human resource development ministry to make a case for a sub-quota. The court had June 11 directed the ministry to place before it the material it relied on while creating the sub-quota.
The court order could affect the admission of students from the minority community to the IITs. As many as 325 candidates have been short-listed under the sub-quota for counseling after this year's joint entrance examination.
The human resource development ministry had challenged the May 28 order of Andhra Pradesh High Court quashing the sub-quota.
The bench, comprising then Chief Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar, declared that this action of the central government was based upon religious lines and not on any other intelligible consideration.
The high court, which was dealing with a petition by backward classes welfare association, had also expressed deep anguish at the casual manner in which the issue was dealt by the central government and said that it had exceeded constitutional boundaries.
The high court opined that the OM violates Article 15 (1) and 16 (2) of the Indian constitution which prohibit discrimination based on religion.
The centre had issued OM ahead of the January-March assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states.