Thursday, April 8, 2010

AP Highcourt Quashes Quota for Muslims

Article 25 of the Constitution provides that every citizen has a right to profess, practice and propagate any religion.  Item No.15 of the Schedule potentially encourages a citizen to convert to Islam, with a view to claim the benefits of reservation.  If a person, who is not a Muslim and who belongs to a forward caste embraces Islam, then the question would arise as to in which group he would fall.  If he does not belong to any of the groups specifically narrated in the Schedule appended to the impugned Act, he would be included in “other Muslim groups” i.e. he would be in Item No.15; but as he would not be in groups, which have already been referred to in Item No.15 (i.e. the excluded communities), he would be a member of “other Muslim groups” and would be eligible for the reservation provided he is not a member of a creamy layer.  In such an event, in our opinion, anybody can avail the benefit of reservation under the impugned Act and that would be against the spirit of secularism and in equal measure subversive of the purposes for which the 2007 Act has been enacted as well.  This is a significant aspect, which has not been considered at all while enacting the impugned Act and this would have disastrous consequences.  Not only unscrupulous persons embracing Islam would get the benefit of reservation, but that would result in depletion of the opportunities of enjoying reservation by those Muslim groups, who are otherwise entitled to the benefit of reservation in pursuance of the impugned enactment.
202.     Further, it is also to be noticed that the 2007 Act does not define the word “Muslim”. In the absence of any definition in the Act, naturally we have to fall back to the dictionary meaning. According to Oxford Dictionary, “Muslim” means, ‘a follower of the religion of Islam’.  The meaning given in the Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary to the word “Muslim” would read that he is ‘a believer in Islam’.  Taking the dictionary meaning, a Muslim is a person who sincerely embraces the religion of Islam and believes in Islam. The word “Islam” has been defined by the New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English language, as ‘the religion of the Muslims, which maintains that there is but one God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his Prophet; Mohammedanism’.  It would also mean ‘the body of Muslim believers, their culture, and the countries they inhabit.’   It has been defined by the new Oxford Dictionary of English, as the ‘religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Mohammed as the Prophet of Allah.’  Thus, a Muslim is a person, who tries to worship God by following the teachings of Prophet Mohammed.  Therefore, any follower of Islam can be regarded as a Muslim. The Legislature ought to have taken care, while making the enactment, to define the word “Muslim” and the phrase “other Muslim groups” and state clearly as to who actually falls within these definitions, for enjoying the benefits under this Act.
203.     Looking to the facts of the case, in our opinion, the 2007 Act is religion specific and potentially encourages religious conversion, and is thus unsustainable.

Full Text of the Judgment here..

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