The quota debate: Can Telangana manage to bring in 12% reservation for Muslims and STs?

The CM has promised to move heaven and earth in order to make it happen - and he might just have to do all that.
The quota debate: Can Telangana manage to bring in 12% reservation for Muslims and STs?
The quota debate: Can Telangana manage to bring in 12% reservation for Muslims and STs?

It was one of the poll promises of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. And while KCR has been talking about bringing in a 12% quota each for poor Muslims and STs for a long time, this Budget Session, he is bullish on the issue.

Last week, KCR said in the state Assembly that he will “move heaven and earth” to make the reservations happen. But exactly what does the process involve, and are there Constitutional provisions that would allow him to do it?

There are two issues with the quota proposal: Firstly, the Andhra Pradesh High Court, before the bifurcation of Andhra and Telangana, has ruled that the Muslim quota is unconstitutional. Secondly, the combined increase in Muslim and ST quotas will take the total reservation in Telangana to over 50%, which is the limit set by the Supreme Court.

Article 16(4) of the Constitution gives power to the state to bring in reservations in educational institutions and jobs for ‘any backward class of citizens’ that the state feels is not adequately represented.

However, in 1992, the Supreme Court had ruled that the extent of this reservation cannot go beyond 50%.

By increasing the Muslim quota from the existing 4% to 12%, and the ST quota from the existing 6% to 12%, Telangana will far exceed the upper limit set by the Supreme Court by 14%.

But Telangana has one way to ensure that no court in India can invalidate their proposal for reservations - to go the Tamil Nadu way.

How Tamil Nadu has 69% quota

Tamil Nadu is the only state in India which has over 50% reservations in educational institutions, despite the Supreme Court order.

And they managed it back in 1994 by getting the Central government to amend Schedule 9 of the Constitution. Schedule 9 is a list of laws that state governments have brought in that are exempt from any judicial review - which means that Tamil Nadu’s 69% quota for backward classes cannot be challenged by anyone in any court of law in India.

Taking a leaf out of Tamil Nadu’s book, Telangana Chief Minister KCR, too, wants to amend Schedule 9 in order to increase the Muslim quota in his state.

But unlike Tamil Nadu’s case in 1994, he doesn’t have an approving government at the Centre. The BJP has already slammed KCR’s statement, and has accused him of going against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order, calling the Muslim quota unconstitutional.

In a statement, Telangana BJP President, Dr K Laxman said, "Chief Minister KCR's statement that they would achieve 12% reservation for Muslims by moving heaven and earth shows he does not have respect for Constitution and courts…He is trying to cheat Muslims in the state by promising the impossible. There are previous judgments from courts that shot down similar proposals. This is nothing but a move to garner votes from the minority community for the TRS." 

The BJP also held a massive 'Chalo Assembly' protest on March 23, which saw scores of party activists being detained across Hyderabad.

Even AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, has asked KCR to be 'cautious', saying, "If the Telangana government’s proposal to increase Muslim reservation to 12% gets caught up in courts, Muslims may lose even the existing 4%."

So while KCR can pass a law in the Telangana Assembly to introduce the two quotas, it is not just likely, but certain that the law will be challenged in court, unless he manages to convince the Centre to amend Schedule 9.

The jury is out on whether the Telangana Chief Minister can win this political battle.

With inputs from Nitin B

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