The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to examine a contentious question whether Hindus and other non-Muslim communities constitute a minority community in Jammu and Kashmir and if they were eligible for benefits under government’s welfare schemes exclusively meant for them.
On a public interest petition filed by J-K based advocate Ankur Sharma, a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice DY Chandrachud asked the Centre, state and the National Minority Commission (NMC) to respond to the petitioner’s claim that the non-Muslim communities were denied sops, which minority communities receive in other states.
According to the petition the 2011 Census puts Muslim population in J-K to 68.3%. However, several non-muslim communities “eligible” to be notified as minorities have not been identified and were not awarded their share of scholarship in educational institutions.
“Hindus in J-K constitute around 20%. I am not arguing for any particular community. It is for the State Minority Commission whenever it is set up to determine the minority status of the various communities,” the petitioner said.
There is no definition of the term minority in the Constitution. In 1958 the SC for the first time defined it through a judgement in which it said a group of people who are numerically a minority in a “state as a whole”, distinguished from any particular area, will be belong to a minority community.
“This essentially means that determination of minority has to be done on state-wise,” it said.
“Merely because a community is numerically larger in number throughout the country, does not disqualify it to be notified as a minority for the purpose of a state,” the petition stated.
According to the petition when the Centre offered 20,000 high value scholarships for 2007-08 in the field of technical professional education to the identified national level minorities, in J-K, Muslims, who constitute 66.971% of the total population according to the 2001 census, were allotted 717 scholarships out of a total of 753.
“This clearly reflects the unfairness and discrimination of the State towards the communities in the state which are eligible to be notified as minorities,” Sharma said in his petition. This, he argued, is in violation of an individual’s constitutional right to live.