The Indian constitution prohibits giving reservation on the basis of religion, the central government told Sabir Ali, a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar.
In a question to the government, Ali had pointed out that paragraph 3 of the Presidential Order of 1950 that granted reservation for Scheduled Castes in India specifically mentions that reservation is available only for people of the Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths.
He asked “whether the order has made reservation on the basis of religion.”
The topic is thrown up in discussions frequently as many religious minorities in India have also sought reservations in government jobs.
However, the government of India clarified that the religion of a person cannot be the basis for making that person eligible for special consideration when applying for government jobs.
It pointed out that as far the scheduled caste order is concerned, the basis of reservation (positive discrimination) is not the person’s religion, but his caste. The reservation is provided only to those communities that have, in the past, been subjected to extreme oppression in the name of caste. According to the government, such extreme oppression was not done in religions other than the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist.
However, many Muslim castes are provided the OBC (Other Backward Classes) reservation, which are not as extensive as that for the Scheduled Castes.
As such, the government said it is not possible to provide someone with reservation merely because that person professes a particular religion, even if that religion is professed only by a small minority.
“Article 16 of the Constitution provides that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in the matter relating to any employment or appointment to any office under the State. Article 16(2) prohibits discrimination on grounds only of religion, race etc. in respect of any employment or appointment to any office under the State,” it said.
Article 16(4) only enables the State to provide reservation in appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State, it pointed out.