The Supreme Court expressed displeasure over political comments being made in a sub judice matter before it concerning the scrapping of 4% OBC quota for Muslim community in Karnataka. The bench of Justices KM Joseph, BV Nagarathna and Ahsanuddin Amanullah cautioned public functionaries against politicising issues that are pending before it. The bench was informed by Senior Counsel Dushyant Dave appearing for the petitioner, “Every day the (Union) Home Minister says we have scrapped the “Muslim” quota. Mr Mehta represents the same party (BJP), it is contempt of Court.”
To this, Justice Nagarathna said, “If this is really true, why are such statements being made? There has to be some [control] … by public functionaries. When matter is sub judice and before this Court, such statements should not be made,” reported Bar and Bench.
The Karnataka government’s March 27 order to give the 4% quota to two dominant communities, snatching it from the Muslims was largely seen as an appeasement policy toward these communities in the light of the upcoming Assembly elections.
While speaking at India today’s Karnataka Roundtable on April 22, 2023, Amit Shah had said, “The Congress party had illegally kept four per cent reservation for Muslims in the state. The Constitution of India does not allow reservations on the basis of religion. Thus, the BJP government in Karnataka ended this practice and worked for the OBC reservation.” The bench took objection to these statements.
At the last hearing on april 13, 2023 the court did not stay the government’s decision since the state government had assured the court that no appointments or admissions will be made pursuant to the GO.
Prima facie shaky decision
During the April 13 hearing, the bench had found the Karnataka government’s decision to scrap the 4% OBC quota for Muslim community to be prima facie flawed and shaky. The government had issued a GO on March 27 whereby it removed Muslim community from the 4% OBC reservation and distributed it equally to two dominant communities, Veerashaiva-Lingayats and Vokkaligas.
The bench had noted that the government had based its decision on an interim report of a cabinet sub-commitee, “Why could you not wait for the final report? What was the great hurry?” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Karnataka government. The court also noted that all previous reports of committees had termed Muslims a socially and educationally backward class.
“The community was identified as socially and educationally backward in three previous reports and were given reservations for nearly three decades. How can you subscribe to the correctness of a government order which turns a blind eye to these reports and is in the teeth of such reports?” the bench had asked.
SG Mehta had submitted that he will submit all relevant papers which were the basis of this decision and stated that there is no provision in the Constitution to provide reservation on the basis of religion. He also pointed out that eligible Muslims were still being given the benefits of reservations under economically weaker sections (EWS) now. The bench retorted that this OBC quota was not about religion and was about socially and educationally backward classes.