In a setback to the Andhra Pradesh government, the high court quashed the four percent reservation for the 15 socially and educationally backward Muslim classes on Monday.
While members of the seven-judge bench including Chief Justice A R Dave ruled that the 'Andhra Pradesh Reservation in Favor of Socially and Educational Backward Classes of Muslims Act 2007' was unsustainable and unconstitutional, two judges took a different stand.
The judgment has put the future of thousands of students who had got admission into professional colleges and employees who had got jobs under the quota in a quandary.
The state government has decided to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court to secure a stay order against the high court judgment.
The Chief Minister K Rosaiah directed the advocate general to initiate immediate steps to file the SLP in Supreme Court.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party hailed the judgment saying there was no provision in the Constitution for the religion-based reservations.
Political party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has warned that it would start statewide agitation to force the government to safeguard the interests of the community.
This is the third time since 2004 when the Andhra Pradesh government's attempt to provide reservations to the Muslim community failed the judicial scrutiny.
Earlier, the high court had quashed the government order of 2004 and another Act in 2005.
The Muslim reservations Act passed by the AP assembly on July 24, 2007 was challenged in the high court by petitioners including a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Murlidhar Reddy.
Chief Justice Dave said they found the act unsustainable because the report of the backward classes commission, on the basis of which the government usually provided reservations, was unsustainable.
"Hence the government orders 230 and 231 can not be sustained and they are quashed," he said.
Justice T Minakumari, who was among the five judges, found the act unconstitutional. She said the commission report was insufficient and was prepared with out proper survey. She also noted that the survey was conducted only in six districts.
She also held that the Act was not in conformity of the Supreme Court judgment in Indira Sawhney case.
Justice DS Varma said he did not agree the other judges and dismissed the writ petitions. He said he would give his own judgment later, while Justice Prakash Rao suggested a repeat of the survey by the commission.
The state government has 90 days to file its appeal in Supreme Court.
Reacting to the judgment, K G Kannabiran, counsel for Minister for Education Manikya Vara Prasad said the judgment would lead to social disintegration.
"This judgment is constitutionally not acceptable," he said.
B Ramakrishna Reddy, counsel for one of the petitioners and VHP leader Murlidhar Reddy, welcomed the judgment.
"The impact of this judgment is that the reservations provided on the religious basis are no more valid and it can not be offered in future also", he said.
The bench completed its hearing of arguments in March 2009 and delivered the judgment on Monday.