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The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a petition moved by the Minority Indians Planning and Vigilance Commission Trust (Trust), seeking a direction to increase the percentage of reservation for the Muslim community in public employment in Kerala and to revise the state’s backward community list. The Court, however, granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the Kerala High Court.
The order was passed by a Bench of Justices SA Bobde, and RS Gavai.
In the petition drawn by advocate Haris Beeran and filed through advocate RS Jena, the petitioner had contended that it is imperative that the Kerala State Backward Classes Commission revise the backward community list, in line with the mandate in the Indra Sawhney case.
In this regard, the Commission’s duties under Section 9 of the Kerala State Backward Classes Act, 1993 was also highlighted. This provision lays down that the Commission is required to look into aspects of over inclusion and under inclusion of backward classes in the statutory list on the basis of requests or applications calling for the same.
However, as noted in the plea filed by the Trust, this statutory function has not been exercised by the commission since its creation despite several representations being made.
In particular, the Trust had drawn attention to the under-representation of Muslims in public employment. As per the petition,
“….[the] Muslim Community accounts for 26.9% and the SC and ST community accounts for 9 % and 1.2 % of the total population of the State of Kerala. A cursory glance at the various data would reveal the sorry state of affairs of Muslim Community and the SC and ST population in all aspects – social ,economic, and educational – vis a vis other backward communities in Kerala.”
In this backdrop, the petition referred to a study undertaken by the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath, an independent organisation, which revealed that the percentage of Muslims in public sector undertakings stood at 11.4 percent. The study thereby noted that the proportionate shortage of Muslims in public employment was the highest compared to other communities. As noted in the petition,
“The above data, as published by Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath in their publication in Sept 2006, presents the picture that forward community among Hindu and Christian have been over represented in public employment. The other backward Hindu Community Ezhava has also been adequately represented whereas the Muslim Community and SC / ST community along with certain other backward classes is lagging behind and is grossly under represented compared to their population strength.”
It goes on to state,
“Although the Muslim Community is extended the benefits of 12% quota reservation, the representation of them in government service is only 11.4%, despite the fact that Muslims accounts for 26.9% of the total population of the State. The other backward communities are also not adequately represented in government service in proportion to the percentage of their population.”
To further buttress their case, a report issued by the Justice Narendran Commission was also cited.
“The Justice Narendran Commission , appointed by the State Government in 2000, has also reported that Ezhava Community have got its share and at the same time the Muslim Community and SC/ST community is lagging behind and there is underrepresentation of more than 7890 posts as on 2000 itself.”
In view of these submissions, the Trust had argued that it is high time that the statutory list of backward communities be revised. It was pointed out that two reports i.e. the Justice KK Narendra Commission report, 2019 and the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report, 2006 have also highlighted the abject lack of data upon which the Backward Community Lists are prepared.
Several representations made raising these issues to the Kerala Backward Classes Commission and the State of Kerala (the last such representation having been made in January this year) yielded no positive response. The continued lack of response has led the Trust to contend,
“That the constitutional rights afforded to the backward class community , especially the Muslim Community (inasmuch as the whole Muslim community as a block has been included in the List as a Backward community in the State of Kerala) as well as SC/ST communities in the State of Kerala with respect to reservation in public employment coming under the purview of Article 16(4) has been completely sabotaged by the Respondent State by its willful inaction.”
Therefore, the Trust invoked the writ jurisdiction of the Court to intervene in the matter with the following prayers, i.e.
When the matter was taken up today, Senior Counsel Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the Supreme Court had been approached directly in the matter in view of the Supreme Court’s earlier direction in the Indra Sawhney case that any petition/proceeding concerning the validity, operation or implementation of reservation traceable to the Mandal Commission should be filed before the Supreme Court itself.
However, the Supreme Court today opted to grant the petitioner liberty to approach the Kerala High Court.