The Supreme Court of India has granted interim stay on 4% Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh (now divided into Telangana and AP) after a historic argument. The three-member SC bench was headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.
When the counsel for opposition Mr. Harish Salve objected to reservation for Muslims, the Chief Justice asked whether or not there are Dhobis among Muslims. Harish Salve replied in affirmative. Then the CJ asked whether they wash clothes on same ‘ghat’ or they have separate ghats. Salve said both use same ‘ghat’ to wash clothes.
Justice Balakrishnan asked when both Hindu and Muslim Dhobis practice same profession, then why one section should be deprived of reservation benefit while the other is enjoying the same. To this Harish Salve responded by saying that there was equality in Islam and it does not have any castes and don’t differentiate people on the basis of their profession. But the Chief Justice said religion was a personal matter and therefore, why the children of a Muslim Dhobi should be denied the same opportunities as that of a Hindu Dhobi.
Harish Salve contended that there was no problem if reservation was given on the basis of backwardness. But religion-based reservation was against the law. The Chief Justice, however, differed from these views and asked whether Hindu Dhobis were not being reservation on the basis of their religion. In that case, why Muslim Dhobis should be kept away from reservation net?
Salve argued that Muslims are not divided on caste basis. They can offer prayer in the same mosque and stand together. Therefore, when there were no backward classes among Muslims, how could some sections become eligible for reservation. When asked by the CJ, he admitted that Muslim Dhobis were equally backward compared to Hindu Dhobis.
The Chief Justice said it was wrong to discriminate people, practising same profession, on the basis of their religion. While granting interim stay, he referred the matter to the Constitutional Bench for final judgment.