Kerala High Court on Wednesday (May 18) issued a notice on a PIL filed challenging 50% reservation for Muslims in the state-run Institute of Career Studies & Research (ICSR) in Ponnani in Malappuram District of Kerala.
The institute was established in 2009 while the Communist government was in power in the state by then Minister for Local Administration, Paloli Mohammed Kutty.
The same government had passed an order in 2010 providing for reservation of 50% of the institute’s seats for Muslims and 10% seats for SC and ST students.
The government order also provides a waiver of fees for the said categories.
The Petitioner Arun Roy is an Advocate practising in the High Court who belongs to the Latin Catholic community.
The Petitioner argues that reservation cannot be granted based on religion. He has relied upon a 2005 Judgment of a five-judge Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which had struck down a 5% reservation provided by the Andhra Pradesh government in state government jobs. “Reservation on the basis of religion alone is in
violation of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India. Article 15(1) says that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. It is trite law that religious reservation is unconstitutional”, the Petition says.
The Petitioner also relies upon the Judgment of the Kerala High Court striking down a scholarship scheme by the Minority Welfare Department of the state granting benefit of 80% to Muslims and 20% to Christians. The Court had held that sub classifying the minorities for grant of benefits by the Minority Welfare Department is not permissible.
The Petitioner has also contended that the reservation that stands at 60% in the institute violates the law laid down by Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney’s case and the Maratha Reservation Case.
A Kerala government’s order of 2012 has also been produced before the High Court, which provided for an additional intake of 59 minority candidates in the Institute that year, thus taking the reservation granted Muslims to 74.78% that year.
As per the Kerala government’s orders, the expenditure incurred by waiver of fees for Muslim students will be reimbursed by the Minority Welfare Department of the state.
The Petitioner has contended that not even the economically affluent among the Muslim community is excluded from the benefit of waiver of the fee. “Since the 2nd Respondent that is managing the 4th Respondent institute is funded by grants from central and State Governments, tax payers' money is being expended to grant the
unconstitutional largesse to a religious community”, the Petition says.
The PIL says that the Kerala government granting undue largesse to a particular religious community will create a communal rift in the society.
“The State should never be party to an illegal attempt to increase the number of persons in the administrative services from a particular religious community. Cadres of the Administrative Services play a pivotal role in the administration of this diverse country. Any attempt to
manipulate the composition of the Services will have deleterious effect”, says the petition.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly issued notice on the PIL after hearing Advocate Arjun Venugopal, who appeared for the Petitioner. The state government sought ten days time to respond to the PIL.