The Bombay high court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of two scholarship schemes introduced by the UPA government three years ago. The court based its decision on the findings of a report by a committee headed by justice Rajinder Sachar.
A division bench comprising chief justice Mohit Shah and justice DG Karnik dismissed two petitions challenging the validity of the pre-matric and merit-cum-means based scholarships introduced by the central government as part of its minority agenda.
“A bare perusal of the Sachar committee report indicates that the social and educational backwardness of the Muslim community is not attributable only to poverty, or only to religion,” noted the bench while dismissing the petitions filed by lawyer Sanjiv Gajanan Punalekar and Pune-based activist Jyotika Wale.
“Ghettoisation, identity related concerns and security concerns are social barriers peculiar to the Muslim community and not to the other poor strata of the society belonging to majority community,” the bench said.
The seven-member committee headed by Sachar studied the social status of Muslims in India and submitted its report to Parliament in November 2006.
The bench added that a Muslim student is hence given a scholarship not merely because he is Muslim, but also because of the social barriers he must face.
The bench also referred to statistics presented in the Sachar committee report indicating the developmental deficit among Muslims in India, stating that there was only one Muslim student out of every 25 undergraduates, out of every 50 post-graduates and out of every 100 IIM students. This, the bench said, substantiated that the various schemes had not reached disadvantaged minority community students. The court also noted that only 2,040 such students had availed of the schemes in state.
Punalekar and Wale had challenged the schemes contending that they discriminated against needy majority community students and violated the principle of equality in the Constitution of India.